Endurance-drivers seminar highlights Amelia Island concoursSun, 11 Mar 2012 00:00:00 -0800
If there were a Hall of Fame for endurance drivers, the nine gentlemen assembled on Saturday at the 17th-annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance would certainly be members. Event founder and chairman Bill Warner needed 25 minutes just to read off a portion of their lifetime racing accomplishments as he introduced them individually to a packed ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, home of the event.
Hurley Haywood, Vic Elford, Sam Posey, Joe Buzzetta, Gerard Larousse, Brian Redman, Jim Hall, David Hobbs and Derek Bell regaled the audience with tales of their amazing careers. A common theme was that all of the men survived driving amazing cars at breathtaking speeds, while many of their colleagues didn't.
“Don't let them fool you,” Elford, this year's honoree at the concours said, “we were all scared to drive these cars.”
Sitting in front of the stage were four Porsches, including two 917s. Bell thanked fellow panelists Redman and Elford for having done a lot of the development work on the car, as he drove the 917 in competition just one year. “The car was fantastic,” he said.
But Bell, a five-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, noted that his favorite racer was the venerable Porsche 962.
Vic Elford, Derek Bell and David Hobbs share their thoughts on Saturday at the seminar.
Redman told a harrowing tale of returning to racing after a brief retirement and crashing on the Targo Floria and being burned badly, 22 miles away from any real medical support. Hall recounted his days of driving and, of course, developing his Chaparral race cars. Posey teased good friend Hobbs about never having won an endurance race.
Several drivers commented on their driving heroes, with Bell, Hobbs and Redman noting Sir Stirling Moss as someone they looked up to, while Haywood--somewhat surprisingly--mentioned A. J. Foyt as a mentor and hero.
Posey said he was honored to be on the panel with Hall, and that we'd know him for his driving prowess if Hall's Chaparral race cars had not been so innovative and dominant.
In the end, more than 90 minutes had passed and the standing-room-only, sold-out crowd gave the nine men a standing ovation. Several attendees came up to Warner after the event saying, “This kind of thing can only happen at Amelia.” Indeed.
The 17th-annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance continues through Sunday.
By Roger Hart