Mechanics, Monaco and memories


First, a note of thanks. Last week I was talking about mechanics – you know, the guys who get all the messing around and none of the credit. I was hoping that a few of these chaps would get in touch and, guess what, they have.

So my ‘Mechanics Tales’ series is at least safe for a few months more. Damien (my Editor) is pleased, or relieved, one of the two.


1971 European F2 Championship. Cranleigh, Surrey, UK. 4th November, Rondel Racing F2 Team including L – R: Clive Walton, Ron Dennis, Neil Trundle and Preston Anderson.

I was encouraged to hear from Neil Trundle, a man who has been there, done it, got the t-shirts, the videos and the trophies. Neil established the Project 4 team with Ron Dennis, the outfit that built the ProCars for BMW, wowed the paddocks with its presentation and persuaded the mighty Marlboro to support its bid for the old McLaren team. The rest, as they say, is history.


Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort, Holland. 29th – 31st August 1980. Alain Prost (McLaren M30-Ford Cosworth), 6th position.

Neil still works with Ron, at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, where he’s in charge of the gearbox department. This is all to cut a very long story short but Mr Trundle has agreed to tell me a few mechanics tales so you will no doubt enjoy reading those in the months to come.

This week I’m going to see Neil Davis, who worked for Ken Tyrrell for many years and looked after the cars of Jackie Stewart. It was he who featured in our picture of the paddock tunnel at the (proper) Nürburgring last week. Meanwhile, in next month’s magazine, it will be the turn of David “Dorky” Lowe who is a protégé of both Neil Davis and Roy Topp at Tyrrell and who was terribly injured at Imola in 1996 when Jos Verstappen left the pits while Dorky was still re-fuelling the Arrows. But we’ll be looking at a happier phase of his life in the pitlane with Paul Stewart Racing when he looked after David Coulthard in Formula 3.


San Marino Grand Prix, Imola, Italy. 3rd – 5th May 1996. Jos Verstappen (Footwork FA17 Hart).

I won’t be in Monte Carlo this coming weekend but I will be glued to the television. This is absolutely one of my favourite Grands Prix, along with Spa-Francorchamps, Montreal and Monza. Well, and Suzuka, but that’s not every year now. Why do I love Monte Carlo? Because of the speed and the skill. You can feel the speed, get close to the cars for once, and you can only wonder the skill involved in threading a Grand Prix car around the streets. And the noise. Ah, that noise, as the cars scream around the Principality, the shriek of those engines ricocheting off the buildings. First thing in the morning it is just thrilling, makes the hairs on the back of your neck bristle.
Many years ago I watched a practice session in Monaco with Jenks. We stood behind the barrier at the old Tabac and at the swimming pool section. We could, if we’d been mad enough, have reached out and touched the cars. “You’ve got to realise,” he said, peering up at me through his spectacles, “that this place really shows you who is that bit special, who’s really got it. But even the cars at the back are quick, even the slowest drivers are going fast.”

I remember that every time I see these guys dancing and sliding around the streets, the best of them within millimetres of the barriers. Fantastic place.


Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco. 25th – 27th May 2007. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-22 Mercedes.

There may not be much overtaking but overtaking isn’t everything in motor racing. I’d rather watch no overtaking in Monaco than in Hungary or Malaysia, for example. I’d rather watch Hamilton or Raikkonen in Monaco than the whole field at Barcelona. And, it is possible to overtake in Monte Carlo. Not easy, but possible.

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