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Brands Hatch 1970: Pedro Rodriguez’s rain-dance

Submitted by on December 4, 2009

Generations of sportscar racing fans recall – no doubt with shivers down their spines – the day, back in April 1970, when one of the category’s biggest stars literally walked on water. And this superb footage from the BOAC 1000kms at Brands Hatch offers a chilling reminder of the God-like performance given by Pedro Rodriguez.

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The Mexican was the acknowledged master of the factory-blessed, JW Automotive-run Gulf Porsche team, and on that foul day at Brands he more than justified the hype. Sharing the number 10 powder-blue-and-orange 917 with Finn Leo Kinnunen – who barely got a look in during the six-and-three-quarter-hour enduro – Rodriguez made everybody look silly with a five-lap margin of victory. Not only that, he’d been blackflagged for overtaking during a yellow-flag period following a first-lap accident. Called into the pits for a roasting from the clerk of the course, Rodriguez lost several laps. Once back out on the track, down in 12th place, the charge began.

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The spellbinding footage includes rare interviews with Rodriguez and his JWA team-mate Jo Siffert, with whom Pedro had so many great battles during their dominance of the world sportscar championship in 1970-’71. Perhaps the most telling part of the five-minute clip, however, is the frank insight from legendary JWA team manager John Wyer. The former Aston Martin and Ford team chief, who had masterminded both firms’ success at Le Mans, went on to oversee Porsche’s world beating. Wyer offers an appraisal of Rodriguez’s status within the team and explains the psychology of the then modern-day racing driver.

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Cruelly, both Rodriguez and Siffert, who had also achieved success in grand prix racing, were killed the following year. Pedro lost his life in July at the wheel of a Ferrari in a low-key sportscar race at the Norisring in Germany, while Swiss ace Jo perished in a BRM at Brands during the non-championship Formula 1 Rothmans Victory Race in October. A tragic waste…

BOAC 1000kms, Brands Hatch, April 12 1970

1. Pedro Rodriguez (MEX)/Leo Kinnunen (FIN)-JW Automotive Porsche 917K, 235 laps

2. Vic Elford (GB)/Denny Hulme (NZ)-Porsche Salzburg Porsche 917K, 230 laps

3. Richard Attwood (GB)/Hans Herrmann (D)-Porsche Salzburg Porsche 917K, 227 laps

4. Gijs van Lennep (NL)/Hans Laine (FIN)-Racing Team AAW Porsche 908/02 227 laps

5. Chris Amon (NZ)/Arturo Merzario (I)-SpA Ferrari SEFAC Ferrari 512S, 225 laps

6. Gerard Larrousse (F)/Gerhard Koch (D)-Martini International Racing Team Porsche 908/02, 217 laps

7. Jo Bonnier (S)/Reine Wisell (S)-Ecurie Bonnier Lola T70 Mk3B, 217 laps

8. Jacky Ickx (B)/Jackie Oliver (GB)-SpA Ferrari SEFAC Ferrari 512S, 213 laps

9. John L’Amie (GB)/Tommy Reid (GB)-John L’Amie Porsche 910, 211 laps

10. John Lepp (GB)/George Silverwood (GB)-Central Garage (Mirfield) Ltd Chevron B8 BMW, 211 laps

Henry Hope-Frost

Images: Racing Sports Cars

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