‘AH’: gone, but never for­got­ten

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

It’s not hard to imag­ine the re­ac­tion of dear old Alan Henry to the qual­i­fy­ing im­broglio that threat­ened to en­gulf the Aus­tralian Grand Prix: “You’d have thought they could have bloody well sorted this out be­fore putting us on a plane to fly twelve-thou­sand miles to watch this bloody sham­bles.”

Then he’d have grinned with rel­ish at what he was about to write, popped open his slightly care­worn lap­top, and set forth to pen a rig­or­ous skew­er­ing of those he deemed re­spon­si­ble for mess­ing up the sport, about which he wrote with such care and con­vic­tion for more than four decades.

AH, who died last month af­ter a long and de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness, was a tow­er­ing fig­ure among the F1 press pack and an in­spi­ra­tion to many lured by the ro­mance of one day be­com­ing a motorsport jour­nal­ist. Waspish, witty, dili­gent and deft in equal mea­sure, he was a key part of F1 Rac­ing from its very first is­sue and a source of wise coun­sel, as well as ca­ma­raderie, to those who worked for the mag­a­zine.

As edi­tor-at-large, he ful­filled roles as colum­nist, cor­re­spon­dent, fea­ture writer, and… well, if you turn to page 114, one of this mag­a­zine’s best-kept se­crets will fi­nally be re­vealed.

The out­pour­ing of sor­row at his pass­ing has been truly re­mark­able. Fond trib­utes from col­leagues who worked with him at Au­to­car, The Guardian and Au­to­course were to be ex­pected. More no­table were the kind words shared by the likes of Alain Prost, Mario An­dretti, Emer­son Fit­ti­paldi and many other great driv­ers. It’s a mark of a man known also as ‘TB’ (Top Bloke) that he was able to gar­ner such re­spect from the sub­jects of his some­times with­er­ing prose. Maybe they just recog­nised in­tegrity when they saw it.

Maybe, too, they en­joyed his sense of fun, for in a sport of­ten guilty of tak­ing it­self too se­ri­ously, AH could be re­lied upon to prick any pom­pos­ity that might come across his radar. (To this day I re­main deeply thank­ful that I re­sisted his at­tempt to make me ask Niki Lauda [a close friend of Al’s] if he had seen a Youtube video of a group of drunken Ger­mans singing about his burnt ear. AH would no doubt have found the en­counter ex­tremely funny; not sure that Lauda would felt like­wise…)

He was equally stead­fast in his ad­her­ence to the be­lief that while motorsport, and elo­quent cov­er­age thereof, were of paramount im­por­tance, so, too, was hav­ing a good time while you were at it. AH was a cor­ner­stone of F1’s self-elected ‘claret club’ (mem­ber­ship strictly by in­vi­ta­tion only) and he was well ca­pa­ble of out-stay­ing younger, less sturdy trav­el­ling com­pan­ions when in the mood for rev­elry. On one such oc­ca­sion, at the 2005 Ja­panese GP, I re­mem­ber AH be­rat­ing me for leav­ing a ho­tel bar at around 3am. It was with no lit­tle awe that I found him in the press room the next morn­ing, clear­headed and ham­mer­ing away on dead­line, hav­ing ar­rived sev­eral hours be­fore yours truly.

RIP old chap. You were one of a kind.

Fol­low An­thony on Twit­ter: @Rowl­in­son_f1

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