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Max Papis: “Superheroes always wear red gloves”

Submitted by on October 28, 2011

“Me and Dario laugh, because we are sure Greg is now up there playing Playstation with Ayrton! We don’t know who is winning…”

This, initially, was an interview that was supposed to be part of the Greg Moore series, but events over the last two weeks have overtaken us. I still want to share this from an enthralling interview I did with Max Papis about Greg Moore.

I want to dedicate it to the memory of six-year old Michael Wanser who succumbed to Leukemia. Best known as IronManMike, the kid warmed the hearts of the IndyCar paddock, and the racing world as a whole. This story is for IronManMike. As his family said, “Make sure you “be like Mike” and smile today. So that’s what I will try and help you to do.

Despite the corporate blue of his Player’s Forsythe sponsor, Greg Moore kept using his trademark red gloves.

Max explained the story behind the red gloves he himself now wears. “I won the race at Homestead in 2000 – the first race since Greg passed, and since that happened I had decided I was going to wear red gloves, because Greg always told me that ‘Superheroes always wear red gloves’. So to remember my friend I decided that I’ll only wear red gloves for the rest of my life.”

IronManMike was a superhero too, and one of the most touching photos of him in hospital is of him posing as Iron Man. Guess what Iron Man wore? Red gloves… He had many visitors in hospital. Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, and many others took time out and challenged him on racing games on the Xbox. Both those champions had their asses whipped by the six-year old!

In the build-up the Las Vegas finale Dario was interviewed by Mike King for the radio broadcast of IndyCar weekely. Here is what he had to say about IronManMike.

As you can see in the pictures with that radio clip, another visitor for IronManMike shortly before Las Vegas was Dan Wheldon, which makes this doubly hard to write. So let’s have the fun and a smile for Greg, Dan and IronManMike with some Max stories about Greg Moore. It’s better to laugh than cry.

One of my favourite Greg stories came from Max, still makes me laugh. In the Brat Pack days, Greg, Dario, Tony Kanaan and Max were inseparable. Dario: “How can I say it? Basically for six months I never went home!”

One of the things that intrigued Greg was that Ayrton Senna was a Papis family friend, as Max knew him as a teenager. The Brazilian world champion often stayed with them at their house by Lake Como in Italy. Ayrton was Greg’s hero. The Canadian even had Senna posters on his bedroom wall in Vancouver.

“The story I should tell about Greg sleeping in Ayrton’s ‘quarters’ is very much real,” laughs Max. “There was me Dario, Greg and Tony, and we’d been invited to race at Bercy, France in the go-karts.

I remember Dario and Greg the week before went to Finland and Helsinki, then they came to stay with us. I went to pick them up at the airport, I put Greg on the front seat, Dario on the back seat, and Tony had his own rental car because he was going to see some of his friends. We drove down the road to go to my house, and in Italy the speed limits are a little ‘subjective’ and I remember doing 120-130kph as we left the airport, and about 200kph on the highway. I was looking at Greg, and he had gone pretty quiet. Then he said ‘Aren’t you going a little too quick?’ I said no, no, it’s ok.

“I could still see he was not at ease. I said to him “I can’t believe you are shitting in your pants!!” And Dario is in the back laughing and joking at Greg for that.

“We arrived at my house, and one of the big stories that me and Greg always talked about was Ayrton, our common hero, and I was the lucky guy that actually had Ayrton as my ‘big brother’ and my mentor. He helped me a lot, not only in my career, but in my life. We built our relationship through my karting and the mechanic who helped Ayrton out in karting from when he was 16 years old to 19 years old. The same gentleman helped me out and was my kart teacher too. Me and Ayrton built a special relationship.

“So the first thing that the guys do is go into my room, and in there was Ayrton Senna’s helmet, signed from him. He used to come over to my house, and he brought me that helmet as a present. So obviously I walk in the room with all the pride, and it’s one of the first things I can show Greg… He picked it up, and he didn’t want to drop the helmet! He had it in his hands, and kept looking at the helmet, I told him some stories, some special things about Ayrton.”

In a nice tribute, both Max and Dario have Greg’s “See Ya Up Front” logo on the back of their helmets today. But back to Italy!

“I said to Dario and Greg,” continues Max, “the guest room has two beds. And the bed on the left is the one used when Ayrton used to sleep here.’ Before I could say another word, Greg said ‘I’m sleeping in that one!!’

“So, obviously, Dario had no choice. Greg wrapped himself into the same place that Ayrton used to sleep in and, I remember that in the morning, I had a very hard time to wake him up, and he told he wanted to spend as long as possible to ‘catch some speed’ from being in the same bed that Ayrton had been!”

Max considers both Ayrton and Greg as brothers sadly lost. Since my interview with him, we also lost both Dan Wheldon and IronManMike. But even before those sad events, the Italian made a very poignant quote, which makes me laugh and smile.

“It’s actually really funny,” says Max. “Me and Dario laugh, because we are sure Greg is now up there playing Playstation with Ayrton! We don’t know who is winning, and hopefully it will be a few years before we get to go up there and get confirmation…”

IronManMike was told by his family about Dan’s accident shortly before he too died. This was posted on the IronManMike’s family blog page with the news. “Heaven just became an even more amazing place. No fear for Michael as he completes his journey…unless Wheldon flashes that fabulous smile and challenges him to a race once IronManMike’s through the gates.”

Well, I think it’s safe to say that there is a four-player session going on up there now, three of them wearing red gloves, and one wearing white boots and a big smile. My money is on IronManMike.

Special thanks to @Maxpapis, @DarioFranchitti, Michael Levitt/LAT, Michael C Brown Photos, Nigel Kinrade/LAT, Mike King/IndyCar Weekly, Tim Wright/LAT.

For IronMan Mike.

Greg Moore: Part 5, from the heart. – click here to read

by Andy Hallbery


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