A SIG­NIF­I­CANT MILE­STONE

Re ect­ing on 30 years of writ­ing for CAR...

Car (South Africa) - - COLUMN -

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

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