Monaco Memories

I have only ever really followed one ‘sport’ and that is Formula One. Football has never interested me, the Olympics turns me off, but hearing the rev of the engine, the squeal of a Formula One car disappearing around a tight bend has always caught my attention.

Watching motorsport is something I associate with my dad. Thinking back to the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix is very evocative for me. I hear the sound of the Great Murray Walker’s excited commentary in my ear, I smell the smell of my mum cooking a late afternoon dinner downstairs, while my dad and I had been banished upstairs to watch the Grand Prix in their bedroom because mum couldn’t stand the repetitive noise of the coverage. I had turned 13 just 10 days earlier. In my weekend breaks away from high school, it was our fortnightly ritual to watch the Grand Prix together.

Monaco was always my favourite race of the season. The street track with its tight corners, insane braking and opulent yacht-based spectators always guaranteed action. This race stands out in my memory as it was so unusual. It reminds me of the competitiveness I felt – my dad was a great Hill supporter and I was always for Schumacher, but in this particular race that all came to naught – neither of these great drivers finished. Barely anyone finished in fact, and that was what made it such a compelling, watching from the edge of your seat sort of race.

I was doubly disappointed as Schumi had qualified in pole, and on race day with heavy rain falling it looked like the stage was set for the German to take an easy victory. As it was, Schumacher was one of the race’s earlier casualties – from 21 starters I believe he was the fourth driver to crash out of the race on the very first lap. The race continued with drivers spinning off left, right and centre, others suffering from various mechanical failures until lap 70 when Eddie Irvine spun and was hit by Mika Salo, who then was hit by sulky faced Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen.

This left four runners and then there was three, when Heinz-Harold Frentzen, the longest name in Formula One retired into the pits. Finally the race was won by Olivier Panis, the French driver’s only career victory at odds of 300 to 1. Panis continued in Formula One for another decade and earned great respect from his peers.

To my disappointment, the result kept Hill well in the lead at the front of the Driver’s Championship and left my dad in a continuing position of gloating with my Schumacher in a lowly third. But most importantly we had shared another fine afternoon of racing.

This post is my entry into a competition hosted by Moneysupermarket.com and IndependentWorldChoice sports.
If I win, I will receive a trip to the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix 
and thereby complete one of the highest priorities on my Bucket List. 
Spectating at Monaco is an absolute life’s dream and would give me bragging rights over my dad forever. 
Wish me luck!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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