Hurley Haywood, the legend who revealed his best kept secret

Winner of the most important endurance races in the world, he confessed his homosexuality at the age of 68.

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He stamped his name on the list of winners of the main endurance races in the world. He won twice in the 12 Hours of Sebring, won three times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and conquered five times the 24 Hours of Daytona. With such a record, one could imagine that Hurley haywood had a full life. Although reality indicates otherwise because this legend of American motorsports could only feel full to the 68 years. when he made public, through an autobiography, a secret that he kept hidden throughout his sports campaign ...

In early 2018, the former pilot presented his book Hurley: Right from the start. There he not only related his life on the slopes, but also a fact that changed him forever and that allowed him to show himself to the world as he really is.

Hurley haywood
Hurley Haywood (right) sharing the podium at the 24 1977 Hours of Le Mans with Jacky Ickx (left) and Jurgen Barth (center).

It all started the day a student met with him to interview him as part of his final work. The talk went on for a long time. They talked about their sports campaign, the experience of having been in the Vietnam War and many other things.

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The young man felt so comfortable with Hurley that at one point he made a confession to him: “Midway through the interview, he suddenly stopped and said, 'I've been bullied all my life for being gay. Every morning when I wake up I think about suicide. I have absolutely no respect for myself. '”. The former pilot was surprised by the teenager's words, but did not hesitate to advise him.

A year and a half later, he received a phone call from the boy's mother, who said she had helped save her son's life. That was momentous for Haywood himself to use his book to tell the world that he was gay, something he had kept secret for his entire life..

Hurley: From the beginning. The book that Haywood wrote with Sean Cridland.

“I said to myself, 'If my voice was strong enough to save one person, then maybe I can save two, 10 or 100'… I've been very lucky all my life. I had a great childhood, I had a great professional racing campaign and I thought, well, maybe it's time to give something back ”, He explained.

Haywood's splendor on the slopes began in the mid-'70s and lasted into the '90s. A time when not many people admitted their homosexuality. Within motorsports, in particular, no one had ever come out of the closet. And, on the contrary, the image that the discipline transmitted did not give rise to doubts that all its protagonists were heterosexual.

Haywood's conductive talent allowed him to keep his secret hidden, although there were some people connected with racing who really knew who he was. At that time the tennis players Billie Jean King y Martina Navratilova They "convulsed" the world by making public that they were lesbians, something that did not go unnoticed by the then pilot.

“Those women were really the headliners of that whole movement… I didn't have any gay male role models. I had to deal with all those things myself, solve all the problems of what it would be like if I suddenly came out as gay. What would that do? Would I lose all my fans? Would I lose all my sponsors? ”, he asked himself.

Hurley haywood
Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg were companions and great friends.

Haywood was convinced that "Being as discreet as possible" he could maintain the status quo, although in the pits it was commented on how low he was gay. Above all because of its close relationship with Peter gregg, with whom he ran several times. Hurley denied in his autobiography that they had a love affair with Gregg, who committed suicide in 1980, although he assured that they had a sincere and mutual appreciation. In fact, Haywood took over the team Foggy Porsche after the death of his friend.

“Only one person out of the hundreds that I have raced with in my entire campaign had a hard time accepting that I was gay. And I told him: 'if you don't want to drive with me, that's your problem' ", recalls Haywood, who also confessed that it was not easy for his family to accept his homosexuality. “My stepfather was completely against it; while my mother was understanding, but did not necessarily accept at first ”.

Hurley haywood
Hurley Haywood saw motorsport and society have changed in recent years.

Haywood retired from the slopes in 2012 and only a few years later had that life-changing experience. “I didn't want to keep lying about it. I think one of the problems gay people face is how they are portrayed on television, in movies and in the press. There is always a kind of negative image of a gay person. I find that somewhat disturbing because I know many very successful homosexuals who have nothing to do with the stereotype with which they are sometimes presented "he admitted.

At 73, Haywood has had the opportunity to see how motorsport has changed, as has society. And that is something that makes him proud because as he says himself, "Racing is evolving and the barriers that stand in the way are gradually breaking down."

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Diego durruty

Journalist with 30 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, Coequipier y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, e-driver.com y kmcero.com and on the radios Rock pop y Vorterix.com. He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He currently drives Two Daring Guys, columnist on the show WorldSport (AM Splendid) and in Surf & Rock FM.  He is also a teacher in SPORTS.

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