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The last knight of Grand Prix racing



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Carel Godin de Beaufort


Ecurie Maarsbergen Porsche 718




1962 German GP (photo Rob Wiedenhoff archive)


The last of the gentleman drivers waiting in his pits to go out for a spin on the track he liked best. A year later the Nordschleife would bite back in the cruellest of ways.

He was his own man. Running his own Ecurie against the better prepared works efforts, he managed to upset the establishment on many occasions. Happy-go-lucky Dutch aristocrat Carel Godin de Beaufort (Maarsbergen, April 10, 1934 - Cologne, August 2, 1964) was the quintessential privateer of the late fifties and early sixties. His orange Porsche housed a free spirit, at unease with the pomp and circumstance of a racing world trying to come to grips with a growing level of professionalism. Here's a collection of short stories and anecdotes about the last of the great amateurs.

Nürburging, 1 August 1964. During practice Beaufort crashes out in the twisty section preceding Bergwerk. Critically hurt, he dies in a Cologne hospital on Sunday evening

Every story about a fallen hero should start with the ending. In the case of Earl C.P.A.J.H. Godin de Beaufort this means we go back to 1964. In those days the haunting Nürburgring with its 174 curves provided the stunning backdrop to the German Grand Prix, an event Beaufort hadn't missed since 1957, the year he made his Grand Prix debut at the 'Ring on board of a Porsche RSK sportscar. The 13-mile circuit was Carel's favourite track. He'd been racing there for dozens of times and knew exactly where to hold back and where to push. Even though his Porsche 718 was a five-year old dinosaur by now, he was expected to qualify. However, there would not be any surprises like in 1962 when he took the same car to 8th on the grid - and caused an upset by dropping this camera in Hill's path, forcing the BRM into an infamous crash. For a three-year old car qualifying 8th had been remarkable enough. Even in 1963, Carel managed to qualify his trusty 'Ecurie Pan American' 718 in 17th position, a testimony to his Nürburgring knowledge, here seen with his team mate for the race, Gerhard Mitter (who, incidentally, did even better). Now, with yet another year under the car's fan belt, no one expected him to do any better than last on the grid. On his home track two months earlier, last on the grid was exactly where he'd been, disregarding Jo Siffert's practice troubles with the misfiring BRM engine on board Seppi's new BT11.

As a matter of fact, Carel was hoping the old dog would last yet another year of the 1,5-litre formula, for he was looking forward to the start of 1966, the season the 3-litre era would take off. That would be the chance of a whole new beginning. This year, he had wisely decided on doing a part season in Grands Prix, only entering a couple of races. He'd already skipped Monaco, Spa, Rouen and Brands, concentrating on lesser events instead - like here at Solitude and, at home, competing in hillclimbs such as at Vaals. This meant the 'Ring would only be his second World Championship participation of the year. He knew full well the Eifel track that he regarded as his own would give him the only opportunity to shine and keep himself in the picture. After arriving in the paddock on Friday, he set out on Saturday practice, entertaining the paddock crowd by wearing a Beatles wig before starting on a series of slow reconnaissance laps. Then, on his fifth lap, Carel decided it was time to push. But the car would have none of that. Five miles out after the start and finish line, it suddenly veered off line and into the trees, its driver thrown out. On arrival, the rescue team found its driver suffering from serious injuries. The decision was made to transport Beaufort to nearby Koblenz hospital where a broken thy, a fractured chest bone and several concussions of the skull were diagnosed. Immediately after the word reached Holland, Carel's mother and the family's personal physician flew out to Germany. On his arrival in Koblenz prof.dr. Nuboer advised that Carel was to be transported to a neurological center in Cologne. Up until Sunday evening doctors fought for his life but at half past ten Carel was pronounced dead. His death was not announced until Monday - after which the news filtered through to the Dutch press. Here are an initial report and a full report from the Limburg daily Maas- en Roerpost. The initial report is very poignant, as it states that Beaufort's life is "no longer in danger"... His family later issued this memorial card (front and inside). Incidentally, the card leaves the date and town where he died beyond doubt, as there have been sources which state the August 1 and 3 dates, and towns such as Düsseldorf and Koblenz.

