Simon's snapshots #1


A series in which Motor Sport’s features editor raids the loft to salvage grainy fragments from his racing past

British Grand Prix, Silverstone, July 16 1977

This was Silverstone at its purest – and conceivably most shabby: no corporate gloss, just a thrilling, high-speed ribbon laced with the curious ‘safety’ measure known as catch-fencing.

The image shows Rupert Keegan’s Hesketh 308E leading newcomer Gilles Villeneuve’s McLaren M23 through Club Corner during official practice on either Thursday or Friday, with only a few spectators and a ramshackle toilet block for company. The shot was taken with a Pentax Spotmatic and Takumar 250mm lens, then cropped in 2014 with modern software.

It was the first Grand Prix I’d attended. The parental lift (from Altrincham, 140 miles away) was a post-O level treat and I was deposited at the main gate with my school-mates Phil and Dave, a couple of tents, a Camping Gaz stove, some tins of ravioli and lashings of boundless optimism. A three-day pass cost £16, including camping, and our base was only a short stroll from Club.

A paddock transfer was extra – and way beyond our budget – but security knocked off at about 5.00pm, so anybody could wander in. We did and were showered with stickers, posters and other souvenirs that teams gave away freely.

I’d taken an old scrapbook full of press cuttings and managed to obtain several signatures, all appended to appropriate photographs. Arturo Merzario kindly scribbled his name, but then wanted to flick through the pages to look at other pictures. As he did so, Ronnie Peterson walked past: it would have been impolite to snatch the book back, so I let the moment pass.

Never again would I have an opportunity to obtain the Swede’s autograph.

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