For sports car racing fans, Brian Redman's name is synonymous with the classic days of the sport, when World Manufacturer championships meant something, when major endurance racing was at its height.
Everywhere a sports car or Formula One race was run, Redman was front and center. With U.S. Formula 5000, IMSA Camel GT and South African Springbok series championships in the record books and too many endurance victories to count -- OK, count: there were 26 of them from Watkins Glen to Sebring, from Daytona to Tanga Florio -- he was one of the smoothest driving champions the sport has seen.
And now, at age 56, he is the driving force behind a series of vintage car races that will stir memories this weekend at Summit Point (W.Va.) Raceway, where 152 entries will compete in a series of races called The Jefferson 500, tomorrow through Sunday.
The voice on the other end of the telephone still resonates with a British accent, despite 11 years of Florida residency.
"I raced these cars when they were new," says Redman with a soft laugh. "Some of them, I didn't like very much -- like the Porsche 917. In 1969 it was diabolical. There were 12 drivers on the Porsche team going all out for the factory title and not one of us wanted to drive the thing. Since then it has developed into a fantastic car, but in those days, it wouldn't do anything."
Diabolical cars are, of course, part of the story. And Redman, whose racing career spans 35 years, can recount harrowing experiences that left him near death at least three times in Formula One and sports car mishaps.
"Racing is a kind of balancing act on the edge of disaster," he says. "We were going 200 mph, and in those old days the tracks and the cars were dangerous. And I, I never wanted to admit defeat. Accidents, I looked at them as something in fate, trying to beat me, and I was equally determined not to be beaten."
The accidents could never distract his eyes from the cars. The cars were beautiful. And as they begin arriving at Summit Point tomorrow, area enthusiasts will be treated to their full-bodied, brilliant designs. Brightly painted now, they look as if they've been lifted from a glossy magazine cover.
That awful Porsche 917 will be there. So will the Porsche of choice, the 908 that Steve McQueen once drove to a second-place finish at Sebring, and the Jaguar "D" type car that Briggs Cunningham drove at Le Mans 30 years ago.
Redman drives in about 12 of these vintage races each year. But he will not drive here. He will act as promoter, telling stories to the fans, all of whom have access to the paddock area. And he will reminisce with fellow world-class competitors Bill Adams, David Hobbs and Baltimore's own Bruce Jennings.
"My car's sponsor -- Square A Motorcars, Inc., of Bethlehem, Pa. -- and I had a philosophical discussion the other night and I told him I really didn't want to win my own race," said Redman. "They said he [the sponsor] wants to win, so I told them, they better get another driver -- and they did."
THE JEFFERSON 500
Where: Summit Point (W.Va.) Raceway
When: Tomorrow through Sunday
Schedule, classes of cars* The John Wyer Cup: Two one-hour enduros for post-1965 world manufacturer championship cars, prototypes, IMSA GT and GTX (Porsche 917, 935, Ferrari 512,312, Lola T-70, etc.). Saturday, qualifying, 10:50 a.m., race, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, race, 3:55 p.m.
The Briggs Cunningham Cup: Two one-hour enduros for pre-1965 production based sports cars (Aston Martin DB2, DB4, Jaguar C, etc.) over and under 2 liters and sports racing cars to 3 liters. Saturday, qualifying, 10:20 a.m., race, 2:15 p.m.; Sunday, race, 2:20 p.m.
The Phil Hill Cup: For pre-1972 Formula cars. Saturday, qualifying, 1:45 p.m.; Sunday, race, 12:15 p.m.
The Eiffel Trophy: For 4-cylinder pre-1965, 356 based Porsches and 4-cylinder Morgans. Saturday, qualifying, 3:55 p.m.; Sunday, race, 1:45 p.m.
The Lola Cars Cup: For production sports cars and sports racing cars under 1300 cc. Saturday, qualifying, 11:40 a.m.; Sunday, race, 11:05 a.m.
The Marlboro Cup: For British sports cars 1300-3500 cc built through 1972. Saturday, qualifying, 12:20 p.m.; Sunday, race, 10:30 a.m.
* Practices and warm-ups for all cars will be held each day beginning at 9 a.m. tomorrow, 8:20 a.m. Saturday and 8:25 a.m. Sunday.