Due to a fashionable “virus” picked up in the South of France my doctor advised me to lie low and give the British Grand Prix a miss. As he used to race Bugattis and a 250F Maserati and knew what I get up to at race meetings, I took his advice. Luckily, a friend who has an “all singing and all dancing” television system which automatically records everything on video tape, invited me to join him and watch what was happening at Brands Hatch, courtesy of the BBC.
When I am at Grand Prix races I quite often get an opportunity to see a replay on video of the coverage, after the race is over, and of all those I have seen I thought the BBC stood out head-and-shoulders above everyone else. The use of the Goodyear blimp and the camera positions around the Brands Hatch circuit were superb. In particular, I thought the chap on the enormous extendable arm with the bucket on the top, positioned at the top of Druids deserved a medal. Not just for being marooned at that great height, but for his efforts with the camera, following cars for almost half a lap, from the pits straight, right through the stadium and out down Pilgrims Drop, where the Benetton-BMWs were timed at over 190 mph!
On Saturday afternoon we had watched the whole of the qualifying hour which I found very exciting indeed, and the way you could tell when one of the “hot-shoes” was about to start a real flyer of a lap as he came out of Clearways, was enthralling. Left rear wheel just touching the white edge of the track, black smoke from the exhausts and the whole rear of the car shimmering, and then a purposeful “line” down through the slight dip as he crossed the starting line. The cameras followed the top contestants for virtually their whole qualifying lap, with the digital timer ticking off the seconds in the corner of the screen. Every time it was a surprise just how long it took from entering Clearways to actually stopping the clock as the car crossed the Longines timing strip, but 1 min 7 seconds for a lap of the full Brands Hatch circuit was really something worth seeing. I would be pleased to lap the Club circuit in that time! It was realty noticeable how Piquet was using every millemetre of the track and so obviously trying very hard, while Prost always had at least six inches to spare, which may account for him not being on pole, though “the pundits” always say that it is because the Porsche engine will not take the boost pressure that the Honda and Renault will take. Poor old Mansell is a real tryer, but on his second run was seen to be trying too hard, under-steering himself off the track at Stirlings Bend.
However, nobody will deny that he tried hard in the race and did not overdo it. His victory was total and must be the ultimate expression of determination and will power.
Having been forced to be an “armchair enthusiast” for the weekend I must say that the BBC certainly did us proud on our own Grand Prix. It more than made up for not being there, but it can never replace the real thing. Being part of the ambience at a race like the British Grand Prix is something special and it is impossible to replace the noise, the atmosphere, the vibrations and the physical feeling of being really close to the ultimate in Grand Prix cars and Grand Prix driving. It is like Imola or Monza, you really have to be there to absorb it all and come alive, but if you can’t be there then Mr Ecclestone’s “great god television” does a good job when it is handled the way the “Beeb” handled our British Grand Prix — D.S.J.