Nick Faure was one of the first to race a 911 in Britain: he won the saloon car championship in 1968 and later graduated to a very successful season with an RS 2.7. He then had a year racing the Carrera RS 3.0 followed by a series of drives in RSRs, 934s and the Kremer K3 at Le Mans.
Appointed official demonstration driver by Porsche Cars GB, he alone was allowed to drive the first 911 Turbo in 1974. Long known as ‘Mr Porsche’, Nick Faure traded used Porsches for over thirty years and continued to race air-cooled 911s in occasional historic events until the early 2000s. Kieron Fennelly went to his home in Bournemouth, Dorset on the south coast of England, to meet him:
How did you become interested in motor racing?
Nick Faure: I was at Stowe School in the early sixties and you could hear Silverstone just over the hill. In those days, the circuit still belonged to the School and to get in I just needed to be sure I was wearing my school tie. In fact I got fantastic access and I was able to wander about the pits during the week when teams were testing. I took numerous pictures of people like Clark, McLaren and Hill and even managed to get some shots of John Surtees and Jack Brabham testing the very short-lived rear-engined Vanwall F1car.
Further education took you to Switzerland and your first car, a VW Beetle?
Nick Faure: Yes, I was living in Neufchâtel and that’s where I learned car control with the Beetle. 1962/63 was a very hard winter, and for weeks many of the roads were just ice or hard packed snow. Grip just disappears, and steering and braking require altogether different techniques in those conditions.
That is presumably where your famous ‘tail-out’ cornering propensity comes from?
Nick Faure: Yes, I used to say that the point at which most people give up (in a corner) is where I start!
You have been a lifelong Porsche exponent: how did that come about?
Nick Faure: The chap I was sharing accommodation with in Neufchâtel had a 356. Compared with my Beetle, that was something else. It’s the steering, a Porsche talks to you. It’s a pure driver’s car. When I got back to Britain in 1965, I bought a three-year-old 356 for £600. Imagine that! I also started racing, though not with the 356, but with a Mini Cooper: it had the over-square 970 cc engine so it really revved and that got me established in the saloon car championships. But what I really wanted was a 911: Porsche had homologated the 911 for saloon car racing and I managed to buy GVB 911D. That’s the 911 which started life as Isleworth’s [AFN Motors was the Porsche agent in the UK, located in Isleworth, West London] demonstrator that Vic Elford used to beat the Lotus Cortina in the first ever rallycross event in Britain at Lydden Hill. Then the car was rebuilt with a 225 bhp Carrera 6 engine and Elford won the 1967 European rally and UK saloon car championships with it. I acquired GVB 911D in 1968: it cost me £4000 and I had to sell a couple of family heirlooms to pay for it!
Did the results justify it?
Nick Faure: I won the saloon car championship against the likes of Gordon Spice, Frank Gardner and John Fitzpatrick. I was even faster than Elford had been the previous year on some circuits. After the first few wins, Porsche UK took over the preparation of the car.
Did that prove useful?
Nick Faure: We had lots of stupid problems because GVB had the oil tank high in the wing with the filler next to the petrol flap. When the car cornered, the drive shaft was crushing the oil feed pipe and we blew up three or four engines through oil starvation before we understood the reason. Another time, I was in the support race to the British GP at Silverstone and I went from the second row into the lead by Copse corner, but the oil light came on and that was that. Someone had left a rag in the engine and it got twisted around the pulleys, pushing the fan belt off! But I had some fantastic races in GVB: I remember at Cadwell Park in 1968, I just won from Mike Crabtree’s Escort with three more Escorts in close attendance: 1.2 seconds covered first to fifth places!
You did not race in 1969?
Nick Faure: I had to start working! I’d been putting it off, so reluctantly GVB had to go. I freelance as a commercial artist, and over the years I’ve done a lot of work for Fleet Street. Paddy Hopkirk had a long running column ‘Driving with Paddy Hopkirk’ in the Sunday Mirror, and I used to do the illustrations.
When did you return to the track?
Nick Faure: I had got to know John Aldington (boss of AFN) when I had GVB and in 1972 he asked me to drive one of two lightweight RS 2.7s that AFN was entering in the UK saloon car championships. By March 1973, Porsche still hadn’t delivered our RHD lightweights and John didn’t want to miss the season so he sent me out in the demonstrator, a standard RS Touring, with just a roll cage added. We won first time out and so that qualified as the RS 2.7’s first victory anywhere! Then the lightweights arrived and the demonstrator went back to the sales department. The lightweight pair had exactly the same specification and at Castle Combe, the lap times were identical. The steering was so sensitive it took some getting used to. We scored 17 wins that season. For 1974, we switched to the RS 3.0, but this time in the modified sports car class. That was more of a challenge: the RS was faultlessly reliable, but couldn’t win against the highly tuned Jaguar XK 120 of Jack Pearce.
The 3.0 is reputed to have much more torque than the 2.7: what was it like?
Nick Faure: Lovely to drive, a gorgeous car. It was the last generation of 911 to lift the inside front wheel. That was fun: you’d hear it thump as it came back into contact with the tarmac as you came out of the corner, rather like an aircraft landing wheel. For the Turbo, Porsche designed shorter trailing arms which countered the tendency to lift and these became standard for all 911s. I don’t think Porsche ever really appreciated how good those RS 2.7s and 3.0s were, and they were competitive in races well into the 1980s. I remember out of a stock of twenty 911s for sale on my forecourt in the mid ’80s, five would be RS 2.7s selling for £12- £15,000.
