My life in programmes: Dutch Grand Prix 1984
The 1984 Dutch Grand Prix may not be the most memorable race in Formula 1’s history, but for many personal reasons it was extremely significant.
Significant why? For one, in a roundabout way that race was the start of my career as a writer in racing. Second – as many people will say – Zandvoort is brilliant, the town, the beach, the people. Third, the first time I went there was 1976, when I made my parents take me there on holiday for the Grand Prix. So I already had a history with Zandvoort.
In 1984, 15 of us went there, on the boat and the train. We camped on the beach, including my cousin, Howard, who sadly lost his battle with cancer recently. Looking at the photos researching this reminds me what a great time we had that weekend as students with no money and yet ‘living’ the Formula 1 life.
We all loved F1. We all loved Brabham, and Nelson Piquet, and Martin Read produced an extremely libel-ridden magazine called Cobra. It was the time of our lives. The people in Formula 1 loved it. Brabham designer Gordon Murray was one of them, and drew his own caricature for Martin and his photocopied magazine after seeing the flag “Gordon Murray is God”. That flag in itself made it into the major magazines.
Best of all, because of the respect that Cobra had earned within F1, that weekend in Holland we were given two F1 paddock passes by someone who will remain nameless, but is still pretty high up in the F1 food chain. We had full access, and it was brilliant. We shared the passes between us, taking it in turns to be “F1 superstars.”
Apart from massive winds on the beach that threatened to fly our tent from the beach (where you weren’t supposed to camp) into the North Sea, we had a massive laugh. As I say, the race was forgettable, but having a paddock pass was not. At the time an Alain Prost win was not exciting for me. But even then – as now – any Formula 1 race was exciting. The moments leading to the start especially.
We had some hot dogs, a few beers with a huge bunch of mates, we were kids abroad, a spot by the fence and a Grand Prix… What’s not to like?
With the paddock passes we were kids in a toy shop. I’d been to many races before as a spectator. I’d been in the pits before and after the day’s action, but into the inner sanctum with an official FOCA pass? Never. That was a first.
As a ‘professional’ I have been to many Grands Prix since. But the buzz from that weekend, and looking at this particular programme, writing this stirred up those initial feelings again.
We found our place by the fence in the sand dunes on race day, pitched up, posted the flags and set in for the race.
But it’s weekends like that which inspire you to make it your career, and no truer words are said than “if you make your hobby your job, you will never do a days’ work in your life.”
I was there that weekend, and truly got the taste of Formula 1 as an insider. And 28 years later that passion is still there. (And I still have a hobby that is my job).
This story I dedicate to my cousin Howard, who also shared the dream.