Jp sneeks off to the Spanish GP
So, after viewing Imola from my easy chair, the eternal optimist in me had envisaged a straw of possibility on the Prixmat, which meant that with some 15 days left before I trudge back to work, ....I find myself on an EasyJet to BCN Saturday morning. As is my usual tact, this will not be a race report but rather a continuance of my 35+ year sojourn of travelling trackside to attend 'Our Lady of 19000 revs' or whatever factitious formula and incarnation is in residence.
Just like in the 'real world, 'our 'religion' is in crisis. Our faith is in doubt. But these weighty matters are for the deities on high, the experts in the theology of compelling competition, not us plebs in the pews. We just need to soak up any crumbs of delight we can these days.
We came out of the clouds to the sight of the Pyrenees covered in snow. I had cut it fairly close, but as my £35 flight left on time, I arrived at the Renfe station across from Terminal A with an hour and a half till the qualifying session. Nice trains they have here in Catalonia. It's a rich and proud land in more than just tactile terms. The platform at Sants filled up really fast and in the crowd was a gentleman with that red paddock lanyard sticking out of the pocket of his freshly pressed white shirt. This turned out to be the account rep for Sonax, a German who spoke Catalan as well as Castilian and Italian. He had a wealth of information on sponsor duties and why certain companies like to associate themselves with the images portrayed by certain drivers.
"The best ones are those who are inaccessible to the rest of society because they offer something of fantasy to the target market....Also it's good if they don't talk too much, so they don't screw up their own image" As I absorbed this info the train was filling up at a rapid pace with fans. Sitting across from me was Seriphina and her mom. She kept making racing car sounds. Funnier still was the fact that they got out at Montmelo with the all the other parishioners and got into a FIA stickered car which awaited them while the rest of us headed up the crowded central promenade of Montmelo en masse. No shortage of hawkers and souvenir joints specially for the local hero and ..wait a minute,.. is that Matt Bishop pondering a purchase?
I then realized I was lollygagging in the atmosphere as time was moving rapidly towards the qualifying hour so I picked up the pace through the crowd and left our Sonax rep in my wake....(stupid me as usual...I forgot to ask his name!).
The 2.5 km trek was a real good workout.
When I arrived at the ticket office at 10 min until 2pm I thought I would be fine....NOT
There was a screw up with some tickets and people in line were fuming.
I got to the window sooner than I would have guessed to find my General Admission ticket was gone....
So I asked the girl in my unfashionable Castilian '¿que puede usted hacer para mi?.'
She looked at my passport and laughed "Eres de California?....valle"
2 seconds later I had a grandstand seat for the price of GA/Pelouse 'Gracias para todos' I said and walked off to the entrance.
Very happy I was when I saw that I had been given a seat at the very top of stand B which afforded a view of the speedy exit of Campsa as well as the new tightened turn into La Caixa. Surprisingly, it was busy in the stand for qualifying as the favoured Renault driver had the locals sporting the gloriously coloured Asturias flag which BTW is a well needed respite from the red wash that permeates most of our places of worship. I actually enjoyed single car qualifying for once as they all screamed out of Campsa and into the new corner with tyres blazing. Then the squirt through the little S before Sabadel. Just as the action got exciting I turned around to see Jenson blow what would have been a fine lap indeed. JB runs wide and Qual2 report
Takuma and JPM did give us reason to hope but as things transpired MS lap was hours ahead of everyone else and at that point I kind of gave up on my dream of 'something to look forward to'.
After quals were over I wandered out to the Pelouse area to see what I would have been able to see and.... there he was, the same guy I saw at Imola last year I reckon he had bought a new phone since we last met...unfortunatly the lens was on the back of the phone and he kept taking pictures of himself during the eventful and exciting F3000 race.
'Time for refreshment' said my brain and off back to town I wandered to soak up the tasty afterglow of things to come. On the way I saw the marshals having a post session debrief at Curva Repsol in their mini curved post fashioned just like the main grandstand.
When I arrived in town I stopped at a bar whose clientele spilled out into the street. A bottled beer was €1 which is about €4.50 cheaper than at the track. The feeling there was fabulous. Many fans of all different nationalities were joining together expressing their preferences for cars and drivers. All except a drunk Englishman who HAD to pick a fight with a Connie Montoya wannabe. Needless to say I was for the girl, however, she did not need my support. She saw him off in a barrage of sexual inadequacy jokes that left the unwitting 'SHOEMACCA' fan reeling and the gathered crowd cheering as if Juanito had just overtaken Michael at the finish line.
It was at that point I thought out loud..."Ya know, they really should end the weekend here and now."
What with the stage set as it was and the possibilities for Sunday, it made an appetizing evening of anticipation.
My thoughts then turned to my long suffering hosts who had so graciously offered me their fabulous farm house at l'Esperia in the hills above SILLS as sanctuary. As the sun was setting I absorbed the luscious countryside that changed from drenched Bayou to lush mountain forests full of cork trees.
