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Plans for the future

One thing that the lockdown has given me is time to think and one thought is that it might be better too merge this blog into my DriverJohn one and so I am looking at what that would entail.

The two blogs started out with different aims. This one was about motorsport and morphed into including my collectables business whilst DriverJohn was more about the vehicles that I have driven on the road and expanded to include my having driven railway engines and flown aeroplanes.

That difference still exists, but my collectables business is called DriverJohn and so having a blog with that name that does not talk about the business and another blog with a different name that does has caused some confusion with people wanting to do business with me and trying to explain an illogical situation is boring (to the listener) and just either turns them off or confuses them further. Both effects are bad for business.

Another factor in all of this is that the web hosting service that the driverjohn.co.uk web site sits with have become hard to work with. I need to do something with that website and it looks like a change of hosting service is the way forward so my plan is to make the WordPress DriverJohn blog the home web site for my DriverJohn trading and then move these pages over there too.

The main problem with doing that is that some of these blog posts have become very popular and pop up on search engines as a result. If I move them it seems that those search links will be broken so until I find an answer to that this blog will remain here.

Life is never easy, but if it was it would not be so much fun.

Wham, bam, thank you ma’m

So Seb has gone, Carlos and Danny have shuffled and Renault have a spare seat, all for next year. And we haven’t started this year yet. Talk about silly season.

The speed of these announcements suggest that the deal was sorted in advance and that Seb’s departure was, in effect, a firing. The way that it was done is brutal, but Ferrari have done the right thing.

The Vettel you get in the car is not the one you see out of it. There is a red mist that descends and he lacks reason. Multi 21, Turkey and many more incidents point to a problem that few team managers can afford and whilst he clearly has talent, the dark side is coming through too often.

If you can remember his qualifying performance for Red Bull, emerging in Q3 with just enough time for one flying lap and bagging pole race after race. That skill was a major factor in those four consecutive world titles. That record shows that he was something special and it is a record that will endure.

But like the equally talented Alonso before him there is that corrosive aspect that can ruin a team. Ferrari could see that and had no desire to keep him. They have a potential world champion in the team and in Carlos Sainz they have a very strong support driver with the potential to pick up wins. A classic number one and two situation.

That is why Danny Ric would not have been a good choice even if a lot of us would have loved to see him, with his Italian heritage, in one of the red cars. Instead we will have him in a McLaren and that should be an interesting combination. It will do Lando no harm either.

What happens to Seb remains to be seen, but I am not sure that there is room for him anywhere. Maybe his time has come to walk away, for certainly he deserves better than tooling around in midfield. He is pretty toxic though and who would take a chance?

The short 2020 season is going to be interesting though. If I were running Ferrari I would bench Seb and bring in Hulkenberg to see out the year in the second Ferrari. But it isn’t my decision.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

I have been following some Facebook groups that feature the racing cars that I knew in my youth. In all of these groups there are photos posted of the cars in modern times, preserved and run at various historic festivals, but every time I look at a post from any of these groups and see a photo of an open cockpit racer from anything other than the original period when the car raced I am left cold.

The problem for me is that, no matter how hard the current proud owner has tried to follow an original colour scheme there are changes that have been made that spoil the image for me and, to my eye, make the car look wrong.

Leading the charge sheet here are the modern height roll bars behind the driver. That extra height makes the car look too narrow to my eye and, combined with the modern driver’s helmet, completely destroy the look. This is most obvious to me with the Lola T70, but other cars suffer from the same problem. Of course I understand the health and safety logic behind these aesthetic abominations, but they spoil the look completely and I make my choice to avoid offending my eyes and don’t look.

The other offence that I would like taken into consideration is festooning the cars with cameras. OK, they are relatively small and I understand why the drivers and owners might want to have records of their races to watch during the Winter months, but they are not period and again, for me, spoil the look. I don’t want to watch and so I don’t.

I fell in love with motor racing in the mid sixties having had a passing interest since the back end of the fifties. I got to see my first race, the European F2 round at Thruxton, in 1968 and regularly attended races from cubbies to GPs, and for a time marshalled, through until 1977, but marriage and then parenthood gave me other interests for a few years and whilst I would watch any motor racing on TV it was ten years before I went again, this time to a club meeting at Castle Coombe and a couple of hillclimbs at Prescott.

In the 1990s I met, though business, a couple of guys who were involved in the Coy’s historic festival at Silverstone and went there about three times as well as doing the Goodwood hillclimb. There was a magic about some of those events, partly because, unlike some of the American historic events, over here the guys do race; to see a vintage Maserati or Alfa absolutely on the limit through a corner is a sight to behold and I did get to see these cars one more time before some of the appendages mentioned above started to appear.

