Running on adrenalin, Team Australia – funded by Bob Jane and organised by Greg ‘Peewee’ Siddle (who managed world champion Nelson Piquet) – somehow managed to be race competitive. Until, at 2.00am on Sunday, half-way through the race, disaster struck.
From the moment we knew of the Le Mans attempt, this was a story Wheels had to have. So it happened that Phil Scott, fresh from the Monaco Grand Prix, which gave Wheels readers his magic Murray Walker’s Monaco story (see Classic Wheels, July 2015), pointed his trusty AWD Alfa 33 north for the once magnificent Le Grande Perray, a big and drafty 14th century chateau with but one shower.
On his first visit to Le Mans, Phil’s next week belonged to Team Australia. Entrepreneur Siddle, lovely bloke that he is, had arranged for our man to spend the lead-up to the race living in the Brock/Perkins chateau, knowing that, regardless of the outcome of Le Mans, Scott’s inside story would make captivating reading.
Scotty’s diary, dense with drama, mental anguish and heartache, and fuelled by Larrikinisms from the ultra-dry wit of Perkins and the casual, matter-of-fact Brock, deserves to be read quietly, without interruption, in company with a large glass of quality red.
It was Brock who suggested that Scotty should run shotgun for a lap in the orange 956 during Thursday morning practice.
“C’mon, you’ve been lurking long enough, let’s go for a speed,” Brock insisted. Insurance arranged – premium long forgotten – they literally crammed Phil into the 956 for the ride of his life.
From the moment Phil rang from France with the news that he was doing a Le Mans lap with Brock, I knew we had the makings of a great story. I also knew it would be extremely long, but knowing that the detail and conversations were all-important, I still wanted Scotty to let it run and run.
He did, all 9000 words, or four times the normal length of a Wheels feature story in 2015.
Should we cut it, like Evan Green’s two-part story on Donald Campbell’s land speed record attempt (Classic Wheels, March 2015), or just let it occupy whatever space it took?
Tough call. But not really, not with words of this quality. The uncut story occupied almost 13 pages, fully deserving the cover line The REAL Le Mans: With Brock at 353km/h.
- LARRY PERKINS
TODAY, few people are aware that the first Australian win at Le Mans was way back in 1928 (right).
Bernard Rubin, one of the famous Bentley Boys, was born in Carlton in 1896, though his family moved to London in 1908. He fought in WWI, where he was badly wounded, and became close friends with Woolf Barnato, a director of Bentley Motors and racing driver.
Rubin made his debut at Brooklands in 1928 and was invited to join the Bentley team for Le Mans. Driving with Barnato, they won in a 4.5-litre Bentley, one of five victories for the marque during the 1920s and 30s.
Rubin died in England in 1936, but was buried in the Fawkner cemetery, Melbourne. Only three other Australians have won the 24-hour race: Vern Schuppan (1983), Geoff Brabham (1993) and David Brabham (2009).
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