This is the McLaren pit at the end of a practice session for the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix. It’s a chaotic scene, in keeping with the weekend itself, mainly because the open pits were some distance from the paddock in a cattle market.
The man in the foreground with the clipboard is Derek Ongaro, an unsung hero of the time. In the ’60s, Ongaro looked after racing operations for John Surtees and then became general manager at Lola. Through a later role as a motor-racing consultant, he worked with the RACMSA, which led to becoming a circuit inspector for FISA, the sporting arm of the FIA. In March 1980, he was appointed the first official starter for F1, by which time he was doing pioneering work on circuit safety.
I was fortunate in getting to know Derek. He was always helpful when explaining – off-the-record when necessary – the latest events in a seemingly perpetual battle with recalcitrant race organisers. His post-race detailed reports were meticulous and formed the foundation for the work carried out by Charlie Whiting in later years. Ongaro retired in 1986 and passed away 10 years later at the age of 67.