I’ve just finished putting together a full day’s rally driving course in deepest Wales for a regular Wildside customer. The day will be exclusive use of the rally stages and cars.
It reminded me of a former life, many years ago, when I looked after Castrol Motorsport in the UK and BFGoodrich Tyres PR. In those days; back in the 1980s, BFG always used to run a car on the late lamented RAC Rally. The driver was a chap called John Buffum who won the US Rally Championship year after year. BFG always put together a deal that saw Buffum driving a semi works car and that included a Triumph TR8 and then the mighty Audi Quattro.
What was also pretty unusual was that Buffum’s rally car was only ever fitted with standard road tyres unlike every other car on the RAC that was fitted with specialist competition rubber. So what hope for an American driving a privateer car using standard tyres up against the best drivers in the world?
Remarkably, Buffum was undeterred. In 1983 he finished an incredible 5th. In 1984 he was battling for 3rd place overall when he crashed out. But, the moment I really remember was being thrown round a stage that we hired for pre rally testing. Buffum was a man possessed – I had never experienced anything like it (before or since) his feet and hands were a blur as the car slewed from side to side, rear end drifting and fishtailing, the engine screaming and yet everything was somehow under control – this truly was man and machine together and poetry in motion.
Absolutely amazing. At the end of the stage I asked Buffum how hard he was driving – ‘90% – just taking it easy ‘ – he said with a smile.