Reflections in the rain in Monte Carlo

Reflections in the

rain .in Monte Carlo

ON LAP 66 rain spots appeared, on lap 7S

there 'was' a distinct drizzle and on lap 78 the

race finished. Formula One had beaten the

weather gods; except for the unfortunate

team members who -had to pack everything

up after the. performance. By the time

darkness feU it was awful, the town was

nearly empty, there was little movement,

the rain was falling continously and the filth

and rubbish that the human being seems to

generate and discard, was floating down the

gutters. The Travel Agents should have seen

it, they would have gone into another

. business at once!

When I am at home in Hampshire we

have days a bit like that on which the

Monaco GP was run, when the weather is

sombre and grey, and if I meet my farmer

friend acro~s , the fields he'll say "mornin'

- 'ers a funny ole day, 'ernt er? Cows didn't

milk like they should 'er this moroin' -

funny ole day 'er is." As I walked back from

the Casino Square after the race in the

increasing drizzle I could not help

remarking to a colleague, "Funny ole day

'er's bin 'nt 'er?" Bgth Ligier-Renaults had

finished the race, and both WilliamsHondas;

Senna had it made and his Renault

engine let him down, Alboreto deserved to

win, yet the smooth, calm and unruffled Mr.

Prost had won. "Funny. ole day. Don't

reckon cows'U milk well int' momin."

It had been a good Monaco GP meeting,

one of those where you meet old

acquaintances, meet new ones both young

and old, and all are imbued with enthusiasm

for Grand Prix racing. One young

. Frenchman had seen me racing motorcycles

at Avignon when he was eight years old, and

that was way back before many of today's

Grand Prix drivers were born. That

youthful visit to the races at Avignon had

fired his enthusiasm for racing and he had

followed it ever since. Another fellow told

me he was born in 1948, the year I first raced

our of England, and he had been reading the

history books and could not believe I was

the same D.S.J. who had ridden on the

World Championship winning sidecar in

1949, when he was one year old. It made his

day when I assured him I was the same

D.S.J. and not a "rel'lica" or "fake". Made

my day too! A German BMW dealer, and

fellow 328 BMW owner, was forced to come

over and say hello in a restaurant, as he had

been clQse to racing in Germany before he

went to America in 1958, and had enjoyed

happy times at the Niirburgring, Solitude,

Hamburg and the Freiburg hilIclimb. Two

enthusiasts from Jersey engaged me in a

long and pleasant chat in the sunshine of

practice day, about racing, motoring,

motorcycling, in fact the whole gamut of

what enthusiasm is all about. All this I enjoy

enormously, because these are the people

who believe in Grand Prix racing as I do, whose enthusiasm is unbounded, who keep

the continuous thread going through all the

vicissicudes of FISA, FOCA, Sponsors, the

Media, the Big Business, the Engineering,

the Professional Approach, the good and the

bad. Without the enthusiasm and belief

generated by normal people, motor racing

would die. Even our Formula One

"supremo" Mr. B. C. Ecclestone started out

like you and me, with a schoolboy passion

for racing that grew and has never left him.

He was in a Cooper 500 before he was

20 years old, as A.H. tells us in his latest

book "Brabham - The Grand Prix cars".

Some enthusiasts are content to watch,

others get ambitious and want to organise,

all of which makes the whole thing

continuous, which is essential for survival,

and basically that is why the Monaco GP

took place this year in spite of the gloomy

prognostications of the media last winter.

When you watch Grand Prix racing on

television and listen to Murray Walker, you

may not agree with what he says, but you

cannot deny his enthusiasm for racing, and

he'll tell you that it came from his "old

man", Graham Walker. If you don't know

who Graham Walker was, ask any

motorcycle racing enthusiast. Graham

Walker was one of the enthusiasts who set

me on the right path in my youth .

Apart from watching 750 bhp projectiles

weighing about as much as a Mini, charging

up the hill to the Casino Square, or down the

hill to Mirabeau corner, there are things to

see all around, and for me one of the nicest

was to see "Clay" Regazzoni standing by the

barriers during practice. Since his horrific

accident at Long Beach in 1980 he has been

in a very bad way, and only in the last year

has he begun to appear in public again.

Everywhere I go enthusiasts always ask me

about "Regga", for though they never knew

him personally, spectators took him to their

hearts when he was racing and have been

concerned ever since. He is still confined to

a wheel chair for moving about, but it was

great to see him standing up watching

practice. I have always raked to "Regga" in

French, but on race morning he told me in

very good English all about a driving-school

he has opened at the Vallelunga circuit near

Rome, where he is teaching handicapped

people not only to drive cirs, but to enjoy

doing it. He has a hand-controlled Ferrari of

his own, but for the school he uses GTV

Alfa Romeos, and before the Grand Prix the

Monaco organisers gave goocf old "Regga" a

15 min parade of cars and drivers to publicise

this new interest that he had "developed.

