Reflections in the Harbour

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Due to production schedules, D.S.J.’s reflections and notes on the cars at Monaco appear before the main report of the race, which will be found in the colour section on page 932.

There was plenty of time to reflect before the Monaco Grand Prix started, for the start was delayed something like an hour due to fire breaking out in one of the hotels situated within the circuit, and on race day isolated from the outside world and the normal urban emergency services. Had the blaze caught hold of the hotel in a big way there could have been a minor catastrophe and such a happening has always been in the minds of the people of Monte Carlo when the race is taking place.

By chance I had decided to watch the race from the brow of the hill up to the Casino, from where you can also see across the harbour and see the cars on the twisty bit along the harbour front, around the swimming pool. Where I watch races from varies considerably and depends a lot on the circuit, the facilities, the weather and the potential in the race, which becomes apparent by the end of practice. As I am a Villeneuve fan and am fascinated by turbo-charged engines I was eager to see the outcome of the drag-race to the Saint-Devote chicane, and to see who was first up the hill, Villeneuve from second grid position or Piquet from pole-position. I am also a Piquet fan, so whichever way it went I was going to be happy, unless of course, someone from the rows behind “jumped” them both. Having climbed the hill while the turmoil in the pits was being sorted out preparatory to the cars going off on their warm-up lap, it was naturally some time before word of the delayed start filtered through. I sat in the shade, reflecting in the harbour as the sun burned down, and thought “this can’t he bad, and in a few moments my adrenalin will flow as I hear the twenty engine notes reach fever pitch and then all hell will break loose round the streets of this terribly artificial town that is continually being expanded upwards and downwards, only because there is no other direction to expand; and if a red Ferrari with number 27 on it leads up the hill I shall rise up on my toes and shout from sheer excitement”. In a few moments this did not happen, and the moments kept passing, and while I sat in the shade there was a steady flow of people passing by, some walking up the hill, with snatches of news from the pits, others walking down the hill with news about the fire. Some stopped for a chat, others merely passed the time of day. I talked engines and turbo-charging with Keith Duckworth, I discussed speed-trap timing with some local club members who were working on the hill, I talked about Pirelli tyres and Pirelli in racing with the man from the Milan public relations office; I discussed the infamous “Concorde Agreement” with a fellow scribe, I watched photographers sweating up the hill with vast telephoto-lens cameras and huge aluminium camera boxes, and others with a single 35 mm. Japanese camera. Time passed very pleasantly and I reflected with pleasure on the way Villeneuve had driven the turbo-Ferrari on Saturday afternoon to make fastest practice time, a mere whisker away from Piquet’s best time on Thursday with the Brabham. I also reflected that I’d noticed the Ferrari waste-gate adjusting screw was further out this race-morning, than it had been in practice, so I did not really expect to see the Ferrari first up the hill, if and when the race started.

A “time waster” stopped on his way up the hill and asked “Who is going to win?”, a futile question when the answer depends on hundreds of mechanical components continuing to work in harmony and each part to remain in its manufactured shape, and each shape to have been designed and drawn correctly. My answer to such a silly questin is to say “I don’t know, but I want Villeneuve to win. I would like it if Piquet wins. I will not be surprised if Reutemann wins. I know Jones Is going to try and win and it would be ironical if Mansell were to win”. An answer like that usually gets rid of such tiresome people, and they go away wondering why they did not get a simple and straight answer like “Stirling Moss” or “Jackie Stewart” or “Niki Lauda”.

As the sun moved round I moved round on the window-ledge on which I was sitting, and a friend passed by and grinned, saying “You’ve got it made, ahven’t you”. My reply to that was, “well I ought to by now, I’ve been at it for thirty years” to which he replied “you’ve always had it made”. He went on his way leaving me reflecting in the harbour!

I mentioned that it would be ironical if Mansell should win, but what I should have said was “if Lotus win”, Mansell merely being the faster of the two Team Lotus entries. If I paid attention to the world of public relations I would describe the cars as Essex-Lotus, not because they are built in the county of Essex, nor because they use a Ford Essex engine, for neither explanation applies. Team Lotus money has come these last two years from the Essex Overseas Oil Corporation, which handles Middle East oil somewhere along the line between the oil well and the petrol pump, though exactly where has always been a bit of a mystery. But Team Lotus has not won a GP in Essex colours, and Monaco was to be the last race before John Player became the major Lotus sponsors, which is why it would have been ironical if Mansell had won with a Lotus.

Nigel Mansell seems to be developing the taste for Grand Prix racing. He drove very neatly and tidily in the Belgian GP and his practice times at Monaco were first class, while in the race he looked good while he lasted, but it was not long enough to pass judgement on. Certainly his efforts raised the morale of Team Lotus and as he was inspired by the efforts of Team Lotus on his behalf it all looks well for the future. As some of us have said many times, some teams go down and stay down, others go down but you know they will be back up, and Lotus is one of those teams.

