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Racing in the Rain

My Years with Brilliant Drivers, Legendary Sports Cars and a Dedicated Team

by John Horsman

John Horsman’s Autobiography tells the exciting and definitive story of the famous Gulf-Wyer Sports Car Team.

With forewords by

Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman, Derek Bell and Vern Schuppan.

What was it like to lead a top team in the ultra-competitive 1960s and 1970s? You will learn first-hand as Gulf-Wyer chief engineer and later team manager John Horsman describes in vivid detail the technical know-how, interpersonal management skills, and unwavering commitment it took to guide a winning combination of drivers and crewmen.

The blue-and-orange Gulf-sponsored Ford GT40s, Mirages, and Porsche 917s prepared by Horsman and his team are among the most famous race cars ever produced. The all-star driver line-up that competed in his cars includes Derek Bell, Mike Hailwood, David Hobbs, Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman, Pedro Rodriguez, Vern Schuppan, and Jo Siffert. The team excelled everywhere, winning Le Mans three times and the World Championship three times, and was particularly adept in wet-weather conditions where competitors struggled to match their pace. Some records achieved by Horsman’s team still stand forty years later.

Horsman’s engaging personal account takes you to the world’s greatest racing circuits and puts you alongside the drivers and the crew as you experience things such as Ickx’s prowess driving in the rain, the fiery determination of Rodriguez and his astonishing come-from-behind wins, and Horsman’s exciting solution to the Porsche 917’s handling problems, with a tail of his own design. The details provided in the behind-the-scenes operation of the team are phenomenal, spanning everything from the operating budget of the GT40 program to the tire pressures used in the winning cars at Le Mans. This is the definitive account of one of the most successful teams in motorsports.

"Racing in the Rain" is available through motoring booksellers and directly from the publisher by visiting their website at or you can purchase it from Amazon using the link at the bottom of this page.

Review by Graham Endeacott.

This one of those "picked it up, can't put it down" type books and is an entertaining read from cover to cover. Motor-racing history can be a very tedious subject if badly written, this is NOT one of those books!

John Horsman began his career at Aston Martin where he was hired by John Wyer and subsequently followed him to Ford Advanced Vehicles and the Ford GT40 programme. With the formation of J.W. Automotive Engineering, great success was achieved with the ageing GT40 and later with the awesome Porsche 917 whose fearsome handling was tamed by Horsman and his tin-snips!  Although this is a well-known anecdote in motor-racing circles, it is good to hear it from the man himself.

Horsman's book follows in the footsteps of Wyer's "The Certain Sound", itself a motor-racing classic; and is written in a similar, easy style which makes for very enjoyable reading even if your specific interests lie elsewhere. Comparison with "The Certain Sound" is inevitable as both books cover the same events but from slightly differing view-points. This is no bad thing and serves to establish the credibility of both books.

It is well illustrated with many new photographs although I would have liked to have seen more but this is just a personal observation.

As "The Certain Sound" is a classic, so will this be. It will be a fascinating read for anyone remotely interested in the Ford GT40 or the Porsche 917.

"Racing in the Rain" is very highly recommended - buy it now!

(Left): With John Collins and Ermanno Cuoghi, John Horsman checks out a problem with a production GT40 at Ford Advanced Vehicles in 1965.



(Right):  The renowned conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, takes delivery of his GT40 Mk III, chassis GT40 M3/1105, from John Wyer and John Horsman at Slough, June 1968.

Racing in the Rain - Reviewed by John Allen.

When you think of racing with GT40s, There are some names which will doubtless spring to mind: John Wyer, Carroll Shelby, Alan Mann, John Holman - they were team principals, and their presence was high profile.  There were, however, others who were just as important.  They were the engineers, their exploits relatively unsung, and their faces rarely seen in the photographs of pitlane action.  One such engineer was John Horsman.  John Wyer hired JH from Aston Martin, in the middle of 1964, so although he (JH) missed the birth of the GT40, he was involved with its upbringing  for the rest of its racing life.  He became chief engineer with FAV and, later, a director of JW Automotive Engineering, where he oversaw the build of the Mirage M1 and the Gulf GT40s.  With John Wyer, Len Bailey and David Yorke, he was one of the senior UK-based individuals involved with developing and racing the GT40.  He engineered three Le Mans victories (two with GT40s, and one with the Gulf GR8), and the cars he prepared achieved three sports-car world championships, in 1968, 1970 and 1971.

