911 Race Ace: ‘Quick’ Vic Elford

People

We catch up with the last British Monte Carlo winner and quiz him on his beloved 911

Vic portrait

To say that Vic Elford raced a 911 for the Porsche works rally team is to miss the point.

For it was Vic Elford who, pretty much single-handedly, created the Porsche works rally team!

So how did an English bloke who was at that time contracted to drive for Ford pull off such a coup? Becoming what Ferdinand K. Piech (Porsche engineering supremo pictured below) described as:

“..one of the most impressive and multitalented personalities ever to drive for the Porsche works team”

Ferdinand K Piech, Porsche Head of Engineering

Well, appropriately enough for an all-round racing ace nicknamed ‘Quick Vic’, it all came down to nerve.

Like so many successful people, Vic saw an opportunity and took a big chance, both personally and financially, which combined with his own driving skill and personal ambition, paid off in style.

In his 2005 autobiography Vic explains that after a bad year at Ford he had an idea that the 911 would make a great rally car. In a ballsy move he took the game to Porsche.

He contacted Huschke von Hanstein , Porsche competition manager at the time, and they had a poolside lunch at the hotel Martinez in Cannes. Over lunch Vic told the Porsche boss that he thought that the 911 would make an excellent rally car and that he was the man to prove it.

Vic Helmet

He was told unambiguously that Porsche has no plans to get into the rally business. Unfazed Vic asked if he could borrow a 911 for the upcoming 1964 Tour de Corse.

Back in Stuttgart, Huschke von Hanstien went in to bat for the confident Englishman and a couple of weeks later called him with a deal. Porsche would lend him a car but they’d pay him nothing. He’d even have to front the race expenses himself.

Elford took the chance and spent two weeks in a hired Simca scoping the track in Corsica, only taking delivery of his race 911 a few days before the event. He was the only English driver in the race and in his new heavy, tough-to-handle car no one gave him much of a chance.

They should have. Quick Vic came in third, a remarkable achievement and one which was well received back in Stuttgart. On the basis of Vic’s risk the Porsche brass proposed a tentative rally program for 1967 with Vic being paid on a rally by rally basis.

Vic booze

1967 was spent learning to understand his 911 and in 1968 quick Vic Elford put that learning into history-making practice, bringing home the prestigious Monte Carlo title rally for the German outsiders.

No slouch, Vic was celebrating in Monte Carlo on the Saturday and by the Monday was on a plane to Daytona to race long tail 907s for his Stuttgart paymasters.

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We caught up with this daring all-rounder to probe his memory on the 911, the marque that he turned into a rally success and that kick-started his career.

 

Influx: What first drew you to the 911 and convinced you that it would be such a successful rally car?

Nothing specific. It just looked right. A private entry driven by young German driver Gunter Klass was having good results in rallies. I also had had enough with Ford. I needed to move and there were really only two ways to go. I talked with Jacques Feret at Renault/Alpine about joining them, I already spoke French and got on well with all the French drivers who were my friends, but I realised that I would always be the odd man out if there were ever any problems. With Porsche, if I was right about its potential, I would be first to be able to exploit it.

Influx: From a driving perspective how did the 911 differ from other rally cars of the period?

Very different. It could not be bullied, but had to be gently seduced and persuaded to do what I wanted. Once I learned to handle it the 911 could do everything better than any other car around.

Influx: Did you ever own a 911 road car, if so can you remember the year and model?

In 1968 Jo Siffert and I were the first to have a “company car”. Of course we had 911s since that was all there was! When Porsche withdrew from racing at the end of 1971 I bought my “company car”, a white 911 S which had a new 2.2 litre engine fitted before I collected it.

Influx: Of all the myriad iterations of the 911 over the years, which is your personal favourite and why?

I’ve rather lost track of what is what over the years but my personal favorite was definitely the first ones I drove – the basic short wheelbase. The one that the press of the day labelled an “undriveable oversteering monster”, because nobody before me had ever tried to understand the car or how to drive it. It turned on a dime, handled superbly, could go downhill as fast as it went uphill. In later years I would go for a two wheel drive with PDK transmission, but which one, I am not sure. I guess I would have to re-read the specs and try them all out on the track again in order to choose!

 

For more in depth testimony in his own words check out Vic’s five star reviewed Autobiography Vic Elford: Reflections on a Golden Era of Motorsport

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