Beaufort's erstwhile team mate Ben Pon was at the track, taking part in the GT support race. "I'm devastated. I was in the paddock working on my Porsche when the news reached me. The moment I arrived at the scene, Carel had already been taken away. After the race on Sunday we called the hospital. They said he was no longer critical and that he would survive. On Monday morning we called again to ask if we could visit. Then they said he was dead. What can I say? It's all rather annoying, annoying indeed. He was a good friend." Carel de Beaufort was buried at the family estate at Maarsbergen near Arnhem, in the presence of many Dutch and international racing drivers. Graham Hill, Bob Anderson, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Ben Pon were among the friends to carry his coffin. The atmosphere was completely different from what people had become used to at the unique post-Zandvoort bashes Carel hosted at Maarsbergen. The repaired 718, that had suffered hardly any damage during the accident, was presented to the Driebergen Automobile Museum by Carel's mother.

The Nürburgring crash meant the premature termination of a carefree life. However, Beaufort's death wasn't all unexpected since by the time of the accident the Dutchman's Porsche was an obsolete design and bound to break. And on that day it probably did, if it wasn't driver failure, and at the most awkward of places - the twisty 'Ring section at Bergwerk. On the other hand, he was typically the man you'd suspect to survive his flirtation with the dangers of Grand Prix racing. Although born with a need for speed, he had the true gentleman racer spirit: first you enjoy your sport, second you are easy on the car - no need to wreck your own property. He lost his youthful brash after Fon de Portago's fatal Mille Miglia accident, shortly after sharing a friendly Coca-Cola with the Spanish marquis. After De Portago's death, Carel's driving style morphed into a very careful one. At the time of his fatal accident, Beaufort wasn't called Veilige Careltje ("Safe Little Carl") for nothing. Still he could laugh at the finish of that same Mille Miglia, which he had completed without a co-driver. He received two trophies: one for Mr Godin and one for Mr de Beaufort…

His approach to his opening lap in the point-winning 1962 Dutch GP is telling all about his acquired carefulness: "The V8s got away better at the start and I didn't try to get in front of them. The field is all packed up in those first few corners and it's easy for one of the cars to spin in front of you. Something like that can cause four or five cars to go over each other. I always keep an eye out for that, so I don't usually go for the big sprint towards Tarzan. Why should I? I regularly catch up with the leaders towards the Hunzerug, a place where the field is much more spread out, and there I'm able to overtake a few of them. Then the next two laps I really go for it - this time I'd passed about six or seven cars after three laps or so…" It's an approach that would not at all go well in modern Grand Prix racing, in which races are to a large extent decided by a successful run up to the first corner. In 1962 however, the Beaufort tactic worked out rather nicely. "It's the only way to handle things with that old car of mine. I just take a sensible approach and pick up cars slowly, one after the other. That's how I've managed to become the fastest Porsche of the race, even outracing Bonnier in the works car, who went on to finish seventh. After the race I went to the timing officials to collect my lap times. From start to finish they were all in the 1,42s. That's my style, to be fast and consistent during the entire race." The Germans revered him for his 'Ring knowledge and called him Der letzte Ritter (The Last Knight). The Earl certainly was. As knights do, he barely managed to see thirty. After Carel died, chivalry in Formula One was largely a thing of the middle ages.

Zandvoort, 20 May 1962. Carel scores a World Championship point

Carel not only raced for himself to see how his solo enterprise would match up against the mighty works efforts. He also raced purely for fun. That spirit was of a dying breed, already in the early sixties. It is often said Nelson Piquet was the last of the great amateurs, a man who regarded driving F1 cars as the most enjoyable way to make a living, and who was lucky and talented enough to turn his hobby into a day-time job. While the mentality was certainly there, the megabucks Piquet earned would hardly qualify him as an amateur. Carel de Beaufort had a point to prove, though. He was determined to qualify as an "A" driver while still remaining a privateer. With his two sixth places in 1962, he proved his point doubly so. At the end of the season the FIA indeed awarded him the much longed-for A seeding.

