Menu drop button
Alain de Cadenet at Silverstone

Memories of the Cad

by Derek Freathy

It's been a great privilege to have worked with, and sometimes befriended, many great names of motorsport. Some have become household names while others, often of equal talent, are known only to real enthusiasts. One of those was the remarkable Alain de Cadenet. Alain - or De Cad as he was widely known - was one of those rare people who, when he left a room, those left behind would look at each other and someone would say, "What a nice guy."

I first met him at Le Mans in 1972, where he was sharing the Duckhams LM Ford with Chris Craft. We didn't get the chance to chat much as he was spirited away by my then boss, Dick Jeffries, to an expansive dinner. I remained behind in the Dunlop coach, equipped with a ball-tape and faced with a miscellany of wheels from which I was to select those of a satisfactory diameter. The glamour of top-level motorsport can occasionally be over-estimated. When De Cad and Dick returned, looking somewhat blurred, I received an approving nod and they made for the more luxurious end of the bus, locating the door after a couple of attempts.

The next day, De Cad and Chris chalked up a creditable 12th - impressive for two little-known drivers in a low-funded car.

Fast forward to the winter of 1979. By now De Cad and I had become firm friends, Dick Jeffries had retired, and I'd become UK Car Racing  Manager.I was in Hanau to attend the international motorsport meeting, at which each national racing manager proposed a team to support for the following year. Dunlop Germany, of course, went for the Porsche works team. When my turn came, I put forward Alain de Cadenet. The ensuing silence slowly gave way to condescending amusement. Here I was, suggesting that the all-conquering might of Stuttgart could be matched by some bloke they'd barely heard of, who'd built his own car in a garage in Knightsbridge. The fact that the car had been designed by McLaren's Gordon Murray did little to further my argument.

I'm not sure how I finally got my way. I'd like to think it was through my profound knowledge and commanding presence, but lying on the floor, kicking the table and holding my breath until I went blue may have played a part.

The following year, at Monza, De Cad and Desiré Wilson won, beating the Porsche by 14 seconds. Then, at Silverstone, they did it again.

De Cad was one of those true gentlemen whose unwillingness to play the celebrity game meant that his great talent was easily overlooked. Our friendship lasted beyond his retirement from endurance racing and my years at Dunlop. He collected and raced some glorious vintage machines, like his beautiful Alfa Romeo P3, many of which ran on my Classico tubes. As I write this, the anniversary of his death has just passed.

I miss him.

 ← Back