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Historic racer Alex Brundle on life behind the steering wheel and the microphone

Words: Charlotte Vowden | Photography: Christian Elvidge, Motorflix

Sat back in the sunshine, on a settee just big enough for two, Alex Brundle considers a can of fizzy pop to quench his thirst. Flushed, but not flustered, he has dashed here directly from disaster. The words “terrible”, “big” and “proper” are employed to set the scene. “Today has been trying,” he confides, putting the caffeinated refresher aside. His full attention is now set to telling his tale of tribulation with vim.

“Goodwood is an amphitheatre,” he gesticulates. “You feel very watched as soon as you turn out of the assembly area, because of the way the banks are built.” Particularly if the 1980s’ V8 you’re high-tailing around the circuit sheds oil and causes a lengthy red flag. “It’s a big engine blow-up.” The frustration is discernible in his voice.

We have met at Goodwood’s rousing season opener, #81MM, or 81st Members’ Meeting, unabridged. “I’m always aware that it’s a massive privilege to get even a moment out there,” Alex says – but bringing the practice session for this year’s Gordon Spice Trophy to a halt is not the way he’d have liked the ex-Patrick Motorsport Rover SD1 he was driving to bookmark the occasion. “A piston effectively spat out through the block, and the car locked up,” his co-pilot, Myles Poulton, a private entrant, later revealed.

A pretender, Alex Brundle is not. He's a personable, multi-talented professional, who seems to extract enjoyment from all and every element of Historic motor sport

A pretender, Alex Brundle is not. He's a personable, multi-talented professional, who seems to extract enjoyment from all and every element of Historic motor sport

“It’s out for the weekend,” Alex matter-of-factly confirms, “but I’m hoping for a better day tomorrow. There will be racing tomorrow.” Two contests, one in a 468bhp GT40 and the other in a Mustang that’s running on synthetic fuel, await. “The GT40 is misfiring nastily, so we need to sort that out.” The “we” is Alex’s Historic race team, Brundle Motorsport, which he founded in 2022. A coming together of old-school and new-school talent, “it’s an awesome clash of cultures in the garage”.

The “youngsters” take care of the social media, promo, logistics and branding, while the “oldsters” take care of the cars. It’s a divvying up, I worry, that doesn’t bode well; if a fledgling workforce of heritage mechanics isn’t nurtured, what will team Brundle post on the ‘Gram? It’s a problem, Alex admits, but he’s working hard to address it. Are BM apprentices on the road map? “Yes,” he says, “that kind of vibe.”

Alex’s plans are already showing promise; potential candidates often slide into his DMs. “People who have never used a landline before want to TikTok message their potential employer,” he says, offering insight at his wisened age of 33. “We’re not there yet, but TikTok message us and I’ll send you our contact list of classic preparers who are. I’m part of the first generation of racing driver who recognises the benefits of social media, particularly when breaking down barriers, so it’s our duty to be that bridge, that entry point for other people.”

As Martin’s son, Alex has spoken about the pressure, and misconceptions, that come with the inheritance of a famous family name. “I really believe your calling finds you,” he says with confidence. “Don’t get stressed. If you’re not immediately where you want to be, just keep on rolling, and eventually you’ll end up in the right place.” Right now, for Alex, that’s sat on a sofa opposite me.

Tell me something people don’t know about you, I ask playfully, hoping Alex considers me a confidant. “I’ve done a lap of Le Mans drunk.” An explanation comes swiftly. The year was 2022: “I was in the final throes of my prototype career,” and the Oreca 07 LMP2 he was racing sprung an intoxicating leak. “I went into the first couple of corners, everything fine, then fuel started pouring out of the breather,” he recalls. “I’m plugged in, eyes forward, driving the car, and I have no idea that it’s coming into the cockpit.”

A Full Course Yellow was declared, after which Alex’s memory becomes hazy. “I do remember pulling into the pits and going, right, I’m going to stop, which means I need the clutch… which one is the clutch?” The revelation makes me wince. “High” from inhaling 100 percent ethanol biofuel: “It’s basically vodka!” Alex needed to sober up. An intensive session of physiotherapy was prescribed. Using a technique comparable to chest compressions, “the physio pumped bioethanol out of my lungs,” he recalls. “I started Le Mans three hours later with a hangover.” He adds: “So there we go, there’s something about me people don’t know.”