Carel had a strong mind about being his own man. On many occasions he harked back to the old days, to the time driver and mechanic were in close touch with each other to wring the best possible result from the car. For 21st century man, the idea of the late fifties, early sixties Grand Prix scene being overly professional sounds a bit rich compared to today's big-buck hoohah called the FIA F1 World Championship, in which everything seems to be directed and overorganized. Still Carel took pride in not caring about factory deals, sponsorship money or product endorsements. This is what he had to say after taking his first point: "I own the car I drove at Zandvoort. I bought it last year. It's prepared in the same way as the works cars, with the difference that I own it. When I get lucky it's even prepared better than one of the factory cars. Yes, that happens sometimes! At Zandvoort I beat Bonnier, and he's a factory Porsche driver. The thing is, works cars are prepared in advance and the mechanics do not have any meaningful contact with the drivers anymore. They just fly in to the track, to Zandvoort, or Monza, or the Nürburgring, and never visit the factory. My way is different from theirs. I go to the factory and tell them exactly what I want. On my return from a race I'll tell them all my stories and show the guys my time sheets and the photographs I took. In the evenings, I'll take them out to dinner. And in case they need to work late, I'll buy them a crate of beer and bring along a pile of food. And that's just huge, that's fantastic. Essentially it's the reason why I've been going great this season in that old car of mine. Mind you, it's three years old now and still I've beaten the factory cars on many occasions. I believe my profound personal contact with the guys at the Porsche factory is the key to that. I am very happy to be a privateer. You get much more satisfaction out of racing by beating the works drivers. It's no fun flying from Grand Prix to Grand Prix, jump into the car, do your thing and fly off again." Instead, Carel spent hours with the guys with the greasy hands and the dirty fingernails. The Porsche mechanics loved him for it.

The 1962 Dutch GP was also the event which saw the only Grand Prix participation of fellow Dutchman Ben Pon. Beaufort fielded his friend in a second Porsche, a newer 787, which the son of the Dutch Volkswagen/Audi importer qualified one spot ahead of his team boss. Pon never saw the end of the race after a horrific crash which made him vow never to race single-seaters again. The same promise was made by young Rob Slotemaker, who went on to become a seventies touring car ace before getting killed in his Camaro at Zandvoort in September 1979. At the track, 'Sloot' still has a bend called after him. Both Pon and Slotemaker, with Suzuka track designer Hans Hugenholtz the founders of Racing Team Holland, were taking part in the GT support race when Beaufort died at the 1964 German GP. Later in the year, Carel talked about Pon's crash and his own 1962 race at Zandvoort: "I had started my race with a game plan. I knew my four-cylinder could not keep up with the powerful V8s. But I had the most powerful four-cylinder. Ben was ahead of me at the start, but then I went past. Then he chased hard after me and went by again. Shortly after he had his accident. That was a big shame since it had been totally unnecessary. But before the race he was already very nervous about starting his first GP. I warned him about that. I said, 'Ben, loosen up. You'd better drive carefully, since we're not here to win the race. For our team it's just a matter of getting to the finish.' If he'd listened to me he would have finished seventh. But then he desperately wanted to pass me. Alright, I can understand him wanting to upstage his team leader, but I had done the Dutch GP four or five times already and knew how to pace myself. Ben obviously didn't and he had to pay for it. He was lucky to survive. When I passed the wreck I was worried he hadn't made it. Afterwards the first thing I asked was how Ben was. Fortunately I learnt he didn't have a scratch."

Avus, 1 August 1959. Beaufort has an appointment with Lady Luck

Privateers don't usually come with meteor careers. Yet Carel Godin de Beaufort took less than two years after his first car race before reaching the Olympus of motorsports: Grand Prix racing. As late as 1955 Carel entered his first competition event, the Dutch Tulip Rally. This was shortly after having left behind an exhuberant adolescent period, in which the young Beaufort portrayed himself as something of a daredevil. Instead of going to college, the heir to the Maarsbergen estate, where he and his mother resided, was used to submitting the grounds to some serious dirt racing. One of his best tricks was trying to squeeze a Volkswagen Beetle underneath a trailer to see if it would fit. It wouldn't. Another favourite pastime was tying matchboxes to the highest tree branches in the park and then using a Canadian army Jeep to take a run at them, jumping from his seat to try and pull them from the trees. It didn't always go as planned. At age 16, he turned a BMW 328i into a kit-car project by dismantling it to the last bolt and nut before putting it back together again. His only mistake was failing to secure the right rear wheel, which subsequently came off at 100 miles per hour. He lived to tell the story.

