After Imola the mood was low. In an act of consummate petulance the bulk of FOCA had given motor racing's public the finger. This clutch of Honest-to-God "robust entrepreneurs" (to quote the silky-tongued Mr Jonathan Aitken in the House of Commons) had withdrawn its labour in best Scargill fashion. On a temporary basis, this meant only that we had a very easy-going weekend in Italy, freed of the underlying dissension which pervades the grand prix paddock of the eighties.
The aftermath, though, was downright unpleasant, and it is true to say that many friendships in the business were damaged, some perhaps irreparably. When the travellers, all of them, met up at Zolder a couple of weeks later, recriminations were rife, and much of the pitlane was a study in sullenness.
Grand prix racing was split down the middle. And it was that same weekend, under a grey and morose sky, that Gilles was killed, this reducing to trivia anything else which might have been wrong. For very many of us, racing's addictive quality was never more severely put to the test. Whatever had assailed this soi-disant sport in recent years, there had remained the spectacle of genius to balance the scale. Now there seemed to be very little left.
For me the basic addiction remains, although you could say that for the moment I'm down to 10 a day. Perhaps, with sensible racing cars apparently on the horizon again, it may revert to two packs once more, who knows? Sensible racing cars were something we most definitely lacked in 1982, as in several years past. And that is where our story begins...
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