Bobby Rahal: Once a Racer, Always a Racer

Once a racer, always a racer.

Bobby Rahal: Once a Racer, Always a Racer

Once a racer, always a racer.

Jaguar boss Bobby Rahal demonstrated that on the eve of the French Grand Prix when rivals British American Racing (BAR) laid on hamburgers and popcorn for the media and screened the 1966 movie "Grand Prix". While many used the film as a backdrop for beers and conversation, Rahal dropped by the paddock hospitality area and sat quietly absorbing the sights and sounds of Formula One's Golden Age.

"I guess I looked at that movie as a fan," he recalled in London this week. "I saw that movie when I was 13 years old, when it came out. My dad raced as a hobby but I just thought 'Man, that's what it's all about you know.' Grand Prix racing in Europe. That's why I came to Europe, 20 something years ago, because I just thought that's what it was, that's the place to be," he added.

Rahal is a racer, a triple CART champion who twice competed in Formula One in 1978 without success and whose enthusiasm is evident. At the weekend, he attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed and drove his 1986 March CART car up the hill past the stately home and the thousands of fans.

"It was somewhat innocent if you look back but there was something special to see," he said of the film, which features the likes of Jack Brabham and Graham Hill racing at circuits such as Zandvoort and Clermont Ferrand. "The shots of the cars in the rain at Spa, the actual shots and you have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for those guys.

"They weren't just driving a race, they were hanging it out and putting it on the line. I think it just added a dimension to it that you don't really see today."

La Mamma

"And that's why I say to people that its important that the Monzas and the Silverstones and the Hockenheims and the Monacos of the Formula One world remain, irrespective of who's going to put down however much money," said Rahal. "I think a sport's past is what gives it credibility in the present. I don't think we can ever get away from that."

It will certainly be difficult to do so at Silverstone this weekend. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher could equal Alain Prost's record of 51 Formula One wins but the tide of nostalgia is unavoidable whatever happens.

Schumacher may be the modern hero, but 78-year-old Argentine Jose Froilan Gonzalez will be a focus of attention as Formula One marks the 50th anniversary of Ferrari's first Grand Prix victory there in 1951. Old photographs will be reprinted, showing the corpulent "Pampas Bull" squeezed into the cockpit of his car with his elbows jutting out, manhandling his car around the hay bales on the old airfield track.

Schumacher will meet the veteran, who beat the Alfa Romeo of Juan Manuel Fangio into second place in that race and prompted Enzo Ferrari to send one of the more remarkable telegrams in the annals of Formula One. Ferrari had been dismissed by Alfa 13 years earlier and Silverstone marked an emotional end to the quarrel.

"I wept with joy, but my tears of happiness were blended with tears of sadness for I thought that day 'I have killed my mother," he wrote years later. His telegram, sent to Alfa's managing director after the race, declared: "I still feel for our Alfa the adolescent tenderness of first love, the immaculate affection for La Mamma."

Ferrari, so often cold and calculating in later years, provided the passion but perhaps the more prescient comment came from the founder of Autosport magazine in his post-race editorial.

"The defeat of Alfa Romeo by the unsupercharged 4.5 litre Ferrari may alter the entire outlook of Grand Prix racing," wrote Gregor Grant. When Michael Schumacher meets his fellow racer Gonzalez at Silverstone, he may want to thank him for what he started.

shares
comments
We are not welcome, says Toyota boss

Previous article

We are not welcome, says Toyota boss

Next article

Button Keeping in Touch with Williams

Button Keeping in Touch with Williams
Load comments
The 70s US superteam that tried and failed to crack F1 Plus

The 70s US superteam that tried and failed to crack F1

Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing was briefly one of the biggest names on the US motorsports scene, but its ambition outstripped its resources. STUART CODLING relates the story of a Formula 1 campaign cut off in its prime

The key details that boosted Red Bull and held back Hamilton in Verstappen’s USA victory Plus

The key details that boosted Red Bull and held back Hamilton in Verstappen’s USA victory

As the 2021 Formula 1 title battle winds towards its climax, the United States GP added another thrilling act in the Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen battle. Although Hamilton aced the start, Verstappen and Red Bull took the initiative with strategy and were richly rewarded, despite Mercedes' best efforts as the race went down to the wire

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
US Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

US Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a baking hot afternoon at the returning Circuit of the Americas, Formula 1 drivers were tested to their limits. As the pressure on the title contending squads reaches an ever-greater level of intensity, the foremost challengers again showed their class, but were outshone by a standout drive from the upper midfield

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
Why F1's misunderstood party animal will thrive in retirement Plus

Why F1's misunderstood party animal will thrive in retirement

Three years on from Kimi Raikkonen's last Grand Prix victory at Austin, he is now six races away from ending the longest Formula 1 career in history. His friend and former Ice1 Racing rally team PR man ANTHONY PEACOCK explains why there’s nobody quite like the 2007 world champion and why F1 will miss him (but he won’t miss it)

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Plus

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material Plus

Verstappen exclusive: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull Plus

How Mercedes went from Austin practice domination to "very tight at the front" with Red Bull

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be another close contest

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen Plus

The six critical factors that could hand F1 2021 glory to Hamilton or Verstappen

The 2021 Formula 1 title battle is finely poised with six races remaining, as just six points separate championship leader Max Verstappen from seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. In such a closely-fought season, the outcome could hinge on several small factors playing the way of Red Bull or Mercedes

Formula 1
Oct 22, 2021