Beware, this was only after he nearly survived a shotgun attack by his father. Yes, this one needs some explaining! In one of his biggest pranks ever, he tied two rubber cables of 100-yards length to the back of the Chevrolet in which two Amsterdam magistrates came to visit his father at Maarsbergen. When the judges prepared to leave along the driveway young Careltje almost choked with pleasure as he saw the Chevy's acceleration slowly grind to a full stop, after which the car suddenly shot back and smacked into the tree he had attached those cables to. Unfortunately Carel had been uncareful in moving out of his irate father's view, upon which the old man stormed into the house to come out with his hunting rifle. Carel couldn't care less, as he had long since run for cover behind the park's rhododendrons. It must have been the inspiration for a similar stunt he pulled at the Nürburgring, attaching a Bratwurst stand to the back of his car. The result was a lot of sausages covered by bits and pieces of wood and iron.

His Maarsbergen rallycross antics served well for his competition debut in the 1955 Tulip Rally. He didn't do too bad but his heart lay with circuit racing. In 1956, Thieu Hezemans, father of later Porsche 935 star Toine and grandfather of today's FIA GT revelation Mike, introduced Carel to the international scene. He was picked by the boss of the Porsche squad, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, who thought he would be able to mould something of value out of the tall, blond and reckless Dutchman. 1956 was supposed to be a learning year but Carel proved to be an eager student. Less than a year on, Hanstein felt Beaufort was fit to represent him in the Le Mans 24 hours. Partnered with American driver Ed Hugus, the Dutchman became class winner. It was the prelude to a few very successful years as a sportscar driver - including far-away outings in places such as Venezuela, where he made a rare appearance in Art Bunker's car. Apart from his works drives he entered his own Porsche in the great sportscar events, such as Le Mans (here seen in 1958, 1959 and 1960) and the Nürburgring 1000kms (here seen in 1958 and 1960). 1959 was the undoubted highpoint in his sportscar career. The season brought victories at Spa, Innsbruck and in the Sebring 12 Hours (where he was partnered by his former mentor Von Hanstein).

Carel also had Lady Luck watching over him on many occasions. At the Avus sportscar race he clipped the top of the banked Nordkurve, his Porsche tumbling down into the trees at the back of the banking. Miraculously, the car performed a cat-with-nine-lives trick by falling on its feet unscathed. Well, relatively unscathed… As if nothing happened Carel then went on to rejoin the race at the bottom of the banking! The race officials needed some time to convince themselves it was not Beaufort's ghost doing the honours before they pulled out the black flag to disqualify the battered Porsche… The next day, he had his picture taken at the scene of the event, Carel in his overalls putting on a brave pose. The photoshoot distinctly lacked taste, as Jean Behra had been killed at the very spot, in the very same race. But perhaps it was Beaufort's way of silencing Behra's ghost. To have had a friendly drink with De Portago and dinner with Mackay-Frazer shortly before their deaths had made a huge impression. The thoughts that had been tucked away safely must have come back to haunt him after clipping the towering banking of Avus. What other way to push away the insanity of it all than by putting on a brave face?

Rouen, 8 July 1962. The way Carel de Beaufort is best remembered

In the end, Carel Godin de Beaufort remained a marginal figure in Grand Prix racing. In the first few years of his Grand Prix career, which started as early as 1957, he was still concentrating on his sportscar career and entering his RSK sportscar for the F2 class of the German GP. It was the same car he used during military service to travel between Maarsbergen and his barracks. Through this, one might get the impression the aristocrat was loaded with money but in fact his was always a shoestring effort. Here's a good story to back that up. At the Nürburgring 1000 kms in 1956, Carel de Beaufort and Thieu Hezemans entered the Spyder but found the car had a leaking fuel tank. The whole weekend the hole was plugged by chewing gum. "I have never seen so many people chew", Carel later reminiscened. "In the end our guys had aching jaws, so we had to set the neighbouring crew members to work!" They finished second in their class.

