Travel 2008 – Spa-Francorchamps, Day 2

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Friday, 1st August 2008 – Spa-Francorchamps, Day 2

Friday had its complications, but also revealed the best typo of the season so far when Oliver Turvey somehow got transformed into Oliver Turkey, which he’s not likely to be able to live down any time soon. Especially as the rotten buggers at Carlin all know about it and were threatening to rebadge the car appropriately… Can’t imagine how that happened, really. But me mentioning it to Martin probably didn’t help. It’s almost as good as the day back in the early 1990s when some not so bright spark at Brands Hatch Leisure (as I seem to recall it was) completely messed up the F3 entry list in the programme for Snetterton. I think it was about seven or eight names they managed to mangle, truncate and generally transform beyond belief. It certainly caused some hysteria with pretty much everyone except Oliver, and he just seemed to take it pretty philosophically.

We needed something to amuse us as the live timing was still not working, we still had no TV footage in the press office, and the bloke with the remote control (and there does only seem to be one for an entire F1 standard press office) was again missing somewhere. Quite why the locals always seem to be taken by surprise when the 23 Hour Race turns up each year is an insoluble mystery, frankly. Nothing anyone can say seems to make any real difference, and even being asked nicely – or for that matter being shouted at – by the FIA has no effect at all. Each year it’s the same damn thing, it seems. Anyway, this year we’d been reassured by Jacquie that we could at least watch from the roof of the building. We decided to test it out after a spell in the F3 paddock (which is possibly actually at the Nurburgring it’s so damn far from the main paddock) and a stop for beer and frites for lunch, followed by waffles for dessert, we got in the lift to the top of the building.

And yes, you could indeed see the track from there, quite a lot of the track. Of course there were no timing screens, and it seemed unlikely that the wifi signal for the press office would actually reach that far, but one thing at a time, yes? And that was when we found that the security guy on the stairs had switched off the lift and locked the doors. So we could get on the roof, but not off it! It’s not the first time I’ve had trouble getting places at Spa, and then the security guy said “photographers only”, bounced all the people who shouldn’t be there, and unlocked the single set of doors leading past the Media Office. That was the point when we realised that we’d be OK (photographers’ passes) but that people like the series’ press officer, Jeff Carter, wouldn’t be. Clarification was requested and Jacquie sprang into action, explaining – probably for the millionth time – that no, all Media passes worked. She’s got the patience of a saint sometimes… And so, just before the race, pretty much everyone trooped up there, with Jeff’s laptop connected via his mobile phone. Which was where I found them all after legging it back from the grid and the VERY dodgy looking grid girl.

It’s a long way from there to the top of the building, especially when so many of the garages you would like to cut through are full of GT cars and drivers and there’s no room. Anyway, up the stairs I went to join the mob on the roof (cue much singing of “Up On The Roof” from Jeff until we all shouted at him to stop it). It was primitive, but it worked even if it did involve a lot of running from one side of the building to the other. I especially liked the touch of using the wheelie bin as a desk!

Afterwards, on my way back to the podium, I got mugged by Mika Salo, who spent some time discussing “the little Finn”, or rather Atte Mustonen. “He doesn’t come round here anymore. We all take the piss out of him!” Mika grinned, thus proving he’s as evil as ever, which was reassuring really. The podium had its moments, though it’s ludicrously positioned unless you can photograph it from the middle of the track (which is difficult to do when there are more races to be run). Apparently “That’s what we do in F1!” Yes, but you don’t have to worry about getting mown down by the Formul’academy cars, which makes it far less of an issue. It was the first Carlin 1-2-3-4 and they certainly seemed to enjoy it, which was just as well because the National Class were all grumpy (even after Stefan Wilson’s champagne bottle went off on its own during the press conference), and the Invitation Class were missing in action, and thus not eligible for trophies, champagne, podiums or press conferences.

And that was the day pretty much over. We headed back to the hotel and Edgard produced yet another splendid dinner (and we even managed to stay up long enough to have after dinner drinks). This time we had a lobster ravioli…

Crown of lamb…

And flambeed mango.

I’m just relieved he no longer tries to make us eat four courses, because I just know I’d be asleep long before I could finish it all.

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