As he sat, strapped into a Rondeau prototype amidst the starting grid at Le Mans, forty-year-old Jack Griffin, who was featured in one of our videos, had but one thought: “What the hell have I gotten myself into now?”
It was June 1984 and Jack, who, as recently as eighteen months earlier, had never even sat in a race car, much less driven one, now found himself preparing to run against the likes of Messrs. David Hobbs, John Morton, and Klaus Ludwig. He had never intended to be here, certainly never aspired to it as a young tennis player growing up in South Texas, but here he was, a commercial real estate broker from suburban Dallas who had come to Circuit de La Sarthe simply to enjoy the spectacle but now found himself about to drive against the fastest racers in the world.
Jack sat in his car staring up at that Dutray clock with a mix of anticipation and uncut terror.
He had traveled to Le Mans at the invitation of a friend, M.L. Speer, who was a race car-driving fellow Texan with a knack for recruiting Jack into one harebrained scheme after another. Take, for instance, their meeting at the 1983 24 Hours of Daytona. M.L. had invited Jack down to watch him run the race, but by the time the weekend was over, M.L. had persuaded Jack not only to take up racing but to drive a Porsche 914 in the GTU class in the upcoming 12 Hours of Sebring.
Trouble was, Jack lacked a racing license because Jack had never before set foot in a race car.
And so, off to the Bondurant driving school in Sonoma, California, he went. As the dozen other drivers in that first class introduced themselves, Jack began to realize that his entrée into racing was far from typical. For the other drivers, this weekend getaway to Bondurant had been a gift from a wife or simply a brief taste of adrenaline, a source of bragging rights at the Monday morning sales meeting. Certainly none of them had designs on testing their mettle on ground as hallowed as Sebring.
Jack’s turn at self-introduction came around.
“I’m, uh, here because I’m driving the 12 Hours of Sebring next week,” said Jack to a circle of raised eyebrows, “and I’ve never actually been in a race car before.”
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