Last month father and son Martin and Alex Brundle announced they will enter the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans in an LMP2 class car entered by Greaves Motorsport, who won the class this year.
While father and son pairings at the world's most famous endurance race are rare, they are not unheard of. Modern racing greats Nigel Mansell and Derek Bell have both shared Le Mans charges with their sons – Greg and Leo; Justin respectively – but neither have been able to match Louis and Jean-Louis Rosier who shared victory in the 1950 edition of the race.
Neither will next year's race be the first time Brundle senior and junior have shared a car. They have several races in Radical sportscars, as well as races in Lamborghini's together behind them. They also have experience of competing against each other, when Martin made a guest appearance in Formula Palmer Audi as his son progressed up the single seater ladder.
More recently the elder Brundle competed with United Autosports at the Rolex 24 at Daytona last January, recording a fourth place finish, but has not driven at Le Mans since he was part of the Bentley team in 2001.
“To share this experience with your son – for me to be able to strap him in the car and send him on his way – is going to be very special.”
However, he adds; “I think it means quite little to him to be racing with his dad to be honest. He just sees it as a professional opportunity. But it means a lot to me because dad and his lad means a lot more to the dad.”
“For me, I have a small window to do this,” Martin explains some of his motivation for the entry. “I am still fast enough to drive an LMP2 car. Alex will still be 21 at Le Mans and before he takes off, I might never get a chance to race with him there again. I regret not having raced more in the intervening time since I last did Le Mans, but I’ve got the speed, I’ve got the fitness and stamina and I would be absolutely open to continuing past 2012.”
“I had some massive disappointments at Le Mans. I’ve had a puncture in the first chicane while leading for Toyota, and in 1998 I hit a patch of water and went off and had a massive shunt. That’s Le Mans for you – but it’s incredible.”
Wary of recent 24 Hours races – it was a fact he mentioned in preparation for his drive at Daytona – Brundle is aware that in order to win the class, or even take a place on the podium, the team – he, his son and an as yet unconfirmed third driver – will need to be faultless.
“If you ever lift you won’t win in my experience: someone will drive flat out in a trouble-free run to the end of the race so you all have to. It’s a sprint race for 24 hours; I don’t ever remember coasting there in anything. Its bloody hard work.”
Of course, there will be much that will passed down from father to son during build up to the race, and then the race itself. “I can shortcut his pain process of learning a lot of things, even if he’ll still be very young. It’s a mighty track and a mighty motor race and he’s very aware that we have to deliver.”
“It also will help Alex massively,” he continues. “I’ve always said, and I stand by it, that sportscar racing can offer you a number of elements that single seater racing can’t: working with the pressures of a manufacturer, working with the tyre company, the set up, the dynamics within the team. You have 100s of people in the pit team, a big budget, a lot of pressure and that’s just like being in a grand prix team. I think it will broaden his horizons, give him confidence and I can’t see any downside.”
In contrast Brundle senior is also expecting his son – who has also raced in Formula 3 and Formula 2 – to be able to teach him on one of the aspects of racing that has grown massively since he bowed out of international racing.
“Racing nowadays is so much more data driven than it was when I did it, so I’m actually following Alex a lot on that if I’m honest,” he says. “I think it was 1991 when I first had data acquisition on my F1 car, and then I remember seeing Alex’s cadet kart with the Pi system giving all sorts of data – at that low a level. It has all moved on so much, so I’ll be listening more than talking about that side.”
He admits he has concerns – driving at night, for example – and the new experience of having to check his mirrors for the faster LMP1 cars.
“I’m going to find it strange at night and I’m going to realise how much I have terrified people in the various 24 Hour races I have done.”
“I saw a tweet today from Alex Wurz saying “hi mate, adjust your mirrors please ;-)” – and in many ways that’s the perfect welcome.”