You can compete in a season of motor racing for the price of a golf club membership. Adam Hay-Nicholls gets behind the wheel of a Ginetta and realises a childhood dream.
Steve McQueen famously said: “Racing is life. Everything else is just waiting around”. This morning, at 6:55am, Formula One is in the waiting phase. Two hundred mechanics are huddled together looking to their watches for the hour to strike. Then an air horn blasts, curfew is officially lifted, and the teams swipe their electronic passes and head for the pits to begin their day’s work. Continue reading
A truck is bearing down on me. A hulking great Kamaz truck, it’s slaloming down a valley between cappuccino-coloured dunes like an obese skier who’s barely in control. The driver wrestles the wheel to get some traction. He’s caught me by surprise. The bikes, quads and cars that have already passed through on this stage of the Dakar Rally took a different, tighter line to the trucks. Continue reading
After relieving himself under the shadow of a small oak tree, Etienne Moreau scurries back across a stony path, carefully avoiding the burning embers and smoldering beer cans from a recent barbeque, before unzipping the canvas doorway and rejoining his sleeping wife. Their kids are within earshot, comfortably entombed in the leather-lined cockpit of the Moreau’s black and gold Lamborghini Muira.
Doubtless, a Frenchman’s tent is his chateau. But, when you own a real, full-size, portcullis-and-all castle, what compels the likes of the Moreau family to swap it all for flysheets and undercooked andouillettes? Continue reading
Nick Heidfeld has zipped his jacket up to his nose. And he’s wearing sunglasses indoors. He doesn’t want to reveal anything. But he keeps thumbing the two cards he’s been dealt, reminding himself of his hand.
That probably means he’s got something. A flush maybe. So I fold. Fisichella does the same, and the pot belongs to Nick.
This is Formula One’s secret poker club. Most weekends the drivers will get together – sometimes back at the hotel, this time in the Energy Station’s VIP room – to play Texas Hold ‘Em. Continue reading
“I’m not sure whether I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts,” Steve McQueen once said. His iconic role in Le Mans cemented his image as a man who could drop Hollywood for Hockenheim at the turn of an ignition key, because away from the set McQueen was going off script in a race-bred Lotus. Continue reading
Classic Team Lotus is housed in a small workshop at the bottom of the road that leads to Lotus Cars. It’s like a working museum, with half a dozen grand prix cars garaged in various states of repair. Several of these cars are among the most important in Formula One history. Cutting edge at the time, they’re now priceless reminders of the simplicity and single-mindedness of racing just three or four decades ago. Continue reading
Being a Formula One driver is a bit like being a rockstar, except for a stricter diet. A driver is only as good as the team around him. You’ve got the chief race engineer on lead guitar, software technicians on keyboards, the spokesperson on backing vocals and the mechanics making up the rhythm section. So which band would a grand prix team be? Continue reading
Ferenc Szisz, a locksmith and railway engineer, left his homeland to take a factory job with Renault. Six years later he made history by becoming the first grand prix winner. Adam Hay-Nicholls reflects upon the life and times of a Hungarian hero. Continue reading
“When you’ve never driven an F1 car before and after two laps you’re taking Eau Rouge flat, well… I couldn’t believe it.”
Andrea de Cesaris trails off. And it’s not from embarrassment, because while some might find it hard to take – you’ve competed in 160 grands prix and suddenly there’s this kid who you’ve never heard of and the only experience he has to his name is 20 laps of Silverstone three days ago, and now your race engineer is showing you telemetry which confirms the new boy is quicker than you, and it’s Friday and not even lunchtime yet – Andrea feels no bitterness. Just sheer admiration and a sense of pride that he was there. Andrea was Michael Schumacher’s first Formula One team-mate and he knew he would be dining out on that story for the rest of his life. Continue reading
I’ve been strapped into this car so tightly I can barely draw breath. My steering wheel is clipped on, and then a pair of mechanics fit the snug cockpit surround in place, banging it fixed with what seems the finality of nails in a coffin lid.
Not that I’m scared, or resigned to an early grave. I’m excited, impatient even. And this moment – punching the start button on an F1 car and feeling its mighty V10 beating menacingly behind me – is something I have dreamed of since I was a kid. Continue reading
Five-times Le Mans winner Derek Bell is making excuses. “I’m not going to make excuses, but…” he starts, “I flew in from San Francisco two days ago and I’m still jet lagged. And I thought I’d lost my credit cards this morning. I’m a bit frazzled.”
The Volkswagen Scirocco R Cup has just had its half-hour practice session and Bell is the 23rd name on a timing sheet 24 cars long. Metro is 22nd. Continue reading
Kimi Raikkonen is different to other drivers. Most world champions certainly. Michael Schumacher may race bikes now, Jacques Villeneuve might strum the guitar, but neither have anywhere near the breadth of extra-curricular interests that the Iceman has. Nor do they have as many toys… Continue reading