Features

Nick Tandy and Richard Attwood - Le Mans then and now

We speak to Porsche's first Le Mans winner and the man currently leading this year's race

As Nick Tandy prepares to climb aboard his 919 Hybrid for the first time in this race, another driver watches on the big screen in Porsche's hospitality area; older, but with a stare undimmed in its intensity. It's the gaze of a man that once peered out into the darkness on the Mulsanne Straight, rifling along at speeds in excess of 220mph, in a car with just a fraction of the safety provisions afforded to Nick and his teammates.

Richard Attwood gave Porsche their first outright victory at the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1970. "It changed my life", says Attwood, "but not until many years later. At the time I felt rather deflated: I had mumps and I couldn't eat anything, I was in rather a poor state. We had a farewell dinner, and I just could not keep awake - it was embarrassing because I didn't know what was wrong with me, I only found out on the Tuesday after the race. I couldn't eat and I was probably dehydrated - there was no one to look after me".

Today, Tandy can call upon a dedicated support crew that will look after his well-being. Experience has taught him that when he finishes a stint in the race, he leaves the team to do their work and switches off. "We have a room away from the garage - each 'car' has its own room. We can shower there and get some sleep. We don't have to worry about waking up as someone comes and does that when we're needed. I always shower and get fully dressed in my suit before going to sleep, so that I'm ready if the team need me in ten minutes".

The support given to drivers now is just as well, believes Attwood, because the race is much harder in the modern era. "The chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight changed it a lot. For a driver to go flat out was a lot easier. Back then if you got the exit out of (the old) Whitehouse Corner you had to lift slightly for the (pre-chicane era) Dunlop curve in a Porsche 917, but in a Ford GT40 it was flat. Although you did have to really concentrate and use all the road. I'd never be fit enough to drive the car (919) today - it's a violent drive now, the acceleration, the braking and the cornering. I've got no desire to drive one".

Having said that, he's under no illusion that drivers faced more dangers in his era: "If you had a big crash you would probably die. You knew you'd certainly be injured. We accepted that, it was all we knew".

With the greater appreciation of the race in the modern era, interest is higher than ever before in Attwood's victory. Tandy is under no illusions as to what victory would mean: "It's a career changing thing, there's so much interest around this race. If you win here, whatever else you do, even if you don't win anything else, you will always be known for winning the biggest race in the world".

Recommended

‘It was as if Jesus himself had blessed Porsche with a new suspension system’
Jethro opinion header
Porsche

‘It was as if Jesus himself had blessed Porsche with a new suspension system’

The deifying of Porsche has left Jethro with a worrying affliction – Porsche fatigue
28 Jun 2022
Porsche 963 LMDh revealed – Le Mans contender set for 2023 debut
Porsche 963 LMDh
Porsche

Porsche 963 LMDh revealed – Le Mans contender set for 2023 debut

Porsche looks for victory number 20 at Le Mans with new Penske developed racer
25 Jun 2022
Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer Turbo study shown at Goodwood FoS
Porsche 911 Turbo reimagined by Singer
Porsche

Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer Turbo study shown at Goodwood FoS

Singer's reimagining of the 930 Turbo has made its Goodwood Festival of Speed debut
24 Jun 2022
Porsche 928 by Nardone Automotive debuts as contemporary refresh of the ‘70s icon
Porsche 928 Narone
Porsche

Porsche 928 by Nardone Automotive debuts as contemporary refresh of the ‘70s icon

Nardone Automotive has revealed a reimagined 928 with bespoke bodywork and fresh internals
8 Jun 2022

Most Popular

Mercedes-AMG C43 2022 review – can AMG really rival the M340i with just four cylinders?
Mercedes-AMG C43 – header
Mercedes C-Class

Mercedes-AMG C43 2022 review – can AMG really rival the M340i with just four cylinders?

Two cylinders and a turbo down on its predecessor, the C43 still has it where it counts
28 Jun 2022
A car wash loophole in an MGF – evo Archive
Car wash loophole in an MGF
MG

A car wash loophole in an MGF – evo Archive

How the drop-tops Grand Challenge got some of the evo team in a lather
21 Jun 2022
BMW M4 Competition xDrive 2022 review – is the all-wheel-drive M4 really the best one?
BMW M4 Competition xDrive – header
BMW M4

BMW M4 Competition xDrive 2022 review – is the all-wheel-drive M4 really the best one?

It might be easy to dismiss the BMW M4 Competition xDrive as the sensible option, but be in no doubt, this is about as good as sports coupes get
29 Jun 2022