MONACO, 11 MAY 2008

A WIN TO REMEMBER

A Win to Remember

 

6th Monaco GP Historique, May 10-11 , 2008.

 

Every two years for more than a decade now, the good folks of the ACM (Automobile Club De Monaco) hold the Historic Grand Prix round the streets of the Principality.  Around October of the previous year the invitations to enter arrive and we all wait until February to discover if the application has been successful.

 

So what do we enter this event?  It is VERY expensive to enter and equally pricey after that what with travel and accommodation.  In addition, the scrutineers and course officials annually develop new ways of being difficult and raise officiousness to a new level altogether.  The answer is of course the track itself.  It is truly unique and apart from one or two changes remains largely as it was when Grover Williams won the first race in his Bugatti in 1929.

 

I have raced at Monaco twice before with mixed success.  In 2002 the front wheel came off on the third lap but in 2004 we came second in the Huffaker behind the controversial winner Joe Colosacco. So this year I had high hopes for the BMC car and was simply looking to survive the pre-’74 F1 race in the Surtees TS9B.

 

On Saturday we had two sessions of practice/qualifying in both cars and first up was the Huffaker – in fact first out of all categories on what was a very green and slippy track.  Nonetheless I was happy to end up on provisional pole by more than a second.  For the Surtees matters were a little more fraught simply because the race was full of current or ex-professional drivers in very rapid cars.  However, unlike several others I managed to keep the car safe and ended up 12th on the grid and fastest of the Surtees.

 

Sadly in fact the ex-John Bladon TS9B was essentially written off in the second session after a major barrier clouting exercise.  Also out of action in the later race was Bobby Verdon-Roe (McLaren M26) and Peter Dunn (March 761) both of whom had major incidents coming out of the tunnel.

 

Come the second Junior session I held pole all the way until two minutes from the end when I was pipped by Dr. Tony Goodwin in his very rapid Gemini – by 0.04 seconds!

 

Sunday dawned sunny and dry and I was focused on the first corner as it seemed to me that I was fundamentally quicker than Tony despite his decades of experience.  When the lights went out I went hard as possible and managed to squeeze past Tony into St Devote and off up the hill into the lead.

 

I could see Tony close in the mirrors where he stayed lap after lap.  He never went away but never really challenged too seriously.  Soon we were dealing with backmarkers some of whom moved or looked in their mirrors – and some of whom didn’t!  Then the oil flags were out as Rascasse and my wheels were spinning on the front straights!!  However, all went well and the flag dropped for me to win the race comfortably in front of Tony Goodwin.

 

The full-blown podium ceremonies were fun – Jacky Ickx presented the trophies and the lap of honour unforgettable.  This was actually my first overall win in  Formula Junior car – what a place to start!!

 

So then, on to the F1 race.  How to summarize that then?  OK, here goes.  A good start allowed me up to 10th place before getting up further as several cars crashed or broke down.  Then, very disconcertingly, the right hand mirror simply flew up when going up the hill to the Casino.  This put me off a lot and I let three cars go by in one go simply because I could not see them.  I got two back when things settled down and then the race was slowed by the safety car.  Basically Hamish Somerville (Brabham BT37) got underneath Lee Brahain’s Hesketh entering Casino Square.  Lee was flipped upside down and managed to dislocate his shoulder in what was a very nasty incident.

 

After the dust settled the truly wonderful Duncan Dayton won the race in his BT33 ahead of Joachim Folch and Manfredo Rossi.  And yours truly?  10th and intact albeit minus one mirror!!

 

Overall a wonderful experience.  I cannot express enough my thanks for the Lyons team who really went out on a limb to support me.  They didn’t have a good time with mechanical maladies but were unstinting in supporting my cars and my little efforts.  Thanks boys – it was very special.

 

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