I JUST MADE THE TEA: Tales From 30 Years Inside Formula 1
Di Spires & Bernard Ferguson. Paperback edition published 2013 by Haynes. 376 pages. Reviewer’s own copy. $25. When you see the incredible transporters, motor homes and hospitality juggernauts lined up at Grand Prix meetings, as well as other motor sports events, it’s hard to recall how basic the ‘catering’ side was in the 1970s & ’80s. Di Spires and her husband Stu were there pretty much at the start of it all, chucking in their day jobs to follow an F1 dream.
First team they joined was Surtees, and there was an awful lot of learning on the job. For the first few seasons, it was pretty hand-to-mouth stuff with no certainty of employment in the off-season. Gradually though, they got deals with better financed teams, a few more funds for the catering side and larger trucks/buses (though they had some pretty scary moments getting on & off ferries or trying to avoid getting bogged down in muddy paddocks).
Over 30 seasons, Di and Stu made the tea and did a hell of a lot more for teams as varied as Tyrrell, Toleman, Benetton, Lotus and Stewart. Beyond catering at all hours for all tastes, they doubled as long-distance truck drivers, pit-board holders, drivers’ kit launderers, awning assemblers, message runners for teams who didn’t want it known they were interested in another driver, and handing out sponsors’ products. The latter could be interesting when Durex was your sponsor!
As well as F1, they also tried their hands at catering for WRC teams, Le Mans and suppliers like Pirelli and Cosworth. Widely known in the paddock as Mum and Dad, the stories of their close relationships with drivers from Senna & Schumacher to Herbert & Piquet, plus mechanics, team owners, circuit personnel, B. Ecclestone and plenty of others make this a great ‘behind the scenes’ book, at a very reasonable price.