Monte Carlo, Monaco, May 18 1958. Roy Salvadori, Cooper T45-Climax, retired, and Jack Brabham, Cooper T45-Climax, 4th position, talk to a mechanic.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will know that I am writing a series of stories for the magazine called ‘Mechanics’ Tales’, which is exactly what the title suggests. These are tales from either retired or working mechanics and good fun they are to do because mechanics tend to be down-to-earth types and they almost invariably have a great sense of humour. They need to.
USA Grand Prix – Saturday Qualifying Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, June 16 2007. A Williams mechanic gets some much needed rest.
According to Kevin Eason, who used to be the F1 correspondent of The Times and is now the Insider columnist on the sports pages, there are mechanics in F1 today who are alleged to be paid as much as 100,000 a year. No, I have not made a mistake with the noughts.
This may come as something of a surprise to those who long ago packed away their spanners. You don’t often see such thing as a spanner in the pitlane these days and I hear that some of the old McLaren mechanics started up the Red Toolbox Club, meeting once a year to swap memories and stories. It is said that when the new McLaren Technology Centre was being drawn up Mr Dennis made no allowances for toolboxes in the workshop bays. Knowing Ron, he probably thought they’d make a mess of the place. Well, it is the smartest, cleanest race shop you’re ever likely to see.
Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, March 29 – April 2 2006. Honda Chief Mechanic Alistair Gibson, Jenson Button, Honda RA106, celebrates pole position.
Anyway, back to the point. The Insider gave the example of Alistair Gibson who until recently was the Chief Mechanic at Honda. He is now retired from the sport and has been producing sculptures made from carbon fibre. Reckon he must know a thing or two about this virtually indestructible material by now. I cannot tell you if Alistair really was picking up that kind of salary but I do know he couldn’t have been making much in the way of bonuses, either at BAR or latterly at Honda. I knew him many years ago when he worked for Robert Synge at Madgwick Motorsport and he’s an excellent team player as well as a first rate mechanic. But a hundred grand a year? Well, good for him I guess, but it seems a huge amount of money compared to some of the older guys I’ve been talking to lately. They did it pretty much for the love of it, and most of their loot came from bonuses when their cars won the races. Still, life moves on, and I’d be interested to see Alistair’s sculptures, which are on show in London.
Mechanics are a certain type of person, they have to be, always on the road and living out of a suitcase. It gets to a lot of them after a while and they often return to the factory for a more regular way of life. Sir Jackie Stewart(above) was one of the few drivers to recognise the efforts of his mechanics and when he retired himself he set up the Grand Prix Mechanics Trust, a charitable organisation that looks after guys who get hurt, or who are going through hard times for whatever reason. This is a great idea and the GPMT has helped a great many mechanics to get back on their feet and to enjoy a comfortable retirement. As you would imagine, Jackie puts a lot of time and energy into this, as he does with all his many interests and organisations.
Nurburgring, Germany, August 4 1968. A mechanic drives the car of Jackie Stewart, Matra MS10-Ford, 1st position, in the paddock.
Why am I going on about mechanics this week? Well, I’m hoping that some of the guys will see this and will be tempted to respond with their stories. Motor Sport is devoting a page every month to the people who are often described as the unsung heroes of motor racing and we’ve had some great stories so far this year.
So, if you are one, or you know one, let me know. There are so many wonderful tales out there.