Tuesday, January 3, 2012


My brother just gave me a book for my birthday!  In two days I devoured "THE LIMIT, Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit" by Michael Cannell.  This incredible read, of the relatively earl days of F-1 racing, awakened my early memories and love for the sport.

As a 5th and 6th Grader in Chevy Chase, Maryland I became friends with Gary Jani who was  the Playground Director at the Lafayette playground which occupied the space of two city blocks - right across the street from our home.   At that time I had a nice set of Soap Box Derby wheels upon which I built several cars.  I remember hurtling down 33rd Street, past our house and down another two blocks to my friend Bob Hanson's house.  It turned out that Gary was a member of the Sports Car Club of America and was active at the nearby Marlboro Raceway.  He drove an old silver Porsche Speedster with a red leather interior.  With his help we built  a body for my wheels that resembled the current Le Mans style Porsche Racing car.  Gary hand painted the Porsche emblem which was proudly attached the paper mache' nose of my racing machine!

Several times I accompanied Gary to the race track where I was able to "work" the flag stations with him.   One day there was a great celebration and demonstration of the new Austin 850 - a precursor of the Mini Cooper of today.  There were several races for people to witness the abilities of this neat little car.  Sterling Moss, one of the all time great British  racing drivers was one of the racers.  I was up close and personal to this world renowned hero!   I saw him flip a little Austin when it was filled with the extra ballast of 3 News reporters! My days at the track awakened my desire to drive fast!  I will never forget the growl of the AC Bristols, the tiny red bubble-top Fiat Abarths, the bug eye Sprites and the Ferraris and Birdcage Maserati that showed up.  As a seventh  grader I read book on  Car Racing by or about Juan Manuel Fangio.

Bug Eye Sprite Leading an MGA and Sunbeam Alpine

A nicely restored Fiat Abarth

Mt favorite: The Macho AC Bristol precursor to the Shelby Cobra
"THE LIMIT" revealed to me the carnage of those early F-1 days when often more than one driver was killed in a single race while many spectators were also killed.  In the early 1950's Mercedes quit racing after a terrible crash at Le Mans  where 82 spectators were killed and over 100 more were injured.  These cars with no roll bars, no seat belts and flimsy tin bodies raced at speeds around 185MPH.    Today's F-1 cars are miracles of technology with incredible down force holding them on the track, cockpits built to shield and chassis built to shed parts in a crash to dissipate energy- all to protect the driver. 


About five years ago I went to several driving schools, I do not have the driving skills of Alonso, Vettel or even the "older"  Rubens Barichella.   However I did enjoy a most thrilling experience which I will report in my next post!..............