Alan Jones, the 1980 Formula One World Driving Champion, and his wife had recently bought a house near Geneva and needed someone who could speak French with their gardeners. Bernard Cahier suggested my name and although I was concerned about my fluency in French, Bernard assured me I was up to the task. The next morning Alan picked me up in his Mercedes. Like other race drivers with whom I’ve ridden, his highway driving was brisk, smooth and effortless. On the racetrack Jones had a reputation as a tough, smart, relentless competitor but I found him friendly with a straightforward, no nonsense manner that facilitated an easygoing and enjoyable conversation. When we arrived his wife and I discussed her landscaping ideas and I did my best with the gardeners. Afterwards they thanked me and Alan drove me back to where I was staying. I was grateful I followed my instincts and hadn’t barraged him with questions about racing. As a result he was relaxed and I had a pleasant, insightful day getting to know him away from the pressures of Formula One.
Dan Gurney and Phil Hill were important to me as a kid in growing up Cleveland, Ohio who obsessively followed European road racing. A couple of my friends had a cursory interest but I was in deep. I lived and breathed it and felt very alone. Gurney and Hill were Americans racing at the top of the pyramid in F1 and Endurance Sports Cars and when I read about their exploits I didn’t feel out of place anymore. They made it seem like anything was possible which is why they are my heroes. I was fortunate to meet and interview many drivers I admired from that era like Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Stirling Moss, Innes Ireland, and Jack Brabham. What I wrote in my “Passion and Precision” catalog still remains true today. “Not everyone gets to meet the heroes of their youth. Rarer still is to find that these men are more than you ever expected: Human and real and still very much heroes.”
Thank you for your support during this strange and difficult year. I appreciate that you took a moment out of your busy day to check out my pictures and stories. Happy Holidays to everyone. Best Wishes for a sane and peaceful New Year. I’ll be back posting in January 2018.
I first wrote about the changes in U.S. Formula One television coverage November 26, 2012 here on my WordPress blog Poetics of Speed. My feelings about the current finale remain similar so it is worth beginning with a re-post of my original thoughts:
“On November 25th the 2012 Formula One Championship concluded and with it the last of F1 broadcasts in the U.S. courtesy of Speed TV. Born on New year’s Day 1996 as Speedvision, the name morphed into Speed Channel and then Speed HD as new owners and technology appeared. As an early subscriber I couldn’t contain my excitement. Here was a 24 hour channel with in depth coverage of Formula One, Sports Car Endurance Racing, Moto GP, the WRC and Paris-Dakar.
Clearly there is a vast difference between attending a race or watching its mediated version. Since I was no longer photographing races first hand Speed’s broadcasts became the most enjoyable alternative. Because my motorsports viewing often occurs at unusual hours I began to wear headphones as a courtesy to my sleeping spouse. As a result, my race watching evolved into a solitary, private activity and the commentators became the voices in my head.
Speed’s principal F1 team of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett were great companions. In particular I enjoyed Matchett’s technical contributions and his fervent appreciation of Grand Prix racing. I also respected the revered Sam Posey’s poetic essays and was entertained by the current view from pit lane via the excitable Will Buxton and previously, the F1 insider, Peter Windsor.”
Sunday, November 26, 2017 was the last F1 race on NBC Sports with studio commentary by Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett with pit reporting by Will Buxton. Once again the F1 broadcast rights are moving, this time to ESPN. After over forty years in the booth the venerable David Hobbs is retiring, leaving the 2018 team unknown.
I’m a bit concerned about who will be the next set of voices in my head so the choices are critically important. I’m a fan of the excellent Leigh Diffey but my heart would vote for the continuity that Bob Varsha and Steve Matchett would provide. For articulate race driver insight and and broadcasting background I’d nominate either Townsend Bell or Eddie Cheever. I’ve grown fond of Will Buxton’s enthusiasm so I hope he returns but James Allen did an excellent job when he had the opportunity. I’m sure each of you has you own opinion – all equally valid.
Change is inevitable – for example on YouTube we are about to lose new episodes of Matt Farah’s The Smoking Tire. I have no inside information about future F1 commentary and surprises are undoubtably waiting off stage. But for now I offer my sincere thanks to all those past voices in my head. Your collective insight, banter, humor and passion for Formula One will be missed.
Thanks for the company.
Bernard had been photographing very close Piquet for some time when he gently reached into the cockpit and slightly repositioned Piquet’s gloved hand for a better composition in the picture. It happened quickly and I was surprised that Piquet seemed not to mind. It was a clear indication of Asset’s well respected reputation and the resulting cooperation he received from the drivers.
Although these three men are wearing Ferrari overalls I believe they are spectators. They are not wearing the team uniforms and are carrying a Ferrari flag. Team members are far too busy working on the race cars to stand around and hold banners.
I found it curious the center man bears a surprising resemblance to Sebastian Vettel. I took this picture at Spa in 1985 and Vettel was not born until 1987 so unless Sebastian can time travel any similarity in appearance is just a coincidence. Or is it? Cue the Theremin sound track…
© Dale Kistemaker 1982-85, 2011-17
2015 Motor Press Guild Bob D’Olivio Award For Photography - Best Photograph of the Year
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© Dale Kistemaker 1982-85, 2011-17