The Bentley room in Mosimann’s restaurant on West Halkin Street is, as you’d expect, full of Bentley memorabilia. It was a fitting place to quietly launch this year’s Motor Sport Hall of Fame with founding member Sir Jackie Stewart and select members of the media.
JYS was on his usual good form and, with the proceeds of this year’s auction going to the Grand Prix Mechanics Trust, of which he is founder and chairman, he was keen to tell the media about the lots and what the money is used for. Ferrari, Lotus, Red Bull and Mercedes have all donated items to what will no doubt be a popular sale (last year £92,000 was raised for the GPMT).
1) A 2009 Ferrari fuel hatch and nozzle with hydraulic actualization system. The lot has been signed by Fernando Alonso and Stefano Domenicali. Kindly donated by Ferrari.
2) Two Saturday and Sunday paddock passes and Paddock Club credentials for the 2014 British Grand Prix. The latter sell for £4000 each while the paddock passes simply cannot be bought. Kindly donated by Bernie Ecclestone.
3) A 2012 Lotus hydraulic manifold signed by Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen. Kindly donated by Lotus.
4) A 2013 Mercedes final-drive gear. Kindly donated by Mercedes.
5) An Adrian Newey-signed 2009 Red Bull wishbone. Kindly donated by Red Bull.
6) A Michael Schumacher-signed Ferrari shirt. Kindly donated by the Grand Prix Mechanics Trust.
Online bidding will start soon
With a room full of Formula 1 journalists it was no surprise when talk turned to Grand Prix racing. The attendance at various races was quick to come up and while Bernie Ecclestone says he’s not concerned about it, Stewart is sure that he is.
“The thing is, though,” he said between mouthfuls of poached chicken, “China wanted a Grand Prix to grab the world’s attention, to have a global audience. The soccer World Cup only comes round every four years, as do the Olympics, and they don’t come back quickly.
“When I went to China for the first race in 2004 I did an interview with Chinese television and it lasted 35 minutes just before the start of the race. I said ‘it’s an odd time for you, there can’t be a big audience’. They agreed, ‘no, it won’t be very big at all’. I asked how many people they thought had just been watching us. They paused and said ‘200 million?’ That was their figure! Ridiculous! But China bought into F1 because of the exposure they knew they were going to get for the country. Forget the motor racing enthusiasts because there is no motor racing in China. They would need 20 years at least if the FIA were to really get at it and to make sure that the next generation in China could have access to an indoor and an outdoor kart track in every major city.”
By the time the passion fruit soufflé glacé had arrived JYS was onto ‘bike racing and his experiences of it. “I watch MotoGP and I am blown away by the riders’ skills and bravery – they’re a tougher bunch than any racing driver. They fall off, they’re hurt, they have broken bones and then they ride again immediately, the next day! It’s pretty impressive.
“I’ve never been to a MotoGP race, I’d like to go, but just haven’t found the time. I did go to the Isle of Man with my son Paul two years ago for the TT, though. Unbelievable. Guy Martin? Fantastic. That year I was driven round the course by somone in a Subaru rally car. Paul’s in the back on a bench seat with no seatbelt, I’m in the front with no seatbelt on and there’s one other man in the back. This driver knew every crease on that place.
“I just couldn’t believe what we were doing, I thought ‘this is a mistake, I wanted to go and see round the Isle of Man!’ And then we see a rider who had fallen off, nobody had picked him up and he wanted a ride home so he gets into the car. Now there are three people in the back without any seatbelts and the driver didn’t back off one iota. Mad!” Editor Damien Smith rightly pointed out that after all those years of campaigning for greater safety in F1 it was interesting that JYS should find himself in such a situation…!
The 2014 Motor Sport Hall of Fame will take place at the Royal Opera House on January 29 when four more racing greats will be inducted. Who are the four? We’re afraid that you’ll have to wait just a little longer to hear those, but rest assured they’re some of the biggest names in the sport.
For more information on this year’s Motor Sport Hall of Fame please click here.