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My life in F1 race programmes: Austria 1985

Submitted by on February 29, 2012

1985 Austrian GP

I’m sure you know where you were when Ayrton Senna died, but do you remember where you were for the Austrian GP in 1985? I do…

This is the first in a series of the story behind the F1 races, from my personal point of view, all ignited by my collection of race programmes. I will tell you the story of the race, show you they key moments ­– and then my memories, mostly funny. I will start with one that fits into the last category!

What is your instant memory of the Austrian Grand Prix in1985? Alain Prost cantering to a 30-second win for McLaren to take the joint championship lead with Michele Alboreto? A start-line crash that was practically cleared up, yet they still stopped the race allowing Prost to switch cars (even though his wasn’t damaged, just wrong set-up)?

Or is it the amazing Andrea de Cesaris and his muddy Ligier flip up the grass bank?

I have many memories and photos from that race weekend, and as I said, with all these programmes, who needs a diary? Join me right now for my week in Austria, 1985.

Austria 1985, Osterreichring, August 16-18

I was 18, didn’t have a job and with a friend saved up to drive to Zeltweg, Austria and then Amsterdam, Holland. A 10-day, best part of 2000-mile road trip, designed around the Austrian and Dutch Grands Prix. Our accommodation mostly consisted of a tent, or the car, and the music cassette of choice was Propaganda’s Secret Wish. God knows how many times we listened to that on the road.

On the ferry over to France, we bought Autosport, and learned of the death of Manfred Winkelhock in a sportcar crash in Canada. Not a good start to the trip. Irishman Kenny Acheson would take over the RAM drive.

Things looked up when we eventually arrived at the Osterreichring, what an absolutely brilliant circuit. It is such a shame they hacked the track apart years after.

We found a camping spot on the outside of the legendary Hella Licht Chicane, the first turn on the old circuit. The next four days were taken up with loud music, beer, Italian campers, German campers, Bratwursts, and a genuine Grand Prix party atmosphere in the noisy campsite.

And rain. Then more rain, and yes, more torrential rain. The tents were floating. Did the party stop? No.

Race day, and for the warm-up we went to the Bosch Curve again, an awesome corner that also never survived the rebuild. It was a flat-out right-hander, with no run-off at all. Us mere spectators were no more than 10 feet from the track, with a small fence between us and the cars – great for photos.

For the race we headed back to the main hill and found a spot on the bank that overlooked most of the track. The paths were muddy, the grass was soaking wet, but by then so were we, so who cared? The race started, they crashed, they red-flagged, they restarted.

On the soggy bank we didn’t have a clue what was going on! Then Andrea de Cesaris came walking by covered in mud. And about 50 feet away was his car. Neither of us saw what happened right in front of us…

Monday morning it was time to get supplies for the drive to Zandvoort, after we’d packed the soggy tent. While we were buying apples, croissants and chocolate for the drive at the local shop, we saw the headlines on the Austrian papers….

De Cesaris: “Ich dachte, ich sei tot” which, roughly translated, means “I thought I was dead”. In my rubbish German I asked the guy what happened. He just mimed with his hands rolling over and over. That had happened right in front of us….?!

A race to remember for me. Soggy, wet, camping, a quite brilliant track, missing the big moment in front of our faces, and another Prost win.

It’s a cliché, but those were the days. Keep coming back for more memories stimulated by race programmes, and races I’ve been to since 1974.

And if you were at this race, share you memories with us in the comments, or on our Facebook page. The more memories the better.

I wonder where shall we go next week…? I have a feeling it will be Brands Hatch, but what year?? Have a guess, get it right and there could be a prize.

By Andy Hallbery follow me on Twitter @hallbean

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