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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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