Part 6

Where the anecdotes are of a derogatory nature I have chosen to omit the name of the perpetrator. It should be noted I rarely if ever own up to making any mistakes myself! I am uncertain which racing circuit we were bound for in respect of two of my reminisces but they involve the same individual. We had chosen a hostelry in France ‘en route’ for a particular circuit and once settled in, found a fairly adjacent, if rather smart restaurant. The character of that member of our team was ‘old-time British mediocracy’ – to his boots. Once we had chosen our menu requirements the person concerned demanded to have ‘chips’ with his meal. I have to admit I should have seen that possibility occurring. After a short, if ominous silence, the very elegant, somewhat substantial lady restaurateur proclaimed “If Monsieur desires ‘frites’ there is a McDonald’s down the street”.

You could have heard a pin drop. I am fairly certain it was on the same outing that the aforementioned chap got into a spot of bother whilst bypassing Bordeaux City on the manically busy ‘peripherique’ (ring road to you and me). He mobile phoned the van requesting assistance in replacing a ‘blown’ tyre of his car. When we had established approximately where he had broken down we realised we were well ahead of him and that the only way we could return to the ‘scene of the crime’ was to leave the ‘peripherique’ and make a large detour backwards in order to re-enter the ring road to the rear of his

Aotodromo dell’Umbria.

broken-down location. Unfortunately, we did not have a detailed map of the area, nor a GPS system. By luck, good fortune and a tiny bit of intelligence we managed to execute the necessary manoeuvres. Thank goodness we did as the police had threatened to have his car ‘trucked away’ and we only arrived just in time to carry out the repair and ‘get the whatsit’ out of the place before they returned.

Autodromo dell’Umbria, Magione, Italy. This comparatively small motor racing circuit (2.5km/1.55 miles long) is situated in reasonably pleasant countryside.

Perugia is 22.5km/14 miles to the East; Florence is 131km/81.4 miles to the North; and Rome 187.5km/116.5 miles to the South.

Lake Trasimeno.

Our hotel was beside the delightful ’Lake Trasimeno’ at Monte del Lago which was a distance of some 4.5km/2.8 miles from Magione.

At the meeting we attended, Saturday was the birthday of one of our party. Accordingly, that evening we all gathered together in a well-patronised, lakeside restaurant almost adjacent to our accommodation. As the evening gathered hilarity one of our number (of whom I have already written) spotted the inevitable live TV set performing in the background. Predictably he started to rumble-on about wanting to watch a Portsmouth (UK) football game being played against one or other opponent that evening. Well, the likelihood of Italian TV showing a lowly British Premier League football game was unsurprisingly extremely unlikely. However, his mutterings were overheard by others in our party one of whom spouted forth “Well, anyway who cares about a football game” – or words to that effect. Oh, my goodness me. I thought WW3 was about to break out as the protesting individual stood up and commenced to become extremely vocal in demanding satisfaction – whatever that meant. Once his tirade started to run out of ire and ‘steam’, with as much drama as he could muster, he theatrically abandoned us and the restaurant. I seem to recall some of the local diners showed their appreciation at his departure with loud clapping! Naturally we partied on and an excellent evening was had by all – minus one!

It was at that meeting that a couple of very good friends flew in to nearby Perugia. They hired a car to be able to join us at the event but unfortunately had it stolen from the circuit car parking. That caused quite a to-do, involving as it did the police and the hire car company. One of us had to take them back to Perugia to continue the dialogue. I do know they are not still at Perugia as we met-up some weeks later!

Major considerations in respect of the comparatively long-distance sports car endurance races were the matters of the race-car’s cooling water and fuel tank capacities. Regarding the engine cooling, it was to be hoped that the volume of the system was sufficient to last the race before boiling dry. In respect of fuel, the consideration was if a tank-full was sufficient to last the race or it would be necessary to make a refuelling pit-stop.

At the ‘Circuit Clermont-Ferrand’ I had the misfortune to miscalculate the fuel required and came to rest alongside the Armco barrier of one of the long straights. Whilst passing the time of the day with a few race track stewards gathered thereabouts they proudly pronounced that they were having a ‘faire une collecte’ (or ‘whip-round ‘in our talk) to assist me purchase some petrol. Very droll!

‘Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours’ was where I misjudged the cooling water’s ability to last the race.

With the signalling of the last lap about to take place I cruised into the pits to share my commiseration at having lost-out at the last gasp of the race. However, the cooler minds of my crew screamed at me that the last lap had not yet been signalled. With an unusual amount of haste, they bunged in the necessary coolant, rammed down the bonnet and urged me to get back out onto the circuit. When?

Then! During all this ‘carry on’ a number of stewards were gathering to remonstrate that my race was run. Whilst all that palaver ensued I weaved through the assembled pack of my crew and stewards barely in time to get onto the track before the awaited last-lap Iinstruction was flagged. Accordingly, I finished (just) in time and recall being awarded a bowl of some description.

By Geoffrey “Grumpy” O’Connell