Well actually that’s a very misleading title because I’m not really a rev head but it sounds good doesn’t it? When I’m asked what sports I like I invariably reply cricket and Motorsports. I probably watch more cricket these days and I go to cricket matches in the summer but for about ten years while we lived in Adelaide I was a very keen motor sport fan and I still enjoy watching it on TV especially now that we have an Australian driver for me to support.
I’m probably a very unusual kind of fan, I can’t drive a car and can be a nervous passenger at times. I don’t see the point of road cars that can do more than the maximum speed limit, where are you going to drive them legally? I regularly watch and enjoy “Top Gear” but my favourite presenter is “Captain Slow”, James May, and I can get very cross with Jeremy Clarkson at times. (Doesn’t everyone?)
I first became interested in Formula One around 1984-5. Hubby, who normally goes to bed long before I do, was sitting up late to watch the races on TV. This made me curious. What was so interesting? Wasn’t it just race cars going round and round? I think that the first race I watched with him was the Monaco Grand Prix. Seeing the cars racing around the streets of Monte Carlo fascinated me. I soon realised that every F1 circuit was different and that there was a lot of tactics involved. It wasn’t just cars going around the track very fast. The other thing that got me interested was the commentary. In Australia we got the British commentary from Murray Walker and James Hunt. I think that Murray’s enthusiasm rubbed off on me, you could tell that he just loved it all. There were a few British drivers at that time and of course for the benefit of British viewers he reported on them regularly. They all sounded ultra British; Nigel (Mansell), Derek (Warwick), Jonathon (Palmer) and I think a very young Martin Brundle. I started to enjoy hearing about the drivers. Murray regularly mentioned Jacques Lafitte of the Ligier team who was the oldest driver in F1 at that time at 42. He would explain that he lived in Stoke Poges and co-owned a golf course with Alain Prost at nearly every race. Ayrton Senna was “A grimly determined young man.” Nigel Mansell was a special constable on the Isle of Man where he lived. See, I still remember this trivia after thirty years! James Hunt, on the other hand, used to annoy me by making rude remarks about the other drivers.
I was aware that Adelaide was to get its own F1 race starting from 1985 and prior to watching the races that season I really didn’t understand what was going to happen. I was imagining cars hurtling around the CBD but by the time the first race drew near I had watched enough races to understand and was caught up in the general excitement. In 1985 the Grand Prix was the biggest sporting event that Adelaide had ever hosted. The circuit was around the parklands not right in the middle of the city but an easy walk from it. It was quite exciting to watch the over bridges and grandstands going up a few weeks before the race. The meeting was to be over four days and a few days before the roads that were part of the circuit were closed to traffic. They were not closed to pedestrians though and soon hundreds of people were walking around the circuit examining it, looking at the stands and even climbing the stairs to look in the window of the temporary media stand on Pit Straight. People walked it, ran it and even rode skateboards and bicycles on it. In the midst of all this the cars arrived and there was something new to look at as the mechanics worked on them.
The drivers arrived too and as they didn’t have the sophisticated simulations that they have today they also walked or drove around the new circuit to have a look at it. Their verdict was “It looks fine but what are all those people doing there?” This is how the circuit looked back then.
There were quite a few off circuit events to go to during Grand Prix week. I don’t mean the official ones like the Grand Prix ball, Ladies day and so on that were expensive or by invitation only. Adelaide always had a few fun, free events as well. One was the Canine Grand Prix. I don’t think this was held at the circuit the first year but it was a regular event the weekend before the race for most of the time Adelaide had the race. I always wondered what the F1 drivers would have made of hundreds of people walking their dogs, many of them in themed outfits, around the circuit if any of them had ever seen it.
There were also appearances by drivers at some car related businesses. I can remember going over to Burnside Shopping Centre one year on the chance of seeing Nelson Piquet. He didn’t show but I did see his team-mate, a very young Michael Schumacher. Some of the F1 teams used to get involved in family days. One year there was a billycart racing day in North Adelaide and there was a F1 car there on display. I didn’t get to that but I did get to an event that was held near Tea Tree Plaza Shopping Centre another year. I think it was a Brabham that was on display that day. After the event was over the car was to go to the shopping centre to be displayed for the afternoon. Instead of loading it on to the waiting trailer someone said “Let’s just drive it there.” and they did! I loved seeing a Formula One car sitting at the traffic lights. It was good fun. On another occasion I stayed in town in the evening to see the Jordan F1 drivers, Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello arriving at some event at the Adelaide Casino. I found the Jordan F1 car down near the Torrens Parade Ground guarded by several policemen, all with cameras I think. Security duty at the GP must have been a tough gig! One of the drivers drove the car up the road to the Casino. I liked that about the Adelaide GP; it didn’t take itself too seriously.
I didn’t go to the 1985 race though. We did the circuit walk and Hubby was given a general admission ticket for race day which was the Sunday. I went to visit my mum that day and my sister and I watched the race on TV together and both absolutely loved it. In fact we enjoyed it so much that when they replayed it later in the evening we watched it again. I was quite late leaving mum’s place because of that and caught a bus to the city after 10pm. Adelaide on a Sunday night was usually very quiet. I’d get off the bus in King William Street and there would normally be so few people around that you could fire a cannon down the street and not hit anyone. At the railway station it would be the same, just a few people waiting for the last trains or buying food at the Pie Cart outside on North Terrace. On this night though there were people and cars everywhere. There was a policeman directing the traffic at the intersection of King William Street and North Terrace. I had never seen that before at night. The city had been transformed.
We bought tickets for the 1986 race as soon as they went on sale.
Oh yes, Ayrton Senna was on pole and the race was won by Keke Rosberg, father of Nico.