Why did Porsche build so few RS 3.0s? [Just 109 were made of which 55 were converted to RSR specification]
Nick Faure: First it was very expensive: the UK price was over £12,000 when the RS 2.7 had been below £6,000 which really disappointed people. Then the oil crisis more or less killed it off [retail petrol prices trebled]. It was a shame: Porsche had slated me as a works driver, one of six in RS 3.0s for the German championships, but it in the end, it didn’t happen.
But you managed to get into Le Mans?
Nick Faure: I was hired by Jacques Swaters who ran the Ecurie Belge team, to drive his RS 3.0 in the six hour race at Brands Hatch. On the strength of that I was invited to race at Le Mans for Ecurie Belge in 1975. But the condition was that I had to get £1000 sponsorship! I managed to charm Harley Davidson, and another sponsor into parting with the necessary money and I painted the car myself – today it’s known as the ‘Harley Davidson’ RS! It even ran with the 69 number I painted on it. I reckon that was probably the best £1000 Harley Davidson ever spent because we finished second in class behind a Georg Loos (effectively works) RSR and sixth overall! I remember it was a fantastic race, tremendous camaraderie.
In 1976, we went back, this time with the 934. But it was a disaster. Porsche hadn’t fully understood that when the engine is switched off, the turbo carries on spinning, but without proper lubrication. We went through four turbos just to finish the race. In ’77 I drove a Kremer K2 935 with Guy Edwards and John Fitzpatrick: effectively a works car, that was a mighty 911 with 750 bhp and 220 mph down the Mulsanne. By then I was taking the kink [on the Mulsanne straight] flat out without thinking about it, but I could not resist sneaking back to this point on the circuit outside my stints, just to watch and listen to cars going by at maximum revs, it was quite staggering. John went off at Arnage so we failed to finish. I did get third with the K2 at Brands Hatch though, behind the Martini Porsches.
You drove several more times at La Sarthe?
Nick Faure: I turned out for Ecurie Belge once more, with a Ferrari 512 BB, a lovely car; subsequently I drove for de Cadenet three times, Aston Martin twice and once for Lola. 1985 was my last 24 hours as my first child was due, and I didn’t want to take the risk again.
Nick Faure selected race results:
|Le Mans 24 Hours||14-15 June 1975||Porsche Carrera RSR 3.0||Nick Faure, “Jean Beurlys,” John Cooper||6th OA|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||12-13 June 1976||Porsche 934||Nick Faure, “Jean Beurlys,” John Goss||DNF|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||11-12 June 1977||Porsche 935||John Fitzpatrick, Guy Edwards, Nick Faure||DNF|
|Brands Hatch 6 Hours||25 Sept 1977||Porsche 935||Bob Wollek, Nick Faure||4th OA|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||9-10 June 1979||Ferrari 512 BB/LM||Nick Faure, Bernard de Dryver, Steve O’Rourke, “Jean Beurlys”||12th OA|
|Silverstone 6 Hours||10 May 1981||Lola T297||Peter Clark, Nick Mason, Nick Faure||16th OA|
|Brands Hatch 1000 Km||17 Oct 1982||Lola T298||Nick Faure, Roy Baker, Eddie Arundel||15th OA|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||18-19 June 1983||EMKA C83/1||Tiff Needell, Steve O’Rourke, Nick Faure||17th OA|
|Le Mans 24 Hours||15-16 June 1985||EMKA C84/1||Tiff Needell, Nick Faure, Steve O’Rourke||11th OA|
You also had a career as a historic racer?
Nick Faure: Yes, I raced a D-type in the JCB historic sports series which began in 1973.
What is the appeal of Historics?
Nick Faure: Racing has always been a visual game, but when I started, it was a balancing game as well. Porsches taught me that it was all about feel. I could drift that D-type and I was proud that my lap times at Silverstone equalled marks set by Moss and Archie Scott Brown in those cars 15 or 20 years previously. Today, four wheel drifts are long gone, ABS has removed the skills of cadence braking and electronic chassis takes away the feel and levels of decision making we had.
You became the fastest demonstration driver in the country. How did that come about?
Nick Faure: When AFN at last got its hands on a RHD drive Turbo in 1974, Porsche made it clear it was the only one they could have so they had to be a bit circumspect about how they used it – there was no question of lending it to the press! John Aldington [from AFN] asked me to be the demo driver, and I worked my way round the official Porsche outlets in the UK doing customer rides. The dealer would draw up a route locally and the most important thing was to get the local police chief to come on the first run, to impress him with the car and to show it was in safe hands, after which we got ‘carte blanche’ i.e. minimal interruptions from the local constabulary, for the day. Turbocharging was completely unknown back then and the shock as the boost suddenly came in used to stun passengers. This was really great fun: forty years ago, the roads were much quieter and with the turbo I could blast well into three figures and I remember doing over 160 mph on Marlow bypass. Approach speeds were so great you really had to learn to look ahead though the Turbo’s brakes [ex- 917] were always up to the job. What we didn’t know at the time was that our pre-production turbo had 1.2 instead of 0.8 bar [and probably well over 300 bhp against the standard car’s 260] so there were a few disappointed customers when Porsche finally started with deliveries!
Do you think you had the best of it?
Nick Faure: People said I was a natural driver and I never went beyond my ability. I could adapt to a car within a few laps and I could always remember circuits like the ’Ring after a handful of laps. I’d love to have had a chance to drive the Targa Florio in a works team!
Nick Faure: I still get invitations: if it’s ready in time, you’ll see me driving a Shelby Mustang at Goodwood this year.
Written by: Kieron Fennelly
Images by: Nick Faure & Porsche Archives