Brian Redman’s remarkable racing career took place during one of the most exciting and truly treacherous periods in motorsport. It was an era where the cars were built with speed as the primary consideration and the sheer danger of every race was something drivers and teams alike had to push to the back of their minds to be competitive. Horrible accidents, fires, and the resulting deaths of drivers and spectators alike was an unfortunate, but regular, occurrence.
Brian’s racing career began at the age of 22 in, of all things, a Morris Minor Traveler. It was a mop van which he used to deliver mops to the customers of the company he worked for, and one that he fitted a supercharger to in order to get from customer to customer quicker. One weekend, he decided to compete in a race held at at an airfield circuit. He continued on racing in his own vehicles until 1965, when he was offered the opportunity to race in an E-type and went on to win 16 of the 17 races entered for the season.
From there, his career only gained momentum. He raced a GT40 in the Spa 1000km in 1966 and secured a fourth place overall finish among the works Ferraris and 7-liter Fords. The following year, he traveled throughout Europe racing an F2 Lola and another GT40. He was asked at the end of the season to partner with Jacky Ickx in one of the Gulf Mirage GT40s in the Kyalami Nine Hours and was offered a seat with Cooper in F1.
He competed in Formula One from 1968 to 1974 for McLaren, Shadow, Cooper-BRM and Williams, famously declining an offer to drive for Ferrari because “If I drive for Ferrari I’ll be dead by the end of the year”.
While Formula One is the pinnacle for most, it is Brian’s successful sports car racing career that he is most remembered for. Despite a crash in the Belgian GP at Spa that broke his arm so badly that doctors were unsure whether or not it could be saved, he signed with Porsche for the 1969 season. A specialist in Johannesburg performed a radical procedure which took bone from his hip and glued it to the fractured bones in his arm, and just six weeks later he raced alongside co-driver Vic Elford in a 908 at the 24 Hours of Daytona, holding the steering wheel with one hand for much of the race. After his arm healed, he and co-driver Jo Siffert won five of the ten Sports Car Championship races in 1969, including races at Spa and Nürburgring. In 1970 he competed for John Wyer in the Gulf-Porsche 917s and of course- the Targa Florio in a 908/3.
The Targa Florio was one of the most challenging circuits of its time. A single lap of the counter-clockwise circuit consisted of 44.7 miles of narrow, twisting public mountain roads with changes in elevation and climate through three towns and some 800 corners to contend with. After seven laps, Brian Redman took the lead from local heroes Vaccarella and Ignazio Giunti in the twelve-cylinder Ferrari 512S. They held the lead to the end, Leo Kinnunen/Pedro Rodríguez took second place in another John Wyer Gulf-Porsche 908 and delivering a first-second place win for Porsche.
Brian competed professionally until age 52, finishing top three in 177 of the 358 races he entered and winning 94 either outright or in his class. His successes in racing have been met with a number of horrific crashes. There was the Formula One crash in the Cooper where he slid into a concrete barrier and slid alongside it with his arm trapped between the barrier and chassis. After the steering broke on the 908/3 at the Targa Florio, he collided with a concrete pole which caused the car to burst into flames and badly burning his face and neck. The most devastating of all was a crash while testing a Can-Am car during practice which went airborne at 170mph, went some 40 feet into the air and landed upside down. It broke the roll bar and dragged Brian’s helmet across the pavement so long that it wore a hole through. He broke multiple bones and his heart actually stopped.
Despite the crashes, Brian continued to race and to this day participates in vintage racing events. This year, he took out his 61st racing license. He’s truly a living legend in the world of motorsport and survivor of a momentous period in history.