"I really began to understand drivers after I started at Aston Martin," Wyer said the other day while seated in the study of his snug white-brick cottage in Fulmer Chase, an hour's drive west of London. "I had previously thought that motor racing was rather like a school game in which the drivers would subordinate personal glory for the good of the team. I soon found out that they wouldn't. They were all individuals with strong personalities, which, of course, makes sense. If they weren't they wouldn't go in for something like motor racing. I learned that sometimes competition within a team can be stronger than the competition with the people you're running against. This is the thing you've got to overcome.
"With exceptions like Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Jacky Ickx, the best Formula I drivers, broadly speaking, don't make good long-distance drivers. What they really enjoy is the cut and thrust of Formula I racing, where they are driving very close to their own personal limit all the time. You've got to convince them that going flat out from the start is not the way long-distance races are won.
"The driver who was the greatest inspiration to any team was undoubtedly Stirling Moss," Wyer continued, drumming the sharp blade of a letter opener on the surface of his study desk as he recalled some of the drivers he has worked with. "He could drive in any sort of competition. Here you had a driver who every other driver recognized, without exception, as something else. He did things nobody else was able to try. He knew he was the best in the world and always made damn sure he got the best car, but even so he was good for morale, because if Stirling was driving for you it meant he wasn't driving against you.
"Ickx is one of the few drivers who is extremely good at both long-distance and Grand Prix racing. He can drive within his capacity and the capacity of the car and then go absolutely flat out, as he had to do for the final three hours last year to win at Le Mans."
Wyer finally left Aston Martin in 1963, not, he says, because Aston Martin had dropped racing, but because it did not build up the passenger-car side of the business as much as he would have liked.
"I felt we were not going to make real progress with our DB4 production car," he says. "It still remained something special for the few. I didn't want to mass-produce a cheap sports car, but I did want to make it available to a broader market."
Later that year Wyer signed a contract with Ford. This was the beginning of Dearborn's assault on Le Mans, then dominated by Enzo Ferrari and his bright-red cars. Ford planned to produce a new car, which subsequently became known as the GT (for Gran Turismo) 40 (it was 40 inches high). Under an umbrella called Ford Advanced Vehicles, Wyer would oversee the European racing program.
What happened after that constitutes one of the sagas of motor-racing history. In September 1963, with Wyer as general manager, Ford Advanced Vehicles began a crash program to get the GT40 ready for Sebring the following March.
"The GT40 was the most advanced car of its time in suspension, body shape and performance," says John Horsman. "It was one of the first of the cars to place the engine right behind the driver. It had great potential. The problem in the beginning was that it was unreliable—but if you stay with it you can make any car reliable."
Unreliable was the word. During the 1964 season the GT40 was entered in races at the Nürburgring, Le Mans, Rheims and Nassau. There were nine starters in all, and not a single one finished a race. Ferraris won at the Nürburgring and Rheims, finished one-two-three at Le Mans and won the manufacturers' championship to boot.