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A life in the fast lane for Burnley's Formula 1 ace Redman
HE has been a waiter for the Queen, filmed with Steve McQueen and finished on the podium at a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Brian Redman is not one for the quiet life.
“I say to my wife that it’s never been boring!” he laughs.
Tomorrow Redman will watch on as the new Formula 1 season starts in Melbourne, remembering the hedonistic days at the peak of his own racing career.
Redman competed at 15 Formula 1 events between 1968 and 1974, where fun was had by all in an era when danger was never far away.
“It was eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die, that sort of attitude,” said Redman.
“We didn’t fly home straight after races then because we didn’t all have planes, we would party until 4am and celebrate having made it through the weekend alive.
“I was racing with people like Jim Clark, Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren, John Surtees and Graham Hill.
“The sport was extremely dangerous then. I knew a lot of people who were killed.”
Both Clark and McLaren would later perish in accidents on the track.
Redman hails from Burnley and even his early years were eventful, as he found himself as the head waiter at the town hall for a visit of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
“I did get to speak to them, but only to say, ‘What would you like to drink?’” he chuckles.
Now he speaks to the Lancashire Telegraph from Vero Beach in Florida, having moved to the United States 34 years ago.
At the age of 77, he is as active as ever. This year he will travel across America to Wisconsin and California, and to Europe to Monaco and Goodwood, largely for vintage car events.
In Formula 1, Redman had spells with Rob Walker Racing, Williams, Team Surtees, McLaren, Marlboro BRM and Shadow Racing.
But it was with Cooper Racing, in only his second race in Formula 1, when he secured a shock third-placed finish at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama near Madrid in 1968.
“We were at the back of the grid but so many cars broke down,” Redman said.
“At the end we were driving round on a lap of honour and we were sat on this car, me on the left, Graham Hill the winner on the right and Denny Hulme who was second in the middle.
“All of a sudden Graham Hill turned to his left, saw me and said, ‘How on earth did you finish third?!’”
Redman, though, admits he preferred racing in sports cars than Formula 1.
He enjoyed much success in sports cars, citing his highlight as his four victories in the Spa-Francorchamps 1,000km in Belgium.
“Driving in Formula 1 was never really my ambition,” he said.
“When I was racing in it, I didn’t really like the atmosphere of it. It was very dog eat dog.”
But that did not stop him making great friends, both in Formula 1 and in the various other events and championships he competed in during that era.
High jinks were never far away.
“We were at a race in Pau and afterwards we were all in this restaurant and had this huge food fight,” Redman said.
“Jim Clark got this butter on his knife and flicked it across the room. It hit a girl square on the nose. Before you knew it, everything was being thrown across the room – butter, water, wine, you name it.
“Another time we were in South Africa at Kyalami, staying at this hotel where the rooms all had a straw roof.
“We had already put the deck chairs in the pool when Clay Regazzoni decided he would liven things up for Mario Andretti, who had gone to bed.
“He lit a newspaper and threw it into the room, but it turned out he got the wrong room.
“This person had nothing to do with racing and he called the police. We had to smuggle Clay out of South Africa the next day!
“There was a time at Spa as well when we were all at this really boring prizegiving ceremony at the town hall where people were spending hours thanking everybody.
“Paul Hawkins, an Australian who sadly later died at Oulton Park, had this firework and he rolled it down to the front of the room where it went off. It was the loudest bang I’d ever heard.
“The Belgians thought a bomb had gone off and the Germans were back!”
The fun did not end there for Redman, who even linked up with acting legend McQueen for the film Le Mans in 1971.
McQueen had planned to actually take part in the famous 24-hour race as part of the film but his entry was rejected and instead the racing sequences featured the car driven by Redman and Swiss team-mate Jo Siffert.
Motor racing is a more sanitised affair than it was in those days and Redman admits Formula 1 is not quite the same, although he still tunes in regularly to watch the races.
German star Sebastian Vettel will aim to secure a fifth successive world title in 2014.
“It’s the only series I watch now but it’s mainly because my friend David Hobbs is the commentator in the US,” he said.
“I don’t enjoy it that much. It’s very contrived now, it’s all about tyres and fuel, it used to be just about racing.
“Probably half of the grid are having to bring a lot of money to get a seat. We might not have been paid much but at least we didn’t have to pay to drive.
“But in every generation there is an outstanding driver and at the moment that’s Vettel.
“You feel sorry for the other drivers because they’ve been wasting their time!”
It is an accusation no-one could ever level at Redman.
There simply has been no time to waste. He has been too busy living his life to the full.
Next week: Redman’s three brushes with death, and police raids in apartheid South Africa
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