Race reportage, 1970
When I watch a motor race with a view to writing a story about it afterwards it usually involves constant writing in a notebook, a lap-by-lap list of numbers of the cars, frequent use of a stopwatch if one car appears to be catching another, notes of incidents and observations, and so on. If I watch from the pit area there is the addition of snatches of conversation with mechanics or team managers, race organisers, drivers walking back from derelict cars.
As a car disappears from the chart I make a note to find out later what happened, or look around for obvious signs. If a car makes a pitstop I endeavour to see what is happening and weigh up the effect it might have on the outcome of the race. When it is all over I reckon to have a good basic knowledge of the race and the work of filling in the gaps begins.
If it is a long-distance sportscar race I often watch the action away from the pit area, returning there when I know that refuelling and driver-changing stops are due, just to see that all is in order with the major teams and to get a feel of the pattern of the race. If the race has settled down in a battle of strategy with pitwork being all important then it is interesting to watch all the pitstops. If the differing abilities of rival drivers are going to play an important part then I can watch it all being played out from a little way.
At Le Mans I get a feeling for the pattern of progress and this allows time to eat or take an hour’s sleep, but it pays to be flexible. I have lost count of the times where I have said to myself, “I’ll take an hour off at midnight” but then choose to take a walk along the pits to make sure that all is in order. Of course, it never is and at 3am I think again of that “quick hour’s kip”.
Denis Jenkinson was our famous Continental Correspondent for more than 40 years.