Carel Godin de Beaufort
b Maarsbergen, April 10, 1934 – d Cologne, August 2, 1964
He was his own man. Running his own Ecurie against the better prepared works efforts, he managed to upset the establishment on many occasions. Happy-go-lucky Dutch aristocrat Carel Godin de Beaufort was the quintessential privateer of the late fifties and early sixties. His orange Porsche housed a free spirit, at unease with the pomp and circumstance of a racing world trying to come to grips with a growing level of professionalism.
Carel grew up as the typical brash youthful aristocrat pulling stunts to upset his parents. From a young age, cars were already involved, although he did horrible things to them. In one of his biggest pranks ever, he tied two rubber cables of 100-yards length to the back of the Chevrolet in which two Amsterdam magistrates came to visit his father at Maarsbergen. When the judges prepared to leave along the driveway young Carel almost choked with pleasure as he saw the Chevy's acceleration slowly grind to a full stop, after which the car suddenly shot back and smacked into the tree he had attached those cables to. Unfortunately Carel had been uncareful in moving out of his irate father's view, upon which the old man stormed into the house to come out with his hunting rifle. Carel couldn't care less, as he had long since run for cover behind the park's rhododendrons.
It was typical of Carel's exhuberant adolescence, in which the heir of the Maarsbergen estate submitted the grounds to some serious dirt racing. One of his best tricks was trying to squeeze a Volkswagen Beetle underneath a trailer to see if it would fit. It didn't. Another favourite pastime was tying matchboxes to the highest tree branches in the park and then using a Canadian army Jeep to take a run at them, jumping from his seat to try and pull them from the trees. It didn't always go as planned. At age 16, he turned a BMW 328i into a kit-car project by dismantling it to the last bolt and nut before putting it back together again. His only mistake was failing to secure the right rear wheel, which subsequently came off at 100 miles per hour. He lived to tell the story.
His Maarsbergen rallycross antics served well for his competition debut in the 1955 Tulip Rally. He didn't do too bad but his heart lay with circuit racing. In 1956, Thieu Hezemans, father of later Porsche 935 star Toine and grandfather of today's FIA GT revelation Mike, introduced Carel to the international scene. He was picked by the boss of the Porsche squad, Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, who thought he would be able to mould something of value out of the tall, blond and reckless Dutchman. 1956 was supposed to be a learning year but Carel proved to be an eager student. Less than a year on, Von Hanstein felt Beaufort was fit to represent Porsche in the Le Mans 24 hours. Partnered with American driver Ed Hugus, the Dutchman became class winner. It was the prelude to some very successful years as a sportscar driver, including far-away outings in places such as Venezuela, where he made a rare appearance in Art Bunker's car. Apart from his works drives he entered his own Porsche in the great sportscar events, such as Le Mans and the Nürburgring 1000kms. 1959 was the undoubted highpoint in his sportscar career. The season brought victories at Spa, Innsbruck and in the Sebring 12 Hours, where he was partnered by former mentor Huschke von Hanstein.
In this period, Carel had Lady Luck watch over him on many occasions. At the AVUS sportscar race he clipped the top of the banked Nordkurve, his Porsche tumbling down into the trees at the back of the banking. Miraculously, the car performed a cat-with-nine-lives trick by falling on its feet unscathed. Well, relatively unscathed… As if nothing happened Carel then went on to rejoin the race at the bottom of the banking! The race officials needed some time to convince themselves it was not Beaufort's ghost doing the honours before they pulled out the black flag to disqualify the battered Porsche. The next day, he had his picture taken at the scene of the event, Carel in his overalls putting on a brave pose. The photoshoot distinctly lacked taste, as Jean Behra had been killed at the very spot, in the very same race. But perhaps it was Beaufort's way of silencing Behra's ghost. To have had a friendly drink with De Portago and dinner with Mackay-Frazer shortly before their deaths in the Mille Miglia had made a huge impression. The thoughts that had been tucked away safely must have come back to haunt him after clipping the towering banking of Avus. What other way to push away the insanity of it all than by putting on a brave face?
After the events at AVUS and the Mille Miglia Carel morphed into a different driver. At the time of his fatal accident, Beaufort wasn't called Veilige Careltje ("Safe Little Carl") for nothing. Still he could laugh at the finish of that same Mille Miglia, which he had completed without a co-driver. He received two trophies: one for Mr Godin and one for Mr de Beaufort…
Meanwhile, Carel's Grand Prix career had started with the Dutchman entering his Porsche 550 Spyder in the 1957 German GP. It was the same car he used during military service to travel between Maarsbergen and his barracks. Through this, one might get the impression the aristocrat was loaded with money but in fact his was always a shoestring effort. Here's a good story to back that up. At the Nürburgring 1000 kms in 1956, Carel de Beaufort and Thieu Hezemans entered the Spyder but found the car had a leaking fuel tank. The whole weekend the hole was plugged by chewing gum. "I have never seen so many people chew", Carel later reminiscened. "In the end our guys had aching jaws, so we had to set the neighbouring crew members to work!" They finished second in their class.