Should the opportunity arise I might go back to the Goodwood Festival of Speed because a lot of cars will be there in original condition. I could look at them, and maybe touch them, and hear them go by up the hill. It would not bother me if they were not being driven hard for just seeing and hearing them would be enough to bring back memories of when I saw them for real or in pictures. But I have no desire to go to the Revival meeting there because the cars will, in the main, just not look right.

These events are massively popular and I applaud those who put them on, participate in and make it possible for others to see cars from the past driven hard. There is an audience for these things and that is great, but nostalgia ain’t what it used to be and I am happier with my memories.

In lockdown

How are you getting on without your motor sport fix? Do the virtual races provide any compensation? I am not missing racing hugely, but there is something of a hole there and the virtual races leave me cold.

My pleasure from motor sport came mainly from being there and I was fortunate to be able to see live action at Thruxton, Crystal Palace, Snetterton, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Lydden Hill regularly between 1968 and about 1977 along with a one-off trip to Monaco. Since then I can add Castle Coombe, Daytona, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Homestead to the list.

In my day it was nothing at an F1 race for there to be a gap of more than a second between pole position and second on the grid. You might get some close racing, but a battle at the front throughout the race was a real rarity. There were many times in all classes of racing when someone took off at the start and vanished away to win, sometimes by nearly a lap. I didn’t care and I don’t think that too many others did either because we all turned up again next time.

Being there, seeing the cars and drivers, hearing the sounds and smelling the aromas was what may the day out for us and we would have been appalled at the sort of tactics that have blighted NASCAR and seem to be creeping towards F1 where the artificial levelling of the laying field so that a 5 or 10 lap shootout to the flag results. What is the point of having a 500 mile race or whatever if you are only bothered about the end?

So racing for me these days is a shadow of its former self and I don’t miss it too much. I do miss finding out about how certain teams and drivers have fared though and I feel for those for whom this shutdown is potentially ruining their career.

But in the overall scheme of things their problems are a drop in the ocean. The wider world has a lot to concern it and whilst all sports are a recreation and a necessary part of society, our society needs to survive this crisis first. We can worry about sports another time.


With the country in lockdown and our space at Cirencester Antiques Centre closed we are still running our ebay store, but as things are quiet I thought that I would have a clear out in the office. One thing that surfaced was the set off photos that go with this post. A salutary reminder of the truism that you can’t relax on a journey until you have parked the car at your destination.

I had been working in Chesterfield and had left home at around 0600. In was the Friday before one of the May bank holidays and I jknew that the run home to Swindon would be a tough one regardless of which route I took. Getting away in the early afternoon helped and I chose to come back M1/M42/M40/M5 and then the A417/9 back to Swindon. It was a bright day and my Mondeo estate was running nicely. I had no ‘phone calls come in and was doing quite nicely as I peeled off the M5 at Gloucester and ran up the first half of Birdlip Hill, the Western escarpment of the Cotswolds.

As I swung around the Air Balloon roundabout to start the second half of the steep climb I reckoned that I was around 30 minutes from home all being well. This stretch is a short three lane one with two lanes climbing the hill and one coming down separated by just a pair of solid white lines. I had a green Peugeot 407 about 4 lengths behind me as I cleared one artic and closed on the next, a flatbed trailer. I had plenty of speed advantage to clear him before the road narrowed at the top of the hill and there should have been room for the Peugeot to get through too if I got on with it.

But as I closed to about a car length from the back of the trailer the rig swung out to straddle both lanes. With a solid line of cars queuing downhill for the roundabout I had no option buy to lift and dab the brakes. My attention was focused on avoiding the back corner of the trailer when: Bang! The back of my car came up off the road and all hell let loose around me. I hit my right temple on the A pillar, went back into the seat so hard that I snapped the recline mechanism and then come back up and hit the steering wheel.

Both I and the guy who had hit me, the green Peugeot managed to get across to the side of the road and stopped to sort things out. As we did so an elderly man in full Tour de France lycra struggled past us, then another, then another. Was one of their companions what the truck had pulled out to avoid? Who knows. It was bank holiday Friday and two of us had bent motors. Fortunately we were both, on face value, OK although a couple of weeks later my back went and I was diagnosed with various whiplash injuries.

The photos show the Mondeo back home where it was first recovered to.

Half an hour from home, what could go wrong? I didn’t lapse my concentration fortunately, but got whacked anyway. At least I was not creamed head on into one of the poor souls queueing down the hill.

The Peugeot 407 must have left an impression on me as well as on the Ford because it was with a 407 that I replaced the Mondeo later that year (1999).

For some years after I did my best to avoid Birdlip Hill and even now I will use the slightest excuse to go a different way. Daft really, but there you go.

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