Formula One scene

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A duty, and a pleasure

As these words are being read, the “troops” will be gathered at the Autodromo Dino Ferrari at Imola, to the east of Bologna, to contest the San Marino Grand Prix, the second event on the 1988 calendar for Formula one.

Imola might call itself an Autodromo, but is one of the best road-type circuits in Europe. When I first went there in 1956 for a sportscar race, the circuit was laid out on the everyday roads at the edge of the town, where the mountain country towards Florence begins. For the day of the race the feeder-roads were blocked off by wooden barriers, and the morning after the event they were open again to normal traffic. The pits were temporary affairs, made from scaffolding and corrugated-iron sheets.

Today, the trace of the circuit is virtually the same, with every type of corner and bend –uphill, downhill and flat-out on the lower straights–but over the years a solid concrete wall has grown up all round and it has become a splendid closed Autodromo. The Italians seem to have a special way of achieving things where Grand Prix racing is concerned.

While the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September is the major Italian event, the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola runs it a close second. You may wonder how San Marino comes into the story. San Marino is a tiny principality at the top of a mountain about 30 minutes’ drive from Imola. It has no road system, but it does have an Automobile Club. As it cannot hold a Grand Prix in San Marino itself, the Club uses the nearby Imola Autodromo, named after Enzo Ferrari’s son who died at an early age from an incurable disease.

Before the Grand Prix starts, a cavalcade of cars carrying San Marino licence-plates arrives at the Imola circuit, bringing dignitaries from the Principality and the Automobile Club to their event, and we are then ready to start one of the best races of the Formula One season.

If I wasn’t paid by Motor Sport to go to Imola to report on the Grand Prix, it is one of the events I would go to using my own money. I would also go to Monza, Spa-Francorchamps, Osterreichring, Estoril and Silverstone, all of which would cost a fortune–which is why I arranged things long ago so that I worked my passage to the events I enjoy, even though duty suggests that I go to other events as well!

If the British had handled things the right way, I am sure we could have ended up like the Italians, with two regular Formula One Grand Prix events each year. We could have had the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and the Isle of Sheppey Grand Prix, or the Grand Prix of the Duke of Kent, at Brands Hatch. It’s too late now. DSJ

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