Home Cars How ‘Mandel, L’ rescued me (Pete Lyons) from premature maturity

How ‘Mandel, L’ rescued me (Pete Lyons) from premature maturity

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Leon Mandel’s heavy-duty voice pierced the noisy pit lane bustle, carrying clearly over the four big sports racing beasts crouching

between us. The four fastest road racing machines on Earth: a pair of papaya-painted works McLarens alongside two white Penske Porsches.

It was Riverside International Raceway in California, final round of 1972’s once grand and still impressive Can-Am series.


I remember feeling both surprised and intrigued. How could Leon have known I was thinking that this might be my last race? I didn’t think I’d mentioned it to anybody.

But inside, disenchantment was festering. My beloved Can-Am was running out of gas—we all could feel it. Moreover, the itinerant life that long had stimulated me was becoming routine. By dawn the following Monday, having gone sleepless while tap-tapping out one more race report of so many, then once again dispatching my paper typescript plus rolls of film off to my editor at Autosport magazine in England, I’d have been doing this for six years.

Six long racing seasons of rootlessness, January to November. Driving 40,000 miles every year, droning back and forth across all of North America. Sleeping some 200 nights in—or alongside—my vehicle or scattered guest quarters. Dining at no-star restaurants and makeshift campsites. Showering at the occasional better-equipped racetrack or some accommodating racer’s motel room.

Wasn’t it fun, watching great race cars slam around legendary racetracks, hobnobbing with superstar drivers? Sure. But so much fun was beginning to wear thin. Perhaps it was time to reinvent myself. Grow up, maybe. But how? Not a clue.

How 'Mandel, L' rescued me (Pete Lyons) from premature maturity

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