August 2. Again we lost. The car continued jumping out of gear and at one point I shot straight on at the chicane. Fortunately there was an escape road and I used it. But the problem continued. I would get it in third, and then on the overrun it would jump out as I started to brake for a corner. Finally the engine blew. I walked back to the pits, told Ken what had happened and with the race still going, got into my Ford Capri and set off for the airport with Helen. Our baggage was in the car and we just drove up the Autobahn to Frankfurt, had a great shower at the airport, then went to the lounge, where I called UPI to find out who had won. The pressure, the strain, the possible risks were all gone and I felt like someone who has closed his office for the weekend.
We were in our suite at the Connaught Hotel in London by 5:30 and I felt great. I had come away from Hockenheim, and it was a fantastic summer night. We went out. At Speakers' Corner of Hyde Park we went through the dark underpass that cuts beneath the street to the park, and there were guys in army jackets playing guitars and mouth organs, girls begging for change, drawing with chalk on the walkway and singing, and when we came out onto the corner there was a huge crowd all around us beneath the streetlamp, arguing about the race problem, the medical problem, the Catholic problem. It was all part of another life, totally remote from the way I live, and it made me think about what a candy-floss world I live in, just how removed I am from the way most people live and think.
Occasionally someone in the crowd thought they recognized me but could not be sure because I was supposed to be in Germany and this made it stranger. I was happy, light-headed, a little intoxicated, relaxed and calm for the first time in weeks. I was getting high simply watching people—fat women and skinny husbands, young people all dandied up who had come down from the country, evangelists, politicians, plain ordinary Londoners.
I wasn't listening to anything in particular, just absorbing the whole show. In some strange way I was free, outside myself, a stranger to my own reactions, puzzled but enjoying it hugely, and later, when we came out of Midnight Cowboy, I stood in front of the theater and didn't know where I was, actually what country I was in. If somebody had said, "You're in America" or "This is France," I would have accepted it. It wasn't that I was tired, but I have done so much in the last few weeks that I am maybe a little lost.
August 3. Went to my dentist in London and then did another seat fitting in the Tyrrell-Ford, my new Grand Prix car, which we have kept secret. The seat in a Grand Prix car must fit perfectly. You are lying down rather than sitting upright in it and, given the confines of the cockpit, the heat and all the G-loadings while you are driving, it is imperative that it be as comfortable as possible. The seat extends from your shoulders all the way down to beneath your knees, practically cradling your entire body; it is made of Fiberglas, usually without any padding, and thus it must be tailor-made for an individual anatomy and for a particular car. There is no switching a seat from one chassis to the next, say from the March to the Tyrrell, since there are different cockpit dimensions. Then, too, some cars have oil tanks inside, others have petrol tanks and still others have fire extinguishers in there, singly or in combination. In constructing a seat, each time you have to start from scratch.
First the entire cockpit is filled with sculptor's clay and the driver gets in and squishes around in it. The clay is kept warm and pliable, and in the course of a single session you are likely to spend upward of four hours pressed into the stuff, just sitting there in various positions—steering, changing gears, working the pedals—and all the while the mechanics are adding and cutting away bits of clay according to your instructions.
Today, unfortunately, we thought we had arrived at a final fitting, but it turned out that the Fiberglas mold we had taken from the hardened clay was a bad one, and now we have to redo work we thought we had finished weeks ago. Hardly major, but a delay nevertheless.
The mechanics have been working night and day, and Ken has continued to fly them back from races, sometimes by private plane. After the French Grand Prix, for example, they were driven from the track to the airport and from there flown back to London so they could start working on the car that very night. They got out of there quicker than I did, in fact, and only one of them stayed behind to drive the transporter back to England. At the Clermont-Ferrand airport people were making all kinds of jokes about Tyrrell's group going first-class, which was fine and well, but it made Ken nervous.
The car is being constructed at our workshop in Ripley, Surrey, just outside London. The shop itself is unbelievable, in a timber yard with a driveway on which you could lose a Mini in the huge potholes. Ken's office, where he normally does his lumber business, has a tree going right up through it, and the place is usually a shambles. You can't believe it, that here, in the corner of some English wood, is housed the organization responsible for some of the finest racing cars in the world: the home of the MS80 Matra, the 1969 championship car, and now the Tyrrell-Ford.
Still, we have had to take precautions. A few people have been wondering about this business of our flying the mechanics back. No one has actually said anything, but you know they have been wondering, if only because the racing world is so small and infested with rumor. Eoin Young, a journalist who writes something of a racing gossip column for English and American monthlies, a man who has to have the original scoop, came down not too long ago to get information from Ken for a book he is doing on McLaren. After they had finished, he was wandering around the office. He asked Ken's wife Norah if there was anything to see over at the workshop.