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Brands Hatch retrospective: Someone tell Pedro it is raining

Wednesday, December 23 2020

2020 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest drives Brands Hatch has ever seen, possibly even one of the greatest wet weather performances the sport has ever known - that of Pedro Rodriguez in the iconic, Gulf-liveried John Wyer Porsche 917K at the BOAC 1000 on 12 April 1970.

It's a drive which, if you listen carefully, is still spoken of in reverential terms by some of the longer standing members of the Brands Hatch community. So wet was the Kent circuit's round of the World Sportscar Championship that year, that it was actually referred to in broadcast as the 'BOAC 1000 Regatta' - that was the challenge with which Rodriguez and the others on the grid that day were faced.

This was the first year that the Brands Hatch endurance showpiece ran to a 1000km distance, and the entry was reflective of an era quite unlike that we live in today. Indeed, many of those competing were current Grand Prix drivers, including Rodriguez himself, who won the Belgian Grand Prix later that year - the last Mexican to do so before Sergio Perez's victory earlier this month.

Other notable competitors that weekend included Jack Brabham, the three-time world champion, 1967 F1 champion Denny Hulme, plus others who won at F1 level including Jacky Ickx, Jo Bonnier, and Jean-Pierre Beltoise. Jo Siffert, another driver inextricably linked to the 917K for his performances alongside Rodriguez in Gulf colours was there too, as was Chris Amon, perhaps the best driver never to win a Grand Prix, who started the race from pole in a Ferrari 512S.

Amon is quoted as having said: "Why doesn't someone tell Pedro it's raining?" And, that's due to the nature of Rodriguez's extraordinary drive. The Mexican didn't just win the race, but he absolutely dominated it, wrestling, sliding and occasionally spinning his way to victory as he searched for a limit beyond anything his rivals could find in utterly torrential conditions.

The race was not without complication for Rodriguez, who found himself down the order after being summoned to the pits early on in the race for ignoring yellow flags. A slap on the wrist later, he was back on his way, shrugging off any poor visibility resulting from other cars' spray, and overtook Vic Elford - no slouch in a 917K himself - for the lead within the opening hour.

From there it was a masterclass from Rodriguez, who eventually passed the chequered flag to take victory after 235 laps in a race lasting more than 6 hours 45 minutes. Finnish co-driver Leo Kinnunen officially shared the win, but renowned wet weather specialist Rodriguez carried the majority of the workload.

Nobody could live with Rodriguez that day, and that's reflected in the margin of victory, with the winning car crossing the line five laps ahead of Elford and Hulme in Porsche Salzburg's similar 917K. Richard Attwood and Hans Herrmann, who would take Porsche's first Le Mans win just a few months later were a further three laps adrift.

1970 BOAC 1000, Brands Hatch, result
1, Rodriguez/Kinnunen, Porsche 917K, 235 laps
2, Elford/Hulme, Porsche 917K, +5 laps
3, Attwood/Herrmann, Porsche 917K, +8 laps
4, Laine/Van Lennep, Porsche 908/02, +8 laps
5, Amon/Merzario, Ferrari 512S, +10 laps
6, Larrousse/Koch, Porsche 908/02, +18 laps
7, Bonnier/Wisell, Lola T70, +18 laps
8, Ickx/Oliver, Ferrari 512S, +22 laps
9, L'Amie/Reid, Porsche 910, +24 laps
10, Lepp/Silverwood, Chevron B8, +24 laps