Monte Carlo is a town of contrasts wherever you look, there are eating places from bistros to five-star restaurants, crummy hotels wtth cockroaches under the beds to lush palaces, Victorian splendour and antiquity to vulgar and brash clip-joints, young free-loving girls to austere old ladies, tatty 2cv Citroens to opulent Rolls-Royces, scruffy rowing boats to ocean-going yachts, single-storey houses to skyscrapers. So it did not seem incongruous to have as course cars a Lamborghini Countach and a Silver Spirit Rolls Royce, sublime to the ridiculous, or vice versa, depending on your taste. In fact there were fleets of each, and at one point there were so many Lamborghinis circulating that spectators could have been forgiven for thinking that Lamborghini was sponsoring a one-make race, like BMW did last year with their mid-engined M1 coupes.

The marshalling of the circuit looked pretty good to any inexperienced eye, with all the marshals dressed in bright orange overalls, with no nonsense about senior marshals wearing different colours or degrees of orange. A man in orange was a marshal and that was that, and among them were a number of lads from Britain, members or our own Marshals Club, out in Monaco to help and work with the Monegasques and French. At strategic points around the circuit were enormous mobile cranes with extended jibs that could reach out ovet the circuit and pluck a stricken car up out of the way. Unfortunately Arnoux’s crash in practice with the new Renault was just out of reach of a crane, as were the McLaren and Alfa Romeo that crashed in the first lap, so they could not be removed from the track.

For anyone who follows Ferrari closely the performance of the turbo.charged 1 1/2-litre so early in its career is no real surprise. When the existence of the turbo-charged car was known last year I suggested that I would take it seriously if Ferrari had turned up with only turbo-charged cars and did not bring along the old 3-litre flat-12-cylinder cars for comparison purposes, or for emergency. Last year they ran the 126CK briefly in practice at Imola and that was all. This year the team appeared at Long Beach with turbo-charged 1 1/2-litres only, and again in South America. Ferrari is away on the turbo-charged route and with complete confidence and single-mindedness. It is serious all right. In the world of pseudo-technology as practised by some teams there is  a “gobbledegook” language in which the term “back-to-back testing” frequently appears. What it really means is that the team have made something new and are so unconvinced about their ability that they have to compare it with the old to convince themselves they have done the right thing. I cannot say I have noticed any “back-to-back testing” between the Ferrari T5 and the Ferrari 126CK. At the end of last year Didier Pironi had a brief run at the Fiorano test-track in a 12-cylindered T5, in order to get the feel of a Ferrari and of the test-track and since then he hasn’t been out of a turbo-charged V6. From the last race in 1980 Villeneuve has not even looked at a T5. As a friend in Modena kept writing all winter “Villeneuve has been pounding round Fiorano from dawn to dusk in the turbo-charged car”. Both Villeneuve and Pironi have now signed their contracts with Enzo Ferrari for 1982 and 1983.

Some of these reflections have been made in a different harbour, for after Monaco I flew home on a Jumbo Jet with Page & Moys’ customers, got on my BMW motorcycle and headed north for Heysham and the Sealink ferry to the Isle of Man, to watch a week of motorcycle road-racing. I have had time to reflect in the harbours of Douglas, Ramsey, Port St. Mary and Peel, which suggests another story entitled “Harbours in which I have reflected,” but that would take a lot of pages. Before leaving the mainland Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite phoned to say he was leaving the Fittipaldi team where he had been chief designer, and would be joining me in the Isle of Man for a holiday. He would be coming over on his Moto-Guzzi “Le Mans” motorcycle, not so much to see the racing as to ride round the fantastic 37 1/4-mile TT circuit on “Mad Sunday” with the rest of us; motorcyclists, bikers, yahoos, speed freaks, rock-apes, hooligans call them what you will, they all love motorcycles and motorcycle racing and thousands of them ride round the TT circuit on the Sunday of race week. Fast, slow, carefully, dangerously, considerately, unruly, cautiously, skilfully, stupidly and nicely, everyone rides round the TT circuit on Sunday and anyone foolish enough to join in in a motor car must have a very bad time. lt is all good humoured and good natured fun and Harvey P. wanted to join us. He didn’t arrive and I eventually found out why. He had been called to Maranello to be interviewed by Enzo Ferrari for a job on the engineering staff of the Scuderia Ferrari, which he was given. I don’t suppose he went on his Moto-Guzzi, but I hope he told Zio Enzo he’d forgone a trip to the Isle of Man. – D.S.J.

(NB Zio is Italian tor Uncle).

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