Adam Cooper’s Tuesday diary

Dear All,

Adam Cooper’s Tuesday diary

I didn't get to Indianapolis until the evening, and I was pretty knackered after a long flight. But after checking into the hotel and taking a quick drive around downtown I couldn't resist heading out to the Speedway.

It's a 10-minute drive from the city, along a not a very picturesque route, but the reward at the end is worth it. The place is not very well lit, and at night all you can see is the back of the imposing grandstands. But that's enough to set the juices flowing. A slow drive down Georgetown Road - parallel to the pit straight - reminds you of the sheer scale of the place, and huge, evocative posters of past 500 winners hang behind the stands. It was good to be back after a five year absence, and this was a memorable conclusion to a day that had not begun quite so well.

Actually getting into the country was not the work of the moment, thanks to those nice folks at US Immigration. A few years ago the visa system was abandoned and entering the US became a formality for those from the EC, even when on business. However, what they don't make clear is that two dodgy categories are not easily accepted into the land of the free - students and journalists!

Since there are no direct flights to Indianapolis, everyone has to connect somewhere, and my misfortune was to choose Atlanta, where this little drama unfolded. While I was being grilled another pending case concerned a Japanese 'karate instructor' with a missing finger and a passport that said he'd already been refused entry in Hawaii. He was soon on his merry way through customs while they decided what to do with me.

Not surprisingly explaining to these folks what the US GP was all about was like claiming that I'd just got off the last flight from Mars, and the hole got deeper and deeper. But after being made to suffer for a couple of hours, missing my connecting flight, I was in, having been relieved of $170 for the privilege of conducting my nefarious reporting activities. The phrase 'Southern Hospitality' now sounds a little hollow...

While awaiting the later flight I bought a copy of USA Today, and it was interesting to note that as early as Tuesday the country's only nationwide paper had given the back page of the sports section to the GP. A graphic showed the differences between an F1 and IRL car, and the helmets of all the drivers, so the education process was at least getting under way.

The arrival at Indy's modest airport was a little less stressful. There were some indications that we'd come to the right place, as a few multilingual 'Welcome' posters began to make up for earlier frustrations. And guess who had managed to get an F1 show car into the terminal? Jordan of course, although the headrest was dangling forlornly into the cockpit, and it looked like it needed some attention.

Having linked up with my luggage, which had made the flight I'd missed, I was on my way. I spent quite some time in Indy in 1994, and made a return visit for 500 qualifying the following year. It was obvious that much had changed during that time. All along the 465 highway that encircles the city there were signs of new construction, and downtown was almost unrecognisable.

But some things never change, and after my pilgrimage to the track it was good to see that my former 'local', Union Jack's, was exactly as I remembered it. This pub is a mecca for racing insiders; its walls are covered in paintings and other memorabilia, including a priceless collection of well over 100 helmets that features names like Andretti, Foyt and Unser. Most were donated by their original owners when they stopped by for a beer or a plate of fish and chips. The British host has always had a soft spot for Grand Prix racing, as the odd Clark and Hill pictures testify, but I somehow doubt that he will expand his helmet collection this week.

This being only Tuesday night there were only about a dozen people in the bar, including a couple of old hands from Benetton and Jordan who have a nose for the finding the right places. I'm sure as the week goes on it will turn into a complete madhouse.

How's the weather back home? They say it's going to rain here this week, which will add to the fun. A 50% chance on race day, apparently. A wet race at Indy will be as much a novelty as F1 cars on the banking...

Speak to you soon,


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