A SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE
Re ecting on 30 years of writing for CAR...
T may have been 1987, but I remember the moment as if it was yesterday. Not only was it unusual to receive a phone call from CAR, but the request to write a monthly F1 column was a signi cant development in my career as a journalist. I never imagined the partnership would endure for 30 years.
It was not our rst contact. I had met the Ramsay Son & Parker (RSP; the company name at the time) editorial team thanks to Eoin Young, a distinguished F1 writer who had taken me under his wing. Eoin wrote for CAR each month and the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami would present an annual opportunity for the two sides to get together under convivial circumstances. Well, convivial for Eoin and I.
I was able to sit back over Sunday lunch (the Grand Prix having been held on the Saturday) at the Rosebank Hotel and watch the mix of mild pandemonium and barely concealed terror created by Norton Ramsay, RSP’S no-nonsense publisher who ruled proceedings at the table and, it seemed, everything in sight.
Eoin, being a laid-back Kiwi, got on famously with Mr Ramsay. When Eoin made an outrageous comment, the editorial team would look on in fear and tremble before melting with relief when the great man chuckled. There was respect all round; a hallmark of a professional working relationship. My feelings can be imagined when Eoin decided to stand down as columnist and I was chosen to ll his large shoes.
These were different times in many ways. An IBM “Golfball” – then the
Istate of the typewriter art – would be borrowed from a local source in Johannesburg for either Eoin or I to write the comprehensive race report on the Sunday morning (the prospect of missing a fun lunch being just as much an incentive as any publishing deadline).
My rst column for the May 1987 issue was produced on a typewriter and airmailed, along with black and white photographs taken on my Canon Sureshot, to the editorial of ce in Cape Town. Over time, technical development would see the advent of the fax (it took me a while to persuade a diligent secretary not to switch off this new-fangled device when the CAR of ce was closed at weekends!), followed by the massive leap created by computers.
Communication may have advanced out of sight, but a glance through the columns suggests some things in F1 have not changed at all. Processional races were common, moments of drama truly memorable and a tendency for over-complication and silliness as frequent as it is today.
Material for the rst column came from a heaven-sent opportunity to attend an F1 summit at Maranello. Never mind the importance of being invited to witness the signing of the latest Concorde Agreement (the document that binds F1); here we were, having lunch in the famous Cavallino restaurant, with Enzo Ferrari, Bernie Ecclestone and Jean-marie Balestre (president of the FIA) occupying the top table.
Playing out before them, a scene of glorious chaos, as you might imagine when the media horde (many of them