A Grand Prix one-off in a Scuderia Ugolini 250F and several races in a special long-wheelbase Cooper T51 (F2-1060), followed by a South African tour preceded the acquisition of the ex-Walker/Moss Porsche 718-201. This car powered him throughout the glory days of his career and all through to the end. Several of the best paying non-championship races were on his menu as well, such as Zeltweg and the Solitude, while Carel had occasional team mates in the form of Hans Herrmann, Jack Fairman and Gerhard Mitter, who in 1963 drove the second 718 (202) that Carel had acquired from Scuderia Filipinetti while 201 was being repaired after a crash at the 1962 US GP. 201 was rented out to Wolfgang Seidel at the start of 1962, while Scuderia Filipinetti borrowed back 202 for a one-off at the 1963 Pau GP.
The erstwhile dilettante reached his summit in 1962 to earn the respect of his peers, when he managed to score his and Holland's first World Championship point, which brought him enormous satisfaction. Carel not only raced for himself to see how his solo enterprise would match up against the mighty works efforts. He also raced purely for fun. That spirit was of a dying breed, already in the early sixties. Carel de Beaufort had a point to prove, though. He was determined to qualify as an "A" driver while still remaining a privateer. With his two sixth places in 1962, he proved his point doubly so. At the end of the season the FIA indeed awarded him the much longed-for A seeding.
In 1963 Carel collected two more championship points, at Spa and after flying his Porsche to the Glen, this time by virtue of others falling off. By then his role was reduced from acting as an also-ran to being a mere bit player. His weight began to play an even bigger part as the ancient underpowered Porsche began to feel its age. Under the guidance of judo legend Anton Geesink a severe weight-reducing programme was set in motion - which included a diet of supremely tasteless biscuits every crew member was also subjected to - but Carel's lanky stature prevented him from being all too successful in losing the pounds. Still he kept his rosy humour - noblesse oblige - and was a hit with the ladies until the day he died.
Beaufort is perhaps best remembered for angering the Reims organizers during official practice by staying out on the back of the track to the extent everyone at the paddock feared he had written off his Porsche Spyder. It turned out he had merely halted to take aboard one pretty French mademoiselle extremely interested in a guided tour of the circuit... Stories like these are there in abundance. What about the one about his girlfriend Evelyn who had her broken leg in a cast on their way to Brands Hatch? After crossing the Channel on the night boat, the pair had to visit the nearest Dover hospital to have a new cast set. They'd had a rough night at sea, Carel explained afterwards.
By 1964 the Porsche 718 was fast becoming obsolete, and Beaufort was cherry-picking his events. He'd already skipped Monaco, Spa, Rouen and Brands, concentrating on lesser events instead. This meant the 'Ring would only be his second World Championship participation of the year. He knew full well the Eifel track he regarded as his own would allow him the only opportunity to shine and keep himself in the picture. After arriving in the paddock on Friday, he set out on Saturday practice, entertaining the paddock crowd by wearing a Beatles wig before starting on a series of slow reconnaissance laps. Then, on his fifth lap, Carel decided it was time to push. But the car would have none of that - or was it the track? Five miles out after the start and finish line, the Porsche suddenly veered off line and into the trees, its driver thrown out. On arrival, the rescue team found Carel suffering from serious injuries. The decision was made to transport Beaufort to a nearby Koblenz hospital where a broken thy, a fractured chest bone and several concussions of the skull were diagnosed. Immediately after the word reached Holland, Carel's mother and the family's personal physician flew out to Germany. On his arrival in Koblenz Prof.Dr. Nuboer advised that Carel was to be transported to a neurological center in Cologne. Up until Sunday evening doctors fought for his life but at half past ten Carel was pronounced dead. His death was not announced until Monday - after which the news filtered through to the Dutch press.
It is rumoured that Carel got in touch with Jack Brabham as soon as the 3-litre formula for 1966 and beyond was announced in 1963. He hoped the old Porsche would sing out another year before the Australian driver/constructor could supply him with a long-wheelbase car for the new powerful era. It wasn't to be.
This is a shortened version of the article at 8W.