A Grand Prix one-off in a Scuderia Ugolini 250F and several races in a special long-wheelbase Cooper T51 (F2-10-60), followed by a South African tour (here in the No.5 Cooper in the 1960 South African GP at East London) preceded the acquisition of the ex-Walker/Moss Porsche 718-201. This car powered him throughout the glory days of his career and all through to the end. After slowly warming himself in at Zandvoort, where he started at the tail of the field, Carel rose through the midfield during the following Grands Prix (such as here at his beloved 'Ring) to take 7th in the tragic Italian GP. Several of the best paying non-championship races were on his menu as well, such as Zeltweg and the Solitude, while Carel had an occasional team mate in the form of Hans Herrmann (here seen at Zandvoort), Jack Fairman and Gerhard Mitter, who in 1963 drove the second 718 (202) that Carel acquired from Scuderia Filipinetti while 201 was being repaired after a crash at the 1962 US GP. 201 was rented out to Wolfgang Seidel at the start of 1962, while Scuderia Filipinetti borrowed back 202 for a one-off at the 1963 Pau GP.

The erstwhile dilettante reached his summit in 1962 to earn the respect of his peers, when he managed to score his and Holland's first World Championship point, which brought him enormous satisfaction. Beaufort traveled the entire continent from one minor event to the other to collect the prize money necessary to field a World Championship challenge. One of Carel's best episodes came at the French GP at Rouen. At the hotel he had slept during the afternoon and was glad to find Dutch motorsport journo Rob Wiedenhoff awaiting him in the lobby. According to Wiedenhoff, he was glad to be able to speak some Dutch for a while! Wiedenhoff's visit came in handy since the Grand Prix driver did not have any means of transport to the circuit. So the two got in Wiedenhoff's huge Chrysler and made a detour to some back-alley garage where Beaufort's Porsche was being serviced by the Porsche crew, as this was one of those races regular mechanic Arie Anssems ('Uncle Arie') was unable to attend. The crate of beer was warmly greeted. Then, traveling at speed towards the circuit gates, a hugely moustachioed French gendarme stepped in their way, giving a stop sign. "Step on it, man!" Beaufort urged. "We have no business with that gent." So Carel put his left foot on top of Wiedenhoff's right and the fat Chrysler missed the officer by a mere foot. That weekend he scored his second World Championship point.

In 1963 Carel collected two more championship points, at Spa and after flying his Porsche to the Glen, this time by virtue of others falling off. By then his role was reduced from acting as an also-ran to being a mere bit player. His weight began to play an even bigger part as the ancient underpowered Porsche began to feel its age. Under the guidance of judo legend Anton Geesink a severe weight-reducing programme was set in motion - which included a diet of supremely tasteless biscuits every crew member was also subjected to - but Carel's lanky stature prevented him from being all too successful in losing the pounds. Still he kept his rosy humour - noblesse oblige - and was a hit with the ladies until the day he died. Beaufort is perhaps best remembered for angering the Reims organizers during official practice by staying out on the back of the track to the extent everyone at the paddock feared he had written off his Porsche Spyder. It turned out he had merely halted to take aboard one pretty French mademoiselle extremely interested in a guided tour of the circuit... Upsetting the powers-that-be was one of his treats - another feature he shared with fellow prankster Nelson Piquet. At the Belgian GP, he managed to set to the track in an F2 Cooper since the car was on hand and he couldn't resist testing it on the spot. He just barged his way onto the circuit and had the organizers take a closer look at their entry list. The car's number wasn't even on it! Eventually Carel was black-flagged but as at Avus, it took officialdom quite a while to notice.

Stories like these are there in abundance. What about the one about his girlfriend Evelyn who had her broken leg in a cast on their way to Brands Hatch? After crossing the Channel on the night boat, the pair had to visit the nearest Dover hospital to have a new cast set. They'd had a rough night at sea, Carel explained afterwards. No wonder his tombstone reads La vertu est un Beaufort. Virtue is indeed a Beaufort.

A picture gallery of Motel Maarsbergen and the Maarsbergen estate (pictures by Mattijs Diepraam)

Pictures taken from the archives of Sport Revue, Autovisie, De Telegraaf, Rob Wiedenhoff and CPZ. Furthermore, I'd like to extend my gratitude to Adri van der Velden for providing me with many original fifties and sixties newspaper and magazine clippings used as input for this article, along with articles from the book 100 jaar autosport, 50 jaar Circuit Zandvoort. The Maas- en Roerpost clippings and the memorial-card scans were kindly provided by Peter Tunissen. Additional pictures provided by Ronald Trinkwalker and Arjan de Roos.