Posted 23 April 2012 - 20:47
My first F1 race was the German GP at the Nurburgring in 1958, I was 9 at the time. My father had taken us to several local races,on frozen lakes in the winter, and on horse-trotting tracks in the summer. In 1957 and 58 I studied his copies of "The Autocar", "Motor" and "Motor Racing" (the yellow one) magazines, and gradually picked up the English language. My father had travelled to Le Mans in 1952 (in a Model T Ford!) and again in 1955, and came back from the year of the Levegh catastrophe with a lot of enthusiasm for Jaguars and for Mike Hawthorn, with whom he had exchanged a few words. In July of 1958 we packed a WWII surplus tent and rudimentary camping equipment into the family 1939 Studebaker, and set sail for the Eiffel mountains. I was very much a Hawthorn fan by then, and my father had told me to look for the Ferrari driven by a man in a green jacket and a black helmet with a white peak. So, imagine my surprise when we entered the Nurburgring paddock, and I spotted a black-helmeted driver in an Osca sports-racer....turns out it was a young Dan Gurney, another all-time favourite.
Later that evening, I was to witness Ivor Bueb describe the suspension characteristics of the Lotus 12 to Chapman in the Lotus Fahrerlager garage, using both hands and making funny sounds...amazing how such details stick in the mind, over 50 years later. The race for sports cars featured a brilliant drive by Cliff Allison in a Lotus, among the hordes of Porsches and Borgwards, although he did not finish. And in the GP itself, I remember how Moss went out after 4 laps with a duff magneto, after which mes amis mates seemed to have everything under control...until brilliant Brooks caught them in a re-make of the Fangio effort of the previous year, and Collins lost ut fatally at the Pflanzgarten. As Mike passed us at the Nordkurve after the pits,Id believe I saw Mike turn his head and look behind him, as if he were expecting to see Pete somehow having recovered from his somersault, and back in the chase.
At that stage, I was well and truly hooked. The passion remains to this day.