When your peers and racing rivals get you a nickname „Quick Vic“, it's certainly the proof you did something big in your racing career. That's the case with Vic Elford, the British racing legend and one of the most versatile racing drivers ever.
His racing career lasted from 1961 to 1984, but the year which showed his versatility in a best possible way was 1968. He started the season winning the Rallye Monte-Carlo in January. A week later, he won 24 hours of Daytona. In May, he scored an epic victory at Targa Florio. In July, Vic debuted in Formula One and scored the fourth place in his first race with the slowest car in the field. Of course, he didn't miss 24 hours of Le Mans, which was held in September.
Vic started his career as a rally navigator
But let's start from the beginning: Victor Henry Elford was born on June 10, 1935, in Peckham, London. He started his racing career in 1960, on the 'wrong side' of the car, as a navigator of the rally car driver David Seagle-Morris in his Austin Healey 3000 and Morris Mini Minor. They competed in the European Rally Championship, scoring notable results at Liege-Rome-Liege (5th) and RAC International Rally (6th).
In 1961, they participated in Rallye Monte-Carlo for the first time, finishing 39th. Elford later returned to the world's most famous rally eight times as a driver, scoring a victory in 1968. In the meantime, he became a respectable racer with rally cars, touring cars and sports cars.
Elford took the wheel in 1961
Elford left his co-driving duties in 1961 and started to race with the wheel in his hands. His first car was Morris Mini Minor, both in the British Saloon Car Championship and some national rallies. In 1962, he participated in rally events with DKW Junior.
Elford came to the Rally Monte-Carlo for the first time as a driver in 1963, driving the Triumph Vitesse and finishing 24th overall. He was also driving a Triumph TR4 at some national and ERC events.
Three seasons with Ford Cortina
In 1964, Elford switched to Ford Cortina GT and returned to Monte-Carlo, but didn't finish the race because of an accident. Later in the season, he scored good results at two ERC events: Coupe des Alpes (5th) and RAC Rally (3rd). In September 1964, Elford and Seagle-Morris shared the Ford Cortina Lotus at Tour de France at Pau, which was a part of the World Sportscar Championship, and took the victory in the T1.6 class.
The rally career continued in 1965, with one more retirement at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Elford also participated in the European Touring Car Challenge race at Snetterton, driving the Ford Anglia.
In 1966, Elford had the biggest schedule to date, competing in nine events of the European Rally Championship, driving the Ford Cortina Lotus. Exclusions, accidents, and mechanical issues marked that season, with second place in the Netherland's Internationale Tulpenrallye as the best result. At the 1966 Tour de Corse, Elford competed for the first time with Porsche 911 and began his long-lasting and successful relationship with the famous German manufacturer.
Elford switched to Porsche in 1967
In 1967, Elford raced with Porsche in three different competitions – World Sportscar Championship, European Rally Championship and British Saloon Car Championship. In the British Saloon Car Championship Porsche 911 took two Class C wins at Silverstone and Oulton Park, but the real success followed in the 1967 European Rally Championship.
Elford was the European rally champion in 1967
Elford's Porsche 911 S was victorious at three ERC events and he won the Group 3 championship title. At Rallye Monte-Carlo, he finished third overall, behind Rauno Aaltonen (Mini Cooper S) and Ove Andersson (Lancia Fulvia HF).
In the 1967 World Sportscar Championship, the season started in May with third place at Targa Florio, where Elford was sharing the #166 Porsche 910 with Jochen Neerpasch. At 1000 km of Nürburgring, the duo again finished in third place. In June, Elford debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans, sharing the #37 Porsche 960 with the Dutch driver Ben Pon. They finished 7th overall and took the S2.0 class victory. Later in the season, Elford partnered Gijs van Lennep in the class victory at 500 km of Mugello. They were driving the Porsche 911 R.
Elford's Monte Carlo victory with Porsche
And then, the epic 1968 season came. Vic Elford and his co-driver David Stone took the overall victory at Monte-Carlo Rally, driving the Porsche 911 T. They won ahead of Pauli Toivonen in another Porsche and three Mini Coopers of Rauno Aaltonen, Tony Fall and Paddy Hopkirk. Elford was the last British winner of the Rally Monte-Carlo.
Historic Porsche victory at 1968 Daytona 24h
After a podium ceremony on January 25th, Elford traveled to America to compete at 24 hours of Daytona a week later. He was a member of a five men Porsche factory team in the #54 Porsche 907 LH. Elford's teammates were Jochen Neerspasch, Rolf Stommelen, Jo Siffert and Hans Herrmann. They started fifth on the grid and finished first, to take the first overall victory for Porsche in 24-hour races.
The greatest Targa Florio victory of all
A month and a half later, Elford and Neerspasch raced at Sebring and finished 2nd in the 12-hour race, driving the #51 Porsche 907. The only faster crew was Siffert-Herrmann in the sister car #49 Porsche. One more podium in endurance racing followed at 6 hours of Brands Hatch, again with Neerspasch as co-driver.
