MUR­RAY WALKER ON F1’S EX­PAND­ING TER­RI­TORY

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - MUR­RAY WALKER

But what a pity it is that so many of the coun­tries and cir­cuits we used to go to are now just mem­o­ries. Kyalami in South Africa, where it was warm and sunny, of­ten got us out of our gloomy win­ter to start the sea­son, and that’s where I saw Re­nault fall flat on their face in 1983 when Nel­son Pi­quet took the first ever turbo-car world cham­pi­onship in his Brab­ham-BMW.

Twice, just twice, in 1969 and 1974, I was priv­i­leged to com­men­tate on the Ger­man GP at the daunt­ing 14-mile Nür­bur­gring Nord­schleife. Jacky Ickx for Brab­ham and Clay Regaz­zoni for Fer­rari were the win­ners and I’ve al­ways re­garded my­self as lucky to have been there be­cause F1 aban­doned the Nord­schleife after Niki Lauda’s ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent in 1976.

Just as the Nür­bur­gring was re­jected, so, in 1986, was Brands Hatch. Such a great cir­cuit and the scene of so many truly mem­o­rable Bri­tish GPs – not least of which were Derek War­wick’s su­perb drive in the Tole­man in 1982 and Nigel Mansell’s bril­liant 1986 win for Wil­liams.

Nei­ther do we go to Ar­gentina, where I was awestruck to drive the great Juan Manuel Fan­gio’s 1955 Mille Miglia Mercedes-Benz. Nor do we go to France, Hol­land, Morocco, Por­tu­gal, Switzer­land, Swe­den, Turkey, Korea or In­dia. To be hon­est, some of them – coun­tries where F1 was there for the money amidst race-at­tend­ing ap­a­thy rather than to sat­isfy lo­cal en­thu­si­asm – are no great loss, but oth­ers most cer­tainly are. No one who watched the 1979 French GP at Di­jon will ever for­get the duel be­tween Fer­rari’s Gilles Vil­leneuve and Re­nault’s René Arnoux. I nearly went through the com­men­tary-booth roof with ex­cite­ment, and think­ing of Vil­leneuve re­minds me that he was out­stand­ing at many of F1’s lost cir­cuits. Like Zand­voort in 1979, where he wrecked his Fer­rari, point­lessly tear­ing back to the pits on three wheels in an ef­fort to get back into the race after los­ing the lead. Watkins Glen, Amer­ica, where, dur­ing prac­tice in 1979, he gave us a spell­bind­ing dis­play of wet-weather driv­ing, and Jarama in Spain ’81 when, in a Fer­rari that was cer­tainly not the class of the field, he kept ev­ery­one be­hind him to win a race where a mere 1.2 seconds cov­ered the first five home. And, trag­i­cally, Zolder in Bel­gium where he lost his life try­ing to take pole po­si­tion from the team-mate he’d fallen out with, Di­dier Pironi.

Just as I as­so­ciate Vil­leneuve with so many breathtaking drives, I do the same with Ayr­ton Senna at great cir­cuits of the past. Don­ing­ton Park in 1993 when, in ap­pallingly wet con­di­tions, he com­pletely de­stroyed the op­po­si­tion with a drive of ma­jes­tic mas­tery, and the dra­mat­i­cally short­ened, mon­soon-like ’91 Aus­tralian GP at Ade­laide (whose 1995 demise de­pressed us all).

The USA has hosted F1 in ten of its ci­ties, now in­clud­ing Austin, Texas, where, un­like the rest, F1 has been a suc­cess, and where hope­fully it will stay. I’ll never for­get see­ing Tom Jones open the pa­thetic apol­ogy for a cir­cuit at Las Ve­gas (sit­u­ated in the Cae­sars Palace car park, would you be­lieve), dressed as a Ro­man gla­di­a­tor and rid­ing in a horse-drawn char­iot. Only in Amer­ica – although you could say the same for Watkins Glen, which failed to hold the US GP beyond 1980, due to safety con­cerns and an in­creas­ingly rowdy sec­tion of fans who in 1974 stole a coach and pushed it into the in­fa­mous ‘Bog’, where it sank. I also re­call them set­ting off dy­na­mite…

Mem­o­rable times! I al­ways told my­self this was bet­ter than work­ing – and I was right.

“I was lucky to have com­men­tated at the Nord­schleife, be­cause F1 aban­doned it after Niki Lauda’s ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent there in 1976”

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