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…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

The amazing Walter Rohrl

I’ve been a massive Walter Rohrl fan since March, 1980, when in thick fog he pulled out a lead of 4min 59sec on the second Arganil stage to win the Rally of Portugal with his Fiat 131 Abarth. Walter was peering out the side window for most of that night, driving with total commitment, but also with touch and feel and phenomenal car control, as his navigator, Christian Geistdorfer, yelled out the pace notes. Carlos Reutemann, below, who met Walter that year through his Fiat connections, was so impressed with the feat that he later taped the word “Arganil” onto the steering wheel of his Williams FW07B-Cosworth.

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Fast-forward to August, 2017: Walter Rohrl, now a Porsche man, is taking us for a lap of the Nurburgring long circuit in a 1979 rally-spec 911 (minus any electronic gizmos, in other words – as per that historic, Arganil era). Walter, without gloves and wearing 1979 period overalls, is particularly impressive, I think, through the Wippermann section just before Pflantzgarten (approx 6:55-7:10) – a fast rise-and-fall combination that Reutemann, who won the 1975 German GP at the Nurburgring, always felt was the most demanding of the 15-mile lap.

The video comes to us courtesy of FIVA (Federation of Classic Vehicles) and Pirelli.

The new cars arrive…

New regulations for 2017 mean new F1 cars from all the teams.  At first glance, thanks to tighter restrictions dictating front- and rear-wing shape, they’re looking ever-more similar; delve deeper, as Craig Scarborough does in the  adjoining videos, and significant differences between the cars are still apparent. With their wider Pirelli tyres and increased downforce, the 2017 cars will be much quicker around corners and will require shorter braking distances; on the downside, they’re much heavier – to the absurd realm of actually weighing more than my road car; they’ll be slower on the straights; and they will promote fewer overtaking opportunities. Why the latter?  Members of the F1 rule-making committee merely reply: “It wasn’t one of our considerations this time around.  We were simply commissioned to make the cars quicker.”

That bout of hand-washing aside, here’s a look at some of the new cars testing at Barcelona this week:

F1 charity auction

I’m very pleased to announce that we are auctioning a number of unique F1-related items in aid of charity.  The catalyst for the fund-raising is a little girl I know who is battling cerebral palsy.  She plays in the school band, she laughs and screams with the others…but most of the time she’s either in a wheelchair or walking with splints. In order to raise money for her upcoming (very expensive) operations and treatment, I approached several of my friends at the British GP last year.  The question was simple: could they please donate a personal item to auction in a good cause? I told them about nine-year-old Caya Newman, who lives near me, and I told them of  our plan, together with CharityStars and Bonhams, to display the items on-line initially (for global bidding) and then to auction them at an event in the gorgeous classic car showrooms of Joe Macari (www.joemacari.com). The items will go to the highest bidders, be they on-line or “live” on the night.

The response from the drivers and several team people was brilliant – as you will see if you go to the auction site via the following link:

https://www.charitystars.com/foundation/wellchild-1/live

And I was very touched by the trouble taken by all the F1 people. Virtually all of them are obligated to other charity commitments via their teams and are therefore under a lot of pressure not to support one-off fund-raisers like this. The Ferrari drivers, for example, are specifically obliged to centralise all requests through their PR/media department, so  I hope I’m not dropping Seb and Kimi in it when I tell you that both of them asked me to see them immediately after specific races in order to give me signed items within a few minutes of climbing from their cars – before anyone could stop them, in other words.  Lewis Hamilton  signed a pair of his 2016 gloves but has also gone to the trouble of having them framed; Damon Hill wanted to ensure that the overalls he gave me were from his World Championship-winning 1996 season; Daniel Ricciardo’s overalls are from 2014 – when he began to win; and Pirelli, brilliantly, have been supportive from Day One.

I have no idea how much we’ll raise – auctions are always a bit of an unknown –  but I’m hoping it’ll be enough to help not only Caya’s family but also two other charities (namely WellChild, who support the families of sick children) and Damon Hill’s Halow Project, which supports those with learning disabilities.

I’m hoping, too, that we can make this an annual thing – a chance to help some kids, to have a nice party at Joe’s and to enable some very personal and authentic F1 items to be out there in the bidding world.

I’d like to say a very big thankyou to all the people who have contributed items for auction and also to Pirelli, Joe Macari, CharityStars (who have put together the on-line aspect of the auction), Bonhams, WellChild and Halow.  And also to Caya Newman for being such a star. That’s her on the right, with Jack Windsor very cheekily sitting it out.

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F1 tech update with Scarbs

Time for another F1 tech update with the excellent Craig Scarborough.  Although many of the mid-field teams are now concentrating on their 2017 cars, development continues unabated at the sharp end of the grid.  Here are some separate thoughts on Mercedes, Red Bull-Renault, Ferrari and McLaren-Honda, with the final video focussing on the remaining teams.

Drawings: Craig Scarborough; Images: LAT Photographic

Monza’s always fun…

…and you invariably leave on Mondays with some regret.  Here are some of my thoughts as I drove across Northern Italy after another weekend at the autodromo: Nico Rosberg won impeccably; Lewis Hamilton, F1 global ambassador extraordinaire, is still massively under-used by the F1 world, particularly as the USGP approaches; Ferrari, re-structured, are looking good; Daniel Ricciardo drove beautifully at Monza to win his “class”; we’re saying good-bye to Felipe Massa but welcome to the very talented Stoffel Vandoorne; and we won’t quickly forget the GP2 and GP3 races at Monza this year.  It was if the old slipstreaming circuit, buoyed by the news of a new three-year contract, had suddenly returned to life…

Images: LAT Photographic

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Chris Amon – in his own words

We lost Christopher Arthur Amon on August 3. “Arthur”, as Nigel Roebuck and I used to call him, was more than just a very classy racing driver; he was a gent, a sportsman, a grazier, a lovely guy full of humility and understated charm. We’ll miss him terribly…but then I guess we have to be grateful that he survived one of the most dangerous of all racing eras  and was able to enjoy many prosperous years at home in New Zealand. I’ve written a few words about him for the next edition of F1 Racing; and here, re-edited, is Chris himself, talking only a few years ago about various highlights of his career. God bless you, Chris – and a big hug to Tish and all the family.

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With thanks to Peter and Christy Urban, LAT Photographic, Nigel Roebuck and The Henry Ford

Autocar 2Aug75 Amon P4 LAT archive

Thanks too, Chris, for those laps around Oulton with you in the Ferrari 330 P4.  I’ll cherish them always

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