It was in 1988, or thereabouts, at Le Mans, when I heard that John Horsman was with Vern Schuppan’s Porsche 962 team, and it seemed to be a pretty good opportunity to seek him out.  I managed to get an interview with him, and it was later published, under the title “Mr Mirage”, in Performance Ford magazine.   During the interview it was apparent that he had a huge store of knowledge of the GT40 in particular and of sports-car racing in general, and I found myself hoping that one day he would put the whole lot down on paper. 

In 2005, after “The Ford That Beat Ferrari” was all safely put to bed and ready for publication, I contacted him at his home in Arizona, and suggested that maybe we could collaborate on his long-overdue biography - only to be told that it was all but finished, and would be published in 2006!  Since his motor-racing career started in 1962, and ended in 1991, the memoirs have been a long time coming, but they are very definitely worth the wait.

“Racing in The Rain” is published by David Bull.  Its size is around 21cm by 23.5cm, and it contains 416 numbered pages, which include the text and some 215 monochrome photographs; in addition, there is an unnumbered 36-page photo-gallery, on glossy paper, of mainly colour pictures.  The period from 1964 to 1969 - which will be of most interest to readers of this review - is dealt with in 138 pages.  The rest of the book is devoted to the story of building and campaigning other Mirages, Gulfs, and the incomparable Porsche 917s, the cars which eventually put a full-stop to the GT40’s racing career.

For many of us, including me, the “I was involved” story is especially enjoyable.  From it you get history first-hand, and from an insider’s viewpoint.  John’s lively writing style is reminiscent of that of John Wyer, and, of course, the times he describes have already been written about by JW.  However, these memoirs approach the subject from an entirely different perspective, that of the engineer rather than of the team manager and owner.  This is really fascinating stuff, and thankfully it does not get bogged down with excessive technicalities, and you don’t need an engineering degree to read and enjoy it. 

The pace never flags, and from these well-written pages you get an understanding of the pressures under which teams operate, and the dramas which, as a mere spectator, you never get to hear about, let alone experience.  Read it and you will find what had to be done to the small-block GT40 to make it competitive again for the 1968 season, what went wrong, and what went right.  The ongoing development, race by race, in terms of engine, wheels, tyres, brakes, is all covered.  You will see the 1964 Nassau debacle in a new light, find out why the apparently indestructible ZF transaxle suffered an early failure, discover which GT40 was the first to receive a cross-over fuel system, and the good reason why a well-known racing driver described a particular GT40 as the worst-handling car he had ever driven.

There are lots of delightful anecdotes, such as what happened when a roofless 1074 was being tested prior to its use as camera car at Le Mans, why JH was the cause of a police road-block when he drove a GT40 rather too fast in Florida, why 1076 - not 1075 - should have won at Le Mans, but didn’t, and how the author accidentally started a fire which threatened to destroy not only a Mirage but also the factory.

The only thing about this visually attractive and highly addictive book that I’m not completely sold on relates to the photographs.  Whilst they’re almost all interesting, (and there are some real gems, such as the Mirages in Sweden, and M/10001 on display in South Africa) the monochromes, on matt paper, appear to be printed using the photogravure method (I’m not a printer, so if I’m wrong I apologise) and as a consequence they often lack contrast, and look a little “muddy”.  Also, some of them are printed very small, and the priceless picture of an airborne JH, after been launched skyward by an errant Mirage which over-ran its pit, is too small to appreciate without using a magnifying glass.    Some of the colour pictures have been taken from old prints which have deteriorated and colour-shifted over three or four decades, and they would have benefited from some colour-correction work on the computer.  These, however, are but minor quibbles.

This is a book which no self-respecting GT40 enthusiast should be without.  It fills a gap in the car’s history, and is a good read, to boot. Settle down, put your feet up, and start to read it from cover to cover.

John S Allen