There are a few bad things in

motor racing, but what a lot of really good

things there are. .

A good thing that came iI\to Formula One

a year or two ago and. was quickly and universally

accepted, was the Longines-Olivetti

automatic timing system. Each car has an

individual transmitter mounted in the nose

and as it crosses the timing line ir sets off an

impulse which is recorded by the timing mechanism and this is all coupled in to a vast

and complicated system whereby the time

and speed are displayed on any VDU that is

plugged into the system. At me same time a

printed read-out can be produced and by

this means every lap by every car is logged

down chronologically. After each practice

session Olivetti produce these read-out

sheets, and after the race they produce a

complete run-down listing every car's lap

time. While this is most useful to people

writing about the race, or making a detailed

study of it, it is a bad thing for drivers. The

top half of the field all think they should

have won the race, and you can hear them

making long-winded explanations to the

media as to why they did not win. If you

have an accurate lap-chart with you, and a

copy of the Longines-Olivetti race-times you

can soon see whether it is worth going on

listening to the non-winners. You will hear

one driver saying "When I was lapping him,

he held me up for three whole laps. Three

whole laps, I was stuck behind him". A

glance at the lap chart will indicate this particular

moment, for you remember X

coming up to lap Y. You then cross-check to

the Longines-Olivetti time sheets and look

up the lap times for X and find that they

differ by less than one second. Alright, so he

was held up and lost one second on two of

those three laps; but he lost the race by 25

sec! A further study of the times will reveal a

difference of as much as two or three

seconds a lap, when there was no one in

front of him. It wasn't Y who lost him the

race, X just didn't win it.

Look at the times of someone like

Alboreto or Prost and you will see an uncanny

consistency that has to be admired.

Variations of six or eight lOths of a second

over 20 or 30 laps. You recall Prost catching

.. a slow car in a twisty part of the circuit and find that the difference in his lap time was

hardly noticeable. If he loses some fractions

on a couple of slow comers, he makes it up

by going that little bit harder on the next

three, and his lap time remains hardly

altered. I don't suppose he does this consciously,

it is a reflex action that is the hallmark

of a real winner.

Brakes were clearly of paramount imPQrtance

:at 'Monte Carlo, especially if you

watched the cars down into Mirabeau

corner, or into the harbour-front chicane. A

number of drivers were heard to say that

their brakes disal1peared after only a few

laps, half distance; . or near the end of the

, race, but a study of their lap times does not

.... . reflect this, and if you look at the lap on

\< ~_ which they made their fastest lap in the race,

. as shown on our starting grid, it is surprising how fast they went ". . . with no brakes

. . ." . Another interesting thing is revealed

on the time-sheets, and that is how quickly

some drivers recover from a spin or trip up

an escape road. Television viewers will have

seen part of Alboreto's excursion on the oil

from the PatreselPiquet accident. He reversed

out but seemed to waste an age getting

the Ferrari engine to pick-up and run

cleanly again, before he stormed off. His lap

times are interesting. Lap 17 - 1 min

26.025 sec; lap 18 - I min 40.276 sec; lap

19 - I min 27.402 sec; lap 20 - I min

26.868 sec. He lost 14 seconds having his

"moment" and that included getting back

up to full speed up the hill to the Casino. His

next lap was 1 Y2 seconds slower than he

had been doing, while he gO! back into his

pace and passed Ste Devote comer with

caution, and on the next lap he was back on

his pace, and went even faster on the next

three laps.

For a model of consistency I quote a few

of Prost's lap times later in the race. Lap 51

- I min 24.625 sec; lap 52 - I min 24.563

sec; lap 53 - I min 24.745 sec; lap 54 - I

min 24.383 sec. A variation of less than half

a second round the streets of Monaco, and

you and I can barely visualise one second,

let alone half a second. People tell me Alain

Prost is very good, and I think they are right.

While the Monaco GP is not the best one

during a season, it is good that we should

have it every year, for it keeps one's sense of

proportion intact. You have got to have a

sense of proportion to unleash 750 bhp up

the hill from Ste Devote, and even more so

to unleash it down the hill from the Casino

Square; or perhaps it is that you have to

have a sense of disproportion! Anyway, the

Monte Carlo circuit makes a change from

clinical autodromes, for with its changing

cambers, changing surfaces, bumps,

ripples, manhole covers, minimal run-off

areas, fast comers and tight hairpins, there

is never a dull moment. Clinical, in the sense

of over-exaggerated safety, cannot apply to

Monte Carlo, and clinical cannot apply to

the sight of the rubbish floating down the

gu"ers in the rain on Sunday night after the

race was over. -D.S.J.