- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"I hope that's not the way it is, but you never know," he said, and I thought to myself, "My God, he really thinks he is going to die in a racing car. He really does." And I walked off. I didn't want to think about it.
The race itself. Fortunately it wasn't raining, but I went out with a scattered engine. By the second lap I had a one-second lead. I had dropped a valve spring on the warmup lap, though, and it was getting progressively worse. I could feel the engine losing its vitality. Finally it blew, right in front of the pits.
June 21. Most of what follows is in retrospect. I couldn't keep making daily diary entries after the Dutch Grand Prix, not with Courage dead, nor could I do it for days afterward. Even now it is difficult.
Both Helen and I have seen more of life and death than most people do in two lifetimes. Four weeks after Jimmy Clark died in 1968, it was Mike Spence at Indianapolis; four weeks later, another friend, Ludovico Scarfiotti; four weeks more, to the day, it was Joe Schlesser; two weeks ago Bruce McLaren at Goodwood. Now Piers, and it just keeps on.
Helen had come to Zandvoort. She comes only to the races where there is a nice ambiance and, what with the sea and all, we thought it would be fun at Zandvoort. She was watching from the pit roofs with Nina Rindt and Sally Courage. She has been closer to Sally and Piers than to most of our friends, and up on the roof there she and Sally were doing lap charts together, sitting side by side on folding chairs.
Sally is ordinarily a high-strung girl. For the past two weeks she had been wonderful, spending time with Pat McLaren to make things easier after Bruce's death. She was wrung out with tension.
We had gone 23 laps when smoke started billowing from behind a far corner of the circuit. It was a fast, top-gear corner taken at around 140 mph, and it was obvious that a car had crashed heavily, but even at a speed reduced to extreme caution I could not be sure who it was.
In the pits my team manager, Ken Tyrrell, realized what had happened and shouted up to Helen, "See to Sally. Piers has crashed." Sally, meanwhile, caught sight of the smoke and just blew her top. Helen took her out of the pit area to a car parked in the back and told her she had heard an announcement over the loudspeakers that Piers was all right, a report that had come in from a course marshal who thought he had seen him walk away from the wreck. Sally calmed down a bit, Helen left her and went to collect their charts and stop watches.
Ken had heard the announcement too, and when I came by the pits he showed me a sign, PIERS O.K. I couldn't imagine anyone being all right in that mass of smoke and flame, but I didn't get another signal, so I kept on driving. I finally finished second to Jochen Rindt and drove back to the pits.
As I was stepping out of the car Ken motioned me to remove my helmet so I could hear what he had to say, and it was then, I think, that I knew Piers was dead.