On May 5, 1968, Vic Elford and Umberto Maglioli participated in the 52nd edition of the Targa Florio. The #224 Porsche 907 took the overall victory ahead of two Alfa Romeo T33s. It was one of the most remembered and most exciting Targa Florio races because Elford and Maglioli made an unbelievable comeback after they lost 18 minutes early in the race because of tire failure. At the end, they won with a 2m42sec advantage over Autodelta's Ignazio Giunti and Nanni Galli.
First of six wins at Nürburgring Nordschleife
It wasn't all of the victories in 1968. Two weeks after Targa Florio, Elford and Jo Siffert won at 1000 km of Nürburgring. It was Elford's first win at Nürburgring Nordschleife. In the following years, he won five more times, to become one of just four drivers with six wins at the famous Nordschleife. The other three were Rudolf Caracciola, John Surtees and Stirling Moss.
Fantastic debut in Formula One
Elford's next racing adventure was Formula One. On July 7, 1968, he debuted in the premier single-seater competition without any notable experience with formula cars. And he did it perfectly, finishing fourth in the underpowered #30 Cooper T86B-BRM. Except Elford's fantastic debut, the race at Rouen-Les-Essarts Circuit was historically important because of a few things. Jo Schlesser was killed in a horrific accident on lap 2, Jacky Ickx scored his first ever F1 win and it was the last F1 race on that circuit.
Elford collected five points in his debut F1 season
Later in the season Elford recorded four retirements and two more good results, 5th place at Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Mont-Tremblant and 8th place at Mexican Grand Prix at Hermanos Rodriguez Autodrome. With five points from seven races, Elford finished 18th in the Formula One championship standings.
Retirement in the September's Le Mans race
While competing in Formula One, Elford didn't miss the 24 hours of Le Mans race, which took place in September instead of the usual date in June. The delay was caused by massive protest and general strikes in France. However, in the race marked by one more victory of Ford GT40, Vic Elford and Gerhard Mitter didn't reach the finish line, their #32 Porsche 908 broke after 111 laps.
Besides all those international competitions during 1968, Elford also participated in a few races of the British Saloon Car Championship with Porsche 911, scoring two Class C wins at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.
Let's try something new. Let's try NASCAR
Elford's 1968 season was really fantastic and it was impossible to outreach the results he accomplished. But he tried. In January 1969, he and David Stone returned to Rallye Monte-Carlo with Porsche but didn't finish the race because of an accident.
In February, Elford returned to Daytona International Speedway to defend his win in the 24-hour race. He failed, although he started from pole position. The #52 Porsche 908 he shared with Brian Redman stopped before the end of the race due to oil pressure failure.
While in America, Vic Elford qualified for the Daytona 500 race in the NASCAR Grand National Series. He was driving the #8 H.B. Rainier's Dodge and finished 11th.
One more Le Mans retirement with Porsche 917
Later in the sports car season, driving the Porsche 908, Elford finished second at Brands Hatch and Watkins Glen (with Richard Attwood), second at Targa Florio (with Umberto Maglioli), third at Spa and Nurburgring (with Kurt Ahrens). At 24 hours of Le Mans, Elford and Attwood retired after 327 laps in the #12 Porsche 917 LH.
Return to F1 and heavy crash at Nürburgring
Elford returned to Formula One at the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix in May, driving the Maserati-powered Cooper T86B for Antiques Automobiles Racint Team. He finished seventh, the last of remaining drivers, six laps behind the winner, Graham Hill. At the next race, the Dutch Grand Prix, Elford switched to McLaren M7B-Cosworth and again finished last, six laps behind the winner, Jackie Stewart. Elford then scored points with 5th place at French Grand Prix and 6th place at British Grand Prix, to finish 14th in the championship standings.
He survived a serious crash at German Grand Prix at Nurburgring Nordschleife in August, with a broken arm. He crashed after Mario Andretti lost control and hit his car, sending him into a tree. The race was marked by the death of Gerhard Mitter during practice.
Very diverse racing program in 1970
The season of 1970 was one more year with a diverse racing program for Vic Elford. Besides all competitions he raced before, Elford entered some new series, such were the Interserie, Trans-Am and Can-Am Challenge. He entered the inaugural season of the Interserie with Paul Watson's McLaren M6B and took one victory at Hockenheim.
In the Trans-Am, he drove Chevrolet Camaro and won the race at Watkins Glen. In the Can-Am Challenge, Elford changed five cars in six races, but without notable results. The cars he drove were McLaren M6B, Chaparral 2J, Lola T70, Shadow 002 and Porsche 917K.
Porsche 917K was also Elford's car at 24 hours of Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring. He didn't finish any of those races, sharing the car with Kurt Ahrens Jr. Elford recorded a retirement also at the 1970 Rally Monte-Carlo, in which he participated with Toyota Corona GSS.
Elford and his 917LH were actors in McQueen's movie
At 24 hours of Le Mans, Elford and Ahrens drove the Porsche 917 LH and retired again. The race was important as the background for the famous Steve McQueen's movie 'Le Mans'. Elford was hired by Steve McQueen to do the high-speed close-up action in his Porsche.
There were some good results too, such was the victory at 1000 of Nurburgring with Porsche 908/3 and third place at 1000 km of Spa with Porsche 917K, together with Kurt Ahrens. Elford also won the 500-km race at Nurburgring, driving the Chevron B16. The race was a part of the European 2-litre Sports Car Championship.