Jose Maria Pratt and his wife Melanie were waiting for my call and had a real Spanish farm house dinner prepared for me as I sat in the 200+ year old kitchen with massive fireplace. This fresh food was possibly the best I had ever tasted. After that treat and some wonderful conversation, I retired to bed.
I awoke Sunday morning as Melanie served an authentic Catalan breakfast. I commented on how I just had the best nights sleep I could ever remember. Jose Maria, without even glancing up from his plate, mentioned 'Everyone says that.' Then off to SILLS station we went so I could make it to the track on time. I arrived to find the town as bustling as yesterday but there was one strange addition...Those irrepressible Chileans and their pan pipes world tour had set up shop right in the middle of pirate F1 swag headquarters.....Man oh Man do this lot get around or what?
The main entrance looked like some sort of rock festival with food and drink vendors and bars all proclaiming 'BUY NOW and avoid the extortionate prices inside.' I noticed something fishy at the bottom of the Vodaphone/Ferrari entry arch....That bloody Clear Channel is even horning in on my beloved F1...BERNIE BEWARE.
[Jp on ramblas mode]I really do enjoy spending time at the circuits. Watching people coming, going, their expressions and body language. Watching weather develop, watching sunsets and shadows fall. Do other people naturally get this passionate imbibing their surroundings? Is this a church going experience for them too? Under usual circumstances I hate crowds but when I am at the track they really do hold some fascination for me. I usually try and seek out areas and elevations to watch practice sessions from not seen by the TV camera angles provided. There are so many different vantage points to submerge into. These would be places I would put TV cameras. Places that convey the people in their element.[/Jp off ramblas mode]
See what happens when you go all gooey eyed....It's nearly race time and I am in a daze, being swept away by the crowd wandering behind the main grandstands. It's at least a good 15 min trek. I'd best get moving.
With 3 mins to go till the roll off I arrive in my seat to see 'Fan Freedom' here in Grandstand B reaching it's climax. Fan Freedom is kinda cool in these days of PC 'no you can't' BS. Here we have smoking, drinking, klaxon blasting, flag waiving, camera hamming, airhorn blowing. All in anticipation of what is to come. Sadly (and predictably) the anticipation was to be unfulfilled yet again. Although when they took off on the formation lap I yelled 'LOONEY ALERT'
Perfect thing to throw up a wild card...I was licking my lips..too bad he came too early, just like the Connie Wannabe was talking about last night. Reality brought us down to earth quickly though.
This race was rubbish and I don't mean pedal bin kinda dull, I mean overflowing rubbish dull. As far back as I can remember I do not think I have been to a more boring F1 race EVER...(and that's 50+GP's).
JUST HOW BORING WAS IT YOU ASK?
Well folks, I spent most of the race, after the first pitstops, chatting to Irina from Moscow while she filmed her documentary for college credit. (Damn, now that's a class I could have done with. Go to races and get credits?)
The poor kid sitting in front of me lasted 10 laps then proceeded to use his time more effectively.
My youngest son rang me about then and asked if he could stop the videotape machine and switch the channel over to Nickelodeon? I said YES without hesitation. It kind of reminded me of two weeks prior when I sat in my front room dozing off during the San Marino GP only to find he had switched the TV over to MaryKate and Ashley.
At this point I noticed I was not the only one totally disinterested in the on-track 'action' as we got a shot on the TV screen of Ron surprised by cameras on the Maclaren pitwall ....
Hey wait a minute...perhaps this lack of attention is the reason things are so abominable for MacRon this year?
It then occurred to me, are we SURE we are getting the same TV feed as they do?
Whatever... it ain't making them Mac's any quicker is it?
This was the first race I have ever attended that made me think...'can't wait till this is over'
....And so it was..The few people left in the stands turned to watch some mad Dutch kids having beer cooler races down the steps.
I then walked back to the train station to find the massive queue to get inside.
Cue my return to the main street bar, where the locals were really enjoying this opportunity to rake in the cash.
I sat in a quiet corner to see all the fans come in and attempt to order uno cerveca.
One loaded down chap came in wanting to sell some swag to the punters enjoying their refreshment.
'Don't come in here hawking your wares as if it's the medina' said the proprietress behind the bar....I burst out laughing...so did she.
I met a rather nice couple from Finland Jyrki and Tuija. We got to talking about all types of things,
as one does after 37 beers, and at some point Tuija said 'This is my first race'.
"Good lord" I replied..."What chance have you to become as passionate about this as I am ?"
We said our good bye's and I headed to a now vacant train station where I took the train into town to meet Melanie at her gig http://www.lapaloma-bcn.com then headed home.
Next morning the rain started as I left for the airport and flew home to Gatwick.
Elaine and I prepared a lovely Mediterranean supper in our garden drenched with early evening sunshine.
Lets hope this new F1 takes care of the problem, sooner rather than later
My only reservation is...... I hope they don't destroy the sound of the cars.
EDIT: Place holder for images
Edited by jonpollak, 18 July 2017 - 04:03.