1980 was the 50th anniversary of the MG Car Club. To celebrate MG cars from across the years were selected to parade the Grand Prix drivers around the circuit before the race. Bruce's TF was selected. The cars had their own paddock near the Main Grandstand and we stayed with Bruce's parents in the grandsons' bunk beds for the meeting. Before the race we went into the pits and Bruce took Jean-Pierre Jarier around the circuit. While they were on their lap, I recognised a face standing at the end of the pit wall and went up to him. I said he probably wouldn't recognise me but I said I knew as him 'Raven'. He immediately responded '6th Kenton Air Scouts' where that was his scout name. He ran a pre-war MG Midget then. I was a patrol leader in the troop. His name is Les Needham. He was Assistant Secretary of the Meeting. By the 1991 Grand Prix he was Assistant Clerk of the Course at the Silverstone Grand Prix. For some reason I stopped lap charting after 56 laps but by then the podium had established itself, Jones from Piquet and Reutemann. Drink a pint of Old Speckled 'Un (Hen) to celebrate that MG anniversary!
1981, Silverstone, Woodcote. Jarier heads Rebaque in practise
For the 1981 British Grand Prix I watched the race from the South Grandstand. During practise I went to see the chicane at Woodcote for the first time. John Watson won, his only British victory, having had a couple of thirds in previous seasons. Rebaque in the second Brabham finished fifth, a lap down. Jarier appeared in the second Osella. Miguel-Angel Guerra was scheduled to drive in the programme. Jarier finished eighth, 3 laps down.
1984, Brands Hatch, Cooper Straight. Johnny Cecotto airlifted to hospital
Right at the beginning of Friday practise at Brands Hatch Johnny Cecotto, driving the second Toleman and on four wheels at the circuit for the first time, had a serious crash at Dingle Dell. He was flown to hospital in a Fleet Air Arm Westland Wessex Mk 5 rescue hospital from Cooper Straight. Ayrton Senna qualified the first Toleman seventh and came third in the race just over a minute down from Nicki Lauda. At this race I was lucky enough to have a pit pass. The girlfriend of a rugby-playing friend of mine was secretary to John Webb at Brands Hatch and she met me early near the main grandstand and gave me the pass. I only went into the pits for Friday practise through the rather damp tunnel under the circuit from the paddock.
1984, Estoril, Grandstand D. Piquet leads Winkelhock in Saturday practise
I had decided to take in the Portuguese Grand Prix, the final race of the 1984 season, at the new Estoril Circuit. As it turned out Nicki Lauda needed only second place to win the championship. Friday practise was wet and, in exploring the circuit, the amount of mud in the hotel corridors bore witness to this. Only one Brabham driven by Piquet, practised, Teo Fabi's father having died. The stand-in, Manfred Winkelhock arriving late, only made nineteenth on the grid with Piquet on pole. In the race Prost got into the lead on the ninth lap and Lauda worked his way up from eleventh lap into second place by the fifty-second. That was enough, World Championship by half a point.
For 1986 my overseas trip was to the Spanish Grand Prix at the new circuit at Jerez. As the race coincided with a sherry festival, hotels were at a premium. Page & Moy booked the trip into the famous Rock Hotel in Gibraltar, which was a bonus. We went up to the circuit by coach on race day, a two-hour drive through the morning mists. For the race I was in the main grandstand with another enthusiast from the trip. We were opposite the Williams pit. Senna led from pole but by lap 40, Mansell, from third on the grid, was in the lead and built up a margin, which then began to decrease. We were urging the Williams pit to get him in for new tyres, which they did on lap 63. Prost took second place but Mansell retook the place on lap 69. At the end of lap 72 Mansell was on Senna's tail and past by the first corner. Too late! Senna had won by .014 of a second. If the tyre change had happened two laps earlier Mansell would have won.
From 1987 onwards I normally only took in a days practise, generally the Friday, when I walked round the circuit during untimed practise, watching the cars in different corners and then taking in the first qualifying session opposite the pits. In 1987 I remember watching the Hungarian Grand Prix on television. Six laps from the end Hunt put his right wheels off the circuit kicking up some dust. Murray Walker excitedly said he had kicked up some stones. Doing my James Hunt I said 'No, Murray. No! Not unless one was a large shiny one.' Mansell's wheel came off. It was, of course, a wheel nut. In 1989 at Silverstone I only have photos of the Montego Display Team and the Parade of historic Formula 1 cars. In 1991 I have a shot of 'Red 5' coming out of its pit garage and in 1992 I got this shot of Nigel on Hanger Straight going into Stowe with its front brake disc glowing orange. There some enthusiasts from east of London asked me how I thought Johnny Herbert would do. I told them to watch his teammate, there was a future World Champion, Mika Hakkinen in other Lotus. Johnny Herbert, 160 starts, 3 wins, 0 World Championships. Mika Hakkinen, 161 starts, 20 wins, 2 World Championships. I wonder if they remember. One final memory is of a British Grand Prix I certainly couldn't have been at - April 2000 at Silverstone. I was in New Orleans for the French Quarter Jazz Festival. I could find out nothing about the race. When I got home I found out about the chaos in he mud. I know it can rain in July but at least the ground has had a chance to dry out which it won't have done by April. And then there are April showers. Was the BRDC being "tested"?