It feels an appropriate point to recap a few of Alex’s achievements. An “obsessive” wheelman with a predilection for long-distance racing, he bagged the European Le Mans Series Championship in 2016. He can claim two visits to the Le Mans 24 Hours podium, and multiple FIA World Endurance Championship race victories as well. When he’s not leaving motor sport media breathless, Alex joins their ranks as a broadcaster who bombs around the globe. Commentating on motor sport events, including Formula 1, competing and managing his own race team, and hosting his own YouTube Channel mean he can spend as little as two days at home in a busy month.

There is no mistaking, Alex is heroically focused. Praise, though, makes him blush. “I don’t need everybody to go ‘oh, Alex Brundle works his head off’.” He is, he says, driven by results. “If I had all the time in the world, I’d do this anyway. When you go hooning through Fordwater [one of the fastest points on the Goodwood motor circuit] in a GT40, I mean who needs more than that? This is my hobby and my job.” I wonder if he’ll sleep in his race overalls tonight.

Describe the relationship you have with yourself in one word, I pry. “Harsh,” is his reply. Are you very disciplined? “Tragically.” They are character traits that should be considered qualities when racing Historic cars. “Imagine the fastest motorway speed you’ve ever driven, then give yourself four punctures; that’s what racing classic cars feels like. You’re fighting with the car at a very high speed.” Eek! “Then imagine everybody else [around you] going the same speed, and give them four punctures as well.” My mouth goes uncomfortably dry. I’m tempted to help myself to Alex’s unopened can of Coke.

Grappling speeds up to 120mph in the Mustang and 160mph in the GT40, this weekend’s racing will be a further test of Alex’s reflexes: “Jumping between cars is always tricky.” Both vehicles are 59 years old. “The GT40 is as quick as a modern GT4 car, but around here it feels lightspeed, with it bucking and moving everywhere – but that’s what I like.” Not your cup of tea? You could always attempt to narrate such a spectacle. “As a driver you’re in a bubble, you don’t let anyone near you to interrupt your focus, but as a broadcaster you go to a race to actively soak it up and translate the experience.”

Gathering information from drivers, managers, mechanics and engineers is essential homework, and excitable tones are a must, but being the voice of a sport you love, live and breathe demands composure. “It’s about communicating the drama without coming across too manic.” Note to self, be cool. “The challenge is getting how extreme it is across to people [Alex’s hair is looking a little ruffled] because I really believe that if you put the rule-makers and the people who sign things off from a health and safety perspective in the cars, all of these events would be cancelled immediately.” This is, of course, said in jest. Motor sport is governed by stringent regulatory bodies.

Lapping Le Mans Classic in a D-type Jaguar was one of Alex’s earliest dalliances with Historic racing, but for those not endeared to aged automobiles, the scenario can be a tough sell. “It’s a world that’s easy to dismiss, but you do so at your peril,” Alex cautions. “There’s so much opportunity and fun to be had.” As host of his own YouTube channel, BRUNDLE: Behind The Wheel, he hopes to get the message across to the digital generation, who are heavily influenced by content they consume on feeds and phones. “You have to go where that younger audience is.” His videos, which include event explainers, iconic car guides and track demos featuring suspenseful on-board footage, have attracted tens of thousands of hits.

“I want younger people to feel that intensity,” his delivery full of fervour. “They’ve never heard of John Surtees,” he continues. Nor have they grown up with these cars, I add. “Exactly, so we need to resell them. Initially they’re going to get them because they’re fast and loud, but then, in my view, they will want to learn about them.” Backing from other influencers is also a huge help.

“The main argument is that these cars aren’t sustainable,” says Alex, “but the most sustainable car in the world is one that already exists.” To lead the automobile’s fight against the climate crisis, he advocates the use of synthetic fuels. This weekend, his ’65 Mustang is running on tanks of the drop-in alternative. “Goodwood is right at the forefront of this, and we are proud to be one of the teams that did all the testing.” Watch the rolling road in full, here. “You can tell people to the end of the earth that this stuff works, that it doesn’t melt the engine, but until you throw it in the car and film the results, no one will believe you.”

A pretender, Alex Brundle is not. He’s a personable, multi-talented professional, who seems to extract enjoyment from all and every element of Historic motor sport. He’s also a legit nice guy. I ask him to pose for a photo before we say goodbye; a keepsake of my 40 minutes in the company of an Historic motor sport ace. Follow Alex and subscribe to his YouTube Channel

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