2008 Brooklands Double 12
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"Pap" Squad

Another weekend, another assignment……….two weeks ago it was a 42 hour Saturday during this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours while witnessing Audi snatch victory from a hitherto dominant Peugeot squad………..then last weekend to Silverstone and Aston Martin Owners’ Club meeting known as the St. John Horsfall Trophy. Possibly as many as 700 Aston Martins assembled and yet all the atmosphere of a “Bring and Buy” sale at a remote parish hall. Can’t quite imagine a Ferrari festival being so low key………or so lacking in any apparent interest from the boys and girls from the Maranello factory.

Marketing products to existing owners who are enthusiastic enough to celebrate/show off/race the brand would seem a no brainer to me. But there was no mention or sign of the fantastic victory scored by the 009 Aston the previous week at La Sarthe. Maybe that’s why marketing folk earn huge sums and I am a penniless hack…….it would seem to be the case.

So what did this weekend bring?

My local track is Brooklands even though it has been closed since 1939. Growing up in the 60s and going to school in close proximity to the circuit I would hear the engines testing and planes flying in and out as the Vickers VC10 and Concorde assembly lines churned onwards and upwards.

Of course that was back then, in common with most of the country, practically nothing is actually made on the site these days…….it acts instead as a retail park, a distribution centre and tucked away in a corner is the Brooklands Museum heroically dedicated to preserving and celebrating the memory of the world’s first purpose built circuit and what remains of the fabulous banking.

Some five years ago Mercedes Benz began their project “Mercedes Benz World” with a 17,000m2 edifice to house a collection of Stuttgart’s finest and as luck would have it this is located next to the Brooklands Museum. This has been a major boost to revival of the Museum’s fortunes, that and the momentum generated by the Centenary celebrations last June. To build on this interest it was decided to hold another event, a joint venture between the occupiers old and new, the Brooklands Motoring Festival. The brand that this is being marketed under is “the Double Twelve”

That story goes that back in the 20s the locals were horrified when they found out that the Junior Car Club (makes you think of Jeeves and Wooster) planned to emulate the French and run a 24 hour race through the weekend…………to avoid upsetting the denizens of St. George’s Hill the event was run in two parts, hence the name.

For 2008 the alliance between the Museum and Mercedes continued and with the British Grand Prix being run next week it was an ideal platform to show off the two stars of the Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes team to their adoring public. To showcase their talents a 2007 F1 car would make runs around the Mercedes  test track along with other outings in a 1955 W196 and also a 722GT. Around this nakedly corporate demonstration would fit the gentlemanly activities of the Museum’s members and this would determine a winner based on a Concours d’Elegance plus various driving tests. These tests would be based on the original events and included the Test Hill, Wiggle Woggle, Half Mile etc. ….don’t ask, just seeing the beautiful, rare cars in action was enough.

So in anticipation of the Fleet Street interest Suttons (purveyors of very fine motorsport images) called me up and asked me to cover the appearances of the two GP stars………in reality this meant Lew-is who is hyped to the point of madness by an increasingly desperate media (particularly ITV) in the UK. Quite how weird this would be I did not anticipate.

The idea was that our young hero would be presented to the crowd, interviewed and then endure a photo call. Sir Stirling Moss was also present as a former hero of the Benz brand for a similar programme.  Of course as Lewis had other engagements earlier in the day he was running late, even superstars get delayed in this crowded, screwed up country. His arrival on a golf cart with security jogging alongside was the first warning that the world of F1 stardom was a bit different from dealing with Allan McNish……..this was In the Line of Fire territory…………would Clint make an appearance? Where was Dirty Harry?

The photo shoot was terrible……for many reasons, most too technical or boring to go into ….but somehow I scraped a result and developed a new found respect for the regular “Paps” who put up with this kind of stupidity every working day and still manage to come back with the goods, it would not be for me. I’ll be nicer to Nishy, TK and Dindo in future.

A rare example of optimism was exhibited during the obligatory bellowing from the snappers of “ Over here, Lewis” and “This way, Lewis” when a voice was heard over the others “Lewis, over here to the ugly guy in the front row” yeah right where would you start…………..

As an aside the only time I have seen the snappers’ shouting ritual really be effective was an encounter between the then F1 world champion, Damon Hill and rock ‘n roll smudger, Lawrence Baker……..after the initial flurry of flashes, the distinctive Baker tones were heard above all the rest….

“Damon, look at my Cock!”

Of course LB was referring to the large rubber chicken now attached to his camera……Damon along with the rest of us stared and laughed in equal measure……….Baker got his shot.

The rest of the day unwound with Hamilton giving demonstration laps in the F1 car with every manner of mapping and traction control engaged but still looking as if the beast might vault the barriers and assault us all. I felt on balance that he was a tad graceless, going through the motions but then I suppose at 21 this is just another day at the office and we all have days like that. He is after all a racing driver not a pop star. Then, as I was leaving, I got a small insight into the goldfish bowl world that a celebrity such as he inhabits.

I was headed for the car park still wearing the plastic florescent media jacket, so welcome on such a hot day, I was approached by a woman, perhaps aged around 40 with an almost hallucinatory glow on her face………

“Are you with the TV Crew?” she babbled.

“It’s the best day of my life”

“Lewis shook my hand and signed an autograph”

“It’s the greatest thing that has happened to me”

This disturbing stuff carried on as I walked toward the exit and I gently directed her towards the Information Desk when she made enquiries about some TV interview that she seemed convinced that I was part of……

Cue rant from Old Git…….Celebrity Madness……….Big Brother……..not like this in my day……….lack of respect….Beatlemania……Bobbysoxers…Oh!

Reflecting for just a moment it would appear that this sort of insanity is par for the course in the world of celebs from A to Z, so building a shell to take refuge in while lunacy abounds seems an essential survival tool.

For a 21 year old Lewis has learned that lesson quickly…………so perhaps I can forgive his indifference at the shoot, it probably explains why the Paps don’t take any it seriously or personally. Another day at the office……

Not surprisingly Heikki’s appearance on the Sunday did not generate the same hysteria………he did the usual Finnish things, looking expressionless and driving cars sideways, I was unable to confirm drinking or saunas……….good to see that some things never change.

The Sunday Telegraph coverage showed how the best laid plans of the PR folk can be dashed……….the shot from Saturday that was run was not from the carefully scripted shoot but of our lad’s golf cart on two wheels as he sped away from the encounter with the Paps, one of the pros had nailed it……..Top Man.

Oh and here are a few snaps to illustrate what was a good weekend at Brooklands, if you get the chance next year go for the day.

Next weekend? Oschersleben I’m afraid. Very disappointing as my good friend Marcus would say..

John Brooks, July 2008



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