Sebring and Nürburgring victories with 917K
In 1971, Elford again tried many different competitions, entering at least five different series. For the first time since 1963, Elford skipped Rallye Monte-Carlo in January and started the season with the endurance race in Argentina, driving the Porsche 917K at 1000 km of Buenos Aires. He didn't finish the race, same as in the 24 hours of Daytona three weeks later. The little comfort was the victory at 12 hours of Sebring, in the #3 Porsche 917K of Martini & Rossi Racing, He shared the car with Gerard Larrousse. In May, the duo won again at 1000 km of Nurburgring, this time with Porsche 908/3.
The disappointment followed at the Le Mans race. Elford and Larrousse started second on the grid in the #21 Martini Porsche 917 LH, but they had to retire. The sister car #22 of Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennep won the race.
In July, Elford raced for the first time with Alfa Romeo T33/3 at Watkins Glen 6-hour race, which was the round of the International Championship for Makes. His co-driver was Nanni Galli and they retired after a collision with another car.
One-off return to Formula One in 1971
On August 1, Elford returned for the last time in a Formula One car. He participated in the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring Nordschleife for Yardley Team BRM, as a replacement for Pedro Rodriguez who lost his life in a crash during the Interseries race at Norisring in July. Elford qualified 18th out of 22 drivers and finished 11th, a lap behind the winner Jackie Stewart.
Elford returned to the Nordschleife in September to win the 500-km race of the European 2-litre Sports Car Championship, driving the Lola T212 for Ecurie Bonnier/Scuderia Filipinetti.
After all the brands he drove, Elford tried Ferrari in September 1971, participating in Tour de France with Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona. The race was the round of the French circuit racing championship, but also the round of the European Rally Championship. Elford finished fourth overall.
Heroic act and Bonnier's death at the 1972 Le Mans race
In 1972, Vic Elford mostly raced with Alfa Romeo T33/TT/3. Sharing the car with Helmut Marko, Elford finished fourth at 1000 km of Buenos Aires and 3rd at Daytona 6 hours. While in Daytona, Elford participated in the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, driving Don Robertson's Plymouth and finishing 10th.
At the 1972 24 hours of Le Mans, the #17 Alfa retired after 232 laps. That race was remembered by Elford's heroic act when he stopped to save another driver (Florian Vetsch) from a burning car, but Vetsch had already gotten out. TV cameras caught the act and Elford was later named Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite by French President Georges Pompidou for his act of courage and heroism. Unfortunately, in that accident, Elford's friend Jo Bonnier was killed. He was the driver of another car, which crashed with Vetsch's Ferrari and went into the trees next to the track.
Class victory with Ferrari at the 1973 Le Mans race
In 1973, Elford decreased his racing activities. The highlight of the season was his participation at 24 hours of Le Mans in Charles Pozzi's Ferrari 365 GTB/4. Elford and Claude Ballot-Lena, sharing the #39 car, finished 6th overall and took the GT 5.0 class victory. Later in the season, Elford won the Interserie race at Hockenheim, driving the Porsche 917/30 TC.
In 1974, Elford's car was Porsche 911 Carrera RSR. At 24 hours of Le Mans, Elford and Ballot-Lena retired due to mechanical issues. He had no better results in other races, so he decided to slow down the racing activities and focused on some other things.
Managing duties instead of racing
In 1975, he was involved in creation and designing of Jean Rondeau's Inaltera racing prototype. The car debuted at the 1976 Le Mans, driven by Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo, taking the 8th place overall and GTP class victory. In 1977, Jean Ragnotti and Jean Rondeau finished 4th overall at le Mans. In 1979, Elford was the manager of the ATS Formula One Team.
Although his racing career was over, Elford returned to race cars a few more times in the early 1980s. In 1982 and 1983, he entered the Marlboro Safari Rally, which was a part of the World Rally Championship, driving the Subaru Leone. He also entered the 1982 Rally du Condroz with Datsun 160J and 1983 24 Uren van Ieper rally with Peugeot 505.
Last race at Daytona in 1984
In 1983, he participated for the ninth time at 24 hours of Le Mans, driving the Rondeau M379. His co-drivers were Anne-Charlotte Verney and Joel Gouhier. They retired after 136 laps. In February 1984, Elford returned to Daytona, to participate in the 24-hour race alongside Richard Attwood, Howard Meister and Bob Hagestad. The four veterans in the Brumos Racing's Porsche 928S finished 15th overall.
It was the very last race for Vic Elford, the closure of the outstanding career full of great victories and breathtaking races. Elford maybe wasn't a top class driver in the Formula One and some other premium competitions, if you are looking championship titles and number of victories, but his versatility and a wide range of racing disciplines he successfully entered, made him an absolute racing legend.
After a racing career, Vic Elford moved to the United States in 1984. He managed the Porsche Owners Driving School and the Porsche Driving Experience. His experience and knowledge were converted to two books: 'The Porsche High Performance Driving Handbook' and 'Reflections on a Golden Era in Motorsport'.