It was right before I was due in for a routine pit stop in the wee morning hours, that I had one of those moments in racing that you never forget.  I had just passed the main grandstands and was in the middle of the Dunlop Bend when the car suddenly began to hydroplane.  This had happened countless times before on the rain-soaked track, but on the previous occasions the tires had only lost adhesion for a second before regaining grip.  This time, however, I realized that I was out of control...and heading directly for the outside guard rail- exactly where Walt Hansgen had crashed.

     In desperation, I cranked the steering wheel hard to the right in an attempt to induce oversteer and spin the car, at the same time bracing myself in the seat for what I was sure would be the inevitable crash.

     Then the front tires bit just enough to start the tail around and, as if in slow motion, I could see the reflections of the lights from the carnival area to the right, and the huge yellow Shell sign to the left, whirling around in the windscreen.

                    Le Mans 24 Hours

                    June 13, 1970    cont.

Total Recall by a2z

The Press Building overlooking the pit entrance

     At some point in the middle of what I think were three 360-degree spins, I both heard and felt an impact at the rear of the car.  During my multiple gyrations the engine stalled and, as luck would have it, no cars were following directly behind me.  So when I finally slid to a stop, everything was eerily quiet.

     I was totally disoriented, not sure which direction I was headed, then suddenly, directly overhead, a yellow light began to flash and I was engulfed by the high-pitch scream of race cars passing to my front and rear.  It quickly dawned on me that I had come to a stop directly underneath the Dunlop Bridge, and was parked across the track perpendicular to the oncoming traffic.  Not a healthy place to be!  It didn't take more than a second for me to regain my composure and, when I did, my first thought was, "If you know what's good for you, Adamowicz, you better get the hell out of here!"

Saturday night:  The Lucas and Girling grand stands at Le Mans

     We were pitted just down the road from Steve McQueen's Solar Productions team that was running a Porsche 908 in the race, equipped with three movie cameras. A short time after Chuck pulled back out on the circuit, the actor-turned-driver walked down to our pits and asked me what had happened.

     I gave a quick synopsis of my hair-raising spin, after which he said, "I don't think our camera car caught it. Do you mind doing a retake?" Back safely in the pits I could laugh at his suggestion, but parked under the Dunlop Bridge a short time earlier, the humor of the situation would have been lacking.

Solar Productions Porsche 908 camera car, used to film the Steve McQueen movie Le Mans.

Note camera housing atop the nose.

    To my great relief, when I mashed the button on the dash the starter motor began to whine, and then, reluctantly, the 12 cylinders came to life. I shifted into 1st, spun the car around and then drove slowly toward the esses. I had no way of knowing how much damage had been done to the car, but all four tires felt intact, so I crept around to the pits where an anxious crew was waiting.

     Although the damage to the tail section of the 312 was not extensive and could have been patched up with pop rivets and gaffer tape, the team had brought a spare section with them and they decided it would be quicker to replace the entire rear panel than to make repairs. After the car was refueled, Chuck climbed in and waited while fresh rain tires were mounted and the replacement tail fitted.

At night in the rain, the spinning Ferrari stopped sideways beneath the Dunlop pedestrian bridge

Steve McQueen stares at the remains of his borrowed 917K camera car

    Believe it or not, the 917K was so valuable, it was reconstructed with help of 917-034 chassis and body.

Retaining its original chassis number, the rebuilt car went on to win the Daytona, Monza, and Zeltweg races

the following season!  Considering how "right" a car must be to win, those mechanics were miracle workers!

     Here are the remains of the camera car 917K, after driver David piper blew a tire at Arnage while ahead of Parkes' 512 Ferrari.  The Porsche crashed into barriers at both sides of the track, broke in two, with both halves coming to rest in a ditch.  The crash cost Piper his lower leg.  Fortunately the aft camera seat had been removed.  None of these shots appeared in the movie.

     David Piper, you may recall, had been Tony's co-driver at Daytona four months earlier.  David owned his own 917K, and asked Tony to drive it at Monza a few weeks later.  It was the beginning of a fine friendship.  Piper eventually mended so well nobody could tell he lost a leg, and Tony would drive his 917K on three continents. 

      Steve giving the "two finger salute" in the film Le Mans

     Hundreds of years ago when the English and the French were doing battle, any English longbowman who fell into the hands of the enemy often had two fingers of his "string-pulling" hand loped off.  Should he escape, this would prevent him from plying his trade.  So in Battle, English longbowmen would taunt the French by raising the two fingers across the lines to show they were still potent warriors.

     In the last scene of Le Mans, the movie filmed during this race, Steve McQueen, salutes Ferrari driver Erich Stahler, played by Siegried Rauch.

     Movie making was serious business to Steve McQueen.  In addition to running his own private 908 to get actual race footage, Porsche loaned him 917K #917-013, from the John Wyer Gulf team to film scenes a week after the race.  Many miles of film were shot beginning June 22nd, 1970.

     Ferrari refused to lend a car because a Porsche was scripted to "win" the race in the movie.  All the Ferrari's filmed after the race itself were customer cars.

Cameraman's chair on 917K

     My 312P only appears once

near the beginning of the movie,

where there's a good shot of it

arriving on the transporter.

Now, let's leave the movie

behind and return to MY race!

2.0MB .wmv Video of a Gulf/Wyer Porsche 917K

exactly like McQueen's camera car

Tony Adamowicz, Gary Wheeler, Tony a2z, Tony Adamowics, a2zRacer, Gary Wheeler, Tony Adamowicz







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