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Nannini: A different viewpoint

Submitted by on April 16, 2013

Archie Scott-Brown

Motorsport Retro readers have opinions, we know that from our bursting inboxes and feedback on Facebook and Twitter. You guys speak from around the world with astounding knowledge, and sometimes the opinions that can only be described as ‘controversial’.

By Andy Hallbery 

My recent Alessandro Nannini story set my Twitter inbox on fire. Not since my Alex Zanardi series have so many people voiced opinions. Most were about ‘bravery’ and ‘inspiration’, both I agree fair topics and replies.

A lot were about Nannini who – judging by the response – was one of Formula 1 most-loved racers (and had the nicest eyes, another recurring theme!).

But one reply stopped me in my tracks, for many reasons. So much so I called the guy who wrote in, who not only had his fair share of opinions, but he knew exactly what he was talking about.

He is Gary Hawkins, a motorsport photographer who I worked with many years ago. He was very frank in his thoughts. “What’s all the fuss about?) he asked. “Watch Senna’s qualifying laps at Monaco – he does a lot of that with just one hand.”

To some that’s insensitive fighting talk. From Gary, he’s talking from experience having lost his leg in a motorsport accident at Silverstone. What he says is true, and again gives us a chance to climb on-board with the Brazilian on the streets for an out-and-out onslaught. Not that we need an excuse do we everyone? Volume up everyone.

Ok Gary I see your point, but he does use it on the critical corners. Straight away he counters: “What about Archie Scott Brown? (the photo at the top of the page). He was born mostly without arms, and he took the fight to Fangio, and often won.”

Hawkins and I talked of Kubica (“If he can lap a DTM car that quick he has enough in my mind for F1”. His mind needs to know his body is ready. I think it is, and laps will help.)

Most compellingly Hawkins talks of Nannini, telling me – and explaining – things I did not know.

Doctors sewed Nannini’s arm back on, the doctors tried to save Hawkins’ leg after he was hit by a Mazda MX5 that had a stuck throttle. For 15 months he fought daily pain. He was told that the accident would have cost him his leg were it not for the surgeon, who had operated on Barry Sheene shortly before. “I kept it 15 months, then I had it amputated. Suddenly I could live again. Until then I had no balance and I was effectively dragging around a dead weight,” says Hawkins today. “Nannini was offered the same, and chose to keep his arm. Not me with my leg, but it wasn’t an easy decision.”

Gary resumed his photographic career, and does work for disabled publications as well as racing. Like the others he gets on with life as though nothing had happened, and with humour. “Zanardi,” he says. “Not sure you can call him an amputee! He had no choice… But I had done some work with him, and his passion is still there. Nannini is the same.”

It’s a cold Thursday, and it’s Brands Hatch. The club racers are testing, and Gary grabs his cameras and walks back trackside, enthusiasm for motorsport undiminished.

Have your say like Gary. Follow @MotorsportRetro and @Hallbean on Twitter and join in the Motorsport Retro discussion on the site’s page on Facebook

Gary Hawkins Photography:

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