Alex Brundle risks all at Le Mans in the company of his famous father, Martin
21:05 GMT, 28 April 2012
Martin Brundle had only his son, Alex, and a young and little-known Spanish driver for company as he walked through the pits at a blustery and deserted Silverstone.
Days earlier, he had mixed with world champions Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel as he brought insight and wisdom to Sky’s coverage of the controversial and politically inflamed Bahrain Grand Prix.
But Brundle’s presence at Silverstone on Wednesday in flameproof racing overalls was a reminder that, even at 53, his competitive spirit still burns deep.
Family danger: Alex and Martin Brundle will compete in the hardest and fastest endurance race in the world
In seven weeks’ time, he will share a 200mph Zytek- Nissan sports car with his son, and Spaniard Lucas Ordonez, in the hardest, fastest endurance race in the world, the Le Mans 24 Hours. Brundle’s wife, Liz, had been pregnant with Alex when he won Le Mans in a Jaguar 22 years ago.
She will be with her husband and son again when they return as teammates for the 80th running of a race that retains iconic status in the motorsport calendar.
So how does Alex Brundle feel his mother will deal with the two men in her life spending a day and night taking it in turns to drive at high speed round an 8.4-mile circuit
‘Mum says you can replace a husband, but you can’t replace a son,’ he said, with a smile.
‘It’s an interesting concept that I’m not sure she would like to explore. I honestly think the thing she struggles mostwith is not the danger.
Carnage: Allan McNish in his Audi Nr 3 crashes after hitting a side barrier during the 24-hour Le Mans race last year
It’s the days when it hasn’t gone well and she sees me disappointed that she struggles to understand why I carry on. But I am a racing driver — and the good days always make it worthwhile and she sees that.’
THE HUMAN COST
Twenty-one drivers have been killed at Le Mans since the first 24-hour race in 1923, the most recent in 1997.
Marshals and spectators have also died, including 83 in a 1955 disaster.
His voice, as well as his ambition, are an echo of his father. ‘It’s special for me to be racing with Dad at Le Mans,’ he said. ‘But this is not a “dad and lad jolly”; we are aiming to win our class, LMP2.’
The challenges of Le Mans differ greatly from those faced by Formula One’s stars.
Not only do the drivers have uncommonly long stints at the wheel and drive through the night, but the 56 cars on the grid, competing in separate classes, have a massive disparity in speed.
Last year Britain’s Allan McNish was fortunate to walk away from a horrific accident after his LMP1- class Audi clipped a slower car and barrel-rolled.
Twelve months earlier, former Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell was hospitalised when he crashed a car he was co-driving with sons Leo and Greg.
Back to the day job: Brundle interviews F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone before the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix
Brundle senior will endeavour to impart his vast experience to his son and Ordonez, who propelled himself into motorsport by winning a virtual racing series co-promoted by Nissan and PlayStation four years ago.
‘It’s the first time I will race at Le Mans when I won’t be the lead driver in one of the fastest cars in the race,’ said Brundle.
‘The key to Le Mans is navigating the traffic, or allowing the leaders through without contact or the loss of too much time. The LMP1 cars will be about 15-17sec a lap faster than us on a three-and-threequarter minute-lap, and we’re about 30 seconds faster than the GT cars.’
His motivation for a return to Le Mans is easy to understand: he wants to savour sharing a car with his son while he can. ‘If I make silly mistakes, I’ll take flak in the F1 paddock… and deservedly so,’ he said. ‘I could stay at home — that would be the easy option. But I want to get out there and race with Alex.’
His son, who graduated with a business management degree from Nottingham University last year, will also be competing in the GP3 series on the undercard at European grand prix races this summer, providing him an opportunity to showcase his ability.
In his prime: Martin Brundle raced for Benetton-Ford in the early 1990s
Brundle senior, who for 10 years managed the career of David Coulthard, has watched the dreams of a succession of talented drivers wither once their bank accounts were emptied.
‘Drivers are paying as much as $10million to be a reserve at some teams,’ he said.
‘Nine men who raced in F1 last year don’t have a drive any more. As soon as the money runs out, they’re replaced by someone who does have money.
'You have kids in their fourth year in GP2 and that’s cost somebody 5m-6m. You can still get through on talent alone — but someone has to recognise that talent and be prepared to invest in you.’
At Silverstone last week, Brundle’s walk through the drizzle to his Le Mans car in the company of his son was a scene to be cherished.
‘Alex has a fantastic CV and this project, and a seat in GP3, is a chance for him to shine,’ he said.