Buenos Aires – 6 Hours endurance races – 3-litre T280s - 1972
I went to the Buenos Aires 6-hour endurance race with the Equipe Bonnier team in early ‘72. Our drivers were, if I remember correctly, Reine Wisell, Chris Craft, Gerrard Larousse and Jo Bonnier himself. We were running two of the new 3-Litre Lola T280’s against the works teams of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo etc. Since almost all of the cars originated in Europe, transport aircraft had been chartered to bring the cars to Argentina, which was okay - until there appeared to be some problem with the unloading and delivering of our cars to the circuit, ready for practice.
The promised delivery times came and went with no sign of our cars arriving. In the meantime, some of the other teams were able to start their practice. Considering this needed a bit of sorting out, I took Jo Bonnier’s secretary, Anne-Marie (who spoke good Spanish) to the Airport to see what could be done. She got into conversation with a customs official and persuaded him to allow us to go out of the back door (highly illegal) and get airside so that we could locate the relevant aircraft. We eventually managed this only to find that the unloading crew had disappeared for some unexplained reason without any indication of when they may return.
We waited until eventually they returned and after some persuading the unloading began, that is until we found there would not be room on the transporter for our cars on that trip. Clearly more time would be lost, as they would have to return after delivering their present load to the circuit. I elected to stay with our cars on the tarmac beside the aircraft, whilst Anne-Marie went back the way we had come in. By now, it was getting dark and here I was completely alone, unlawfully in a restricted area, no papers or passport, unable to speak the language - it suddenly occurred to me that this was not a very clever situation to be in. Especially in a South American country where the prisons are reputed not to be high on Thomas Cook’s list of must-see places.
Eventually the transporter did return, several hours later, but to get out of the airport through security I was hidden away in the locker under the bench seat in the cab that had three big Argentinians sat on it, and it was thus that I escaped from a very tricky situation. At least I feel I now have a degree of empathy with our own modern-day illegal immigrants!
We were not allowed to have hire cars in Buenos Aires as it was considered too dangerous. Instead, the organising club laid on courtesy cars with local drivers. The only problem was that knowing we were members of the racing fraternity, they went out of their way to show us how fast and daring a driver they were. Demonstrations of this through the crowded boulevards of Buenos Aires made us passengers just a tad nervous.