When I saw the “Le Mans” film (a few days ago), I noticed at the end of the film, the post, regarding David Piper’s sacrifice (that were the exact words used), and then I went online, in order to learn more about this..
I found out about the accident during the film and the major injury of this professional driver and then I realised the amount of dedication and professionalism of these people, who play a very important role, in making a movie like that, in order to appear as real as it can be.
Now by watching this picture, It is obvious that racing/documentary films, such as the Le Mans, owe very much to these drivers, real or stunts, who sometimes are risking their lives in order to make a film more realistic and succesful, and many times their part on the film is more vital than the actors.
The Le Mans racing scenes, are very breath-taking and beautiful and illustrate in my opinion the real event, in the most realistic way that it can be presented. This is mainly due to the professional drivers that contributed vastly in this film.
From those of us that we like/love cars and motorsports a very big thank you to people like David Piper, people who sometimes risking their lives, in order to do what they love to do, infront or behind the cameras..
David Piper was an original, the mold was never broken as there never WAS a mold for David Piper. I knew him way back in the late 50’s onwards, via a Dr. Stephen Ward, a close friend of his, to the degree Ward was allowed to drive David’s cars whenever he wanted, Piper even paying the petrol. Ward was the first person to test Piper’s new Ferrari’s, I was there the first time at Brands Hatch, but the car wasn’t quiet fettled to Piper’s exacting standards and he hadn’t brought it down, but still came personally to apologise to Ward, and arrange another date.
Piper was the consumate racer, a true professional with a deep understanding of the art and technicalities of the sport of driving cars, VERY fast. The best F1 drivers were queuing up to beg for his pearls of wisdom. A better teacher there never was. But he was not stupid. “I risked my life garnering the information they are asking me to impart …so they pay, period. Cash please!” Piper had a rep of being a grasping b#, but on reflection he was right. If he was REALLY interested he fronted up gladly …and for free. For one time he took a Jag Mk.11 around Brands with a young med-student with promise …and there was never any mention of any money involved. THAT raised eyebrows. I’m not sure of the young med-student, but I think he died in a light-plane crash before he could show his mettle. I was in that Jag that day, in the back with with Bernie Ecclestone on one side, and Ward on the other. We had all crossed arms and the outer guys were holding the rear doors shut! “They’re normally welded shut, you guys,” drawls Piper, Don’t let go, ok? But I was asked to test-drive this standard car and I wanted to show this young man the racing-line around Brands, so he can mull it over before I take him out in a prepared production-racer. Note: not a Jag, a REAL car. Jags are f# crap, refuse to race one for any money and to drive one on the road has never occurred to me. You may have noticed how bad they are?” (We were sliding sideways on the straights, not to mention weaving all over the place in the corners. Yes, we HAD noticed). “NEVER buy a Jag, let alone race one. If you want to live. The factory detune the chassis and suspension so ordinary punters can’t buy a car from the salesroom and compete with them. A REAL racing Jag Mk, 11 costs 50k after it’s been rebuilt to race-standards.” We survived the 6-lap drive, to hold our noses at the stench of burning rubber when we pulled into the pits. The tyres were blistered and on the canvas. “…and never race on standard tyres. NEVER use standard tyres on the road, either. F# crap, totally useless, lethal in the rain. Speed and safety costs. Spend the money or die.”
Piper was offered a ride for Ferrari, but didn’t turn up. Huge consternation in the press. He went to a party hosted by Mike Hailwood instead.
“Mike’s parties are always fun,” he drawled, “and there was a girl there I wanted to f# .” (He later married her?)
The real reason was this: “They wanted to sign me to control me. I’d be given duff cars, all the excuses in the world …and come second in the Championship. To an Italian driver. I was a threat, you see. They wanted to own me. I’d love to be F1 Champion, but it’s not the world. I’m better off racing production cars for myself. My Ferrari is identical to the factory car, but for the camshaft and shock-absorbers. I prefer the standard cam and ‘a little man’ is prepared to sell me the shock-absorbers under the table. I just LOVE beating the factory production cars in my own car, for I can on all but a few tracks as the special camshaft is faster on fast tracks, and I just LOVE giving the Italian drivers ‘the finger’ when I pass them on the last lap! Ferrari is furious! I can hear his teeth grinding all the way from Modena!”
Oh yes, I liked David Piper.
Sorry it took a while to approve the comment, Sven. So busy with my new project. But, boy, what a comment that was!!! Great read. Keep those memories coming!!!
Great Movie .
Just came back from the 77 edition of the Le Mans Race.
Decided that i take another look at the movie.
In the begin of the movie where Steve McQueen walks to his trailer you see a man walking in a David Piper overall do you now if that is on purpose or also a tribute to the man its to be seen at 0:37:30 in the movie.
Just an observation
Great stories here.
Jan-Arie van der Linden
David Piper still comes over to South Africa every January to race in the last races of the revived Springbok Series. ( the series was run in the sixties and early seventies over the European winter and attracted top class F1 and endurance drivers). We now run 4 races – Port Elizabeth end November, Kyalami beginning December (72 cars on the grid, varying from GT40s, 917s to Mustangs, Minis, etc.), Zwartkops (Pretoria) end January and Cape Town beginning February. We have up to 40 overseas competitors at some of the races.
A great cheap motor racing holiday. Ticket prices are in the region of 5 euros and you could probably buy a drive in a local saloon car (Alfa GT Junior, Ford Escort MK1, Mini, etc) for as little as 1000 euros.
You could also do a high performance course with Audi on Kyalamy for 2000 Euros. Follow it up wth a trip to the local game reserves!
083 308 5754
I usually don’t allow third party advertising, but this one is an interesting one for all racers.
Just saw Le Mans ’71 movie again but for the first time in a long time and it is the most exciting racing movie ever…I too saw David Piper’s “sacrafice” in the credits and had to google…thanks for the info…those 917s were like wild animals and major “bows” not only to the drivers but to the crew…the crew sets up that car strategically perfect then the driver must know how to use his “tool” with exceptional precision….you guys are some of the most talented people in the world though few and far in between….but such a rush to watch! Also googling how much driving Steve McQueen actually did in movie, once read about arguments about McQueen wanting to drive but “movie insurances” wouldn’t allow…
Sorry about the advertising!
Is David Piper still alive? If so, is it possible to get in touch with him as we have just moved into the house his parents grew up in (we think!) and we are trying to research the history.
David is alive and well, usuak to be found at any historic raving event.
I used to have a contacgt but that no longer seems to be valid. If I find out something I’ll let you know.
Thanks just watched Le Mans for the xth time love the scene at the beginning when Steve McQ drives the oldf US style 911 to the circuit
Just like to say thanks for filling me in on the David Piper story – had to google it – what a legend
Just watched it, what a movie, what is not clear is how Davd Piper lost his leg as the car was remote controlled in the crash.
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