Lewis Hamilton on the Today Show

Congratulations to Mercedes AMG F1 team on a great appearance by Lewis Hamilton on the Today Show this morning:

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Lewis appeared before a diverse crowd of fans in Manhattan today with the W05 car and spoke about the rise of the sports popularity in America “… [F1] is definitely building . . . we need to get more people involved”.

Appearances like Lewis’ are certainly a blueprint for showing Americans who and what Formula 1 is about, even if a short segment like this one only shows the enthusiasm of the crowd, it’s well worth the kind of exposure that will only help the sport’s popularity grow in the US.

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Dan Gurney Remembers Jack Brabham: 1926-2014

Dan Gurney with Jack Brabham at the Nurburgring, 1965 (Photo: Bernard Cahier)

This weekend, the three time F1 world champion Jack Brabham passed peacefully in his native Australia.  A pioneer and competitor, just what he meant to the sport was recently summarized in a statement today from Dan Gurney, who raced with Jack and later joined him in becoming just one of three drivers to win a Grand Prix in a car of his own construction:

 

It is with great sadness that I received the news that my former Formula boss and team mate, the 3 time F 1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, passed away in Australia over the weekend. A motor racing giant has left our planet whose combined achievements of F 1 World Championship driver and car constructor in all likelihood will never be equaled.

Dark haired “Black Jack” was a fierce competitor, an outstanding engineer, a tiger of a driver, an excellent politician and a hands-on creator and visionary, he opened the rear-engine door at Indianapolis and raced there, he was a doer, a true Aussie pioneer! 

Jack and I go far back in history together. We raced against each other on the F 1 circuit since 1959 driving Coopers, Ferraris, BRMs and Porsches. In 1963 he hired me as his team mate for his newly established Brabham F I team and during the next three years we really got to know each other. We discovered we shared similar traits. We were not only interested in driving racing cars but in building them, improving them, searching for every tiny bit of technical advantage we could find. I see both of us sitting in garages all over the world bent over engines, talking to each other and to our team: Ron Tauraunac, Phil Kerr, Roy Billington, Tim Wall, Nick Gooze and Denis Hulme.

We shared the camaraderie of a closely knit team pursuing a common purpose, the racing tragedies and the glory days of the 1960s bonded us for life.

Since we retired from driving, both in the fall of 1970, we have stayed in touch. I last spoke to Jack a few months ago on the phone, we were looking forward to the golden anniversary of the first World Championship F 1 victory for the Brabham marque: The French Grand Prix at Rouen, June 28th, 1964, which I won for the team 50 years ago this summer.

In 1966 we both went our separate ways , I followed the trail he had blazed by trying to build, race and win with my own F I cars. I have been told that only three men in the history of autoracing have managed to do that, Bruce McLaren and I won races but Sir Jack Brabham won World Championships, he will be forever in a class all by himself.

I will miss you Jack! You showed the way!

With gratitude and admiration.

Dan

 

Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney at Zandvoort, 1964 (Photo: All American Racers)

 

 

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What I Found on a Visit to Senna’s Grave

Muralista: Eduardo Kobra Location: Vila Madalena, Sao Paulo Photo: Eduardo Kobra

 

Ayrton Senna’s image is seemingly everywhere this week around our connected world as members of the racing community and beyond remember the contributions he made to sport and to a continuing extent, the people of his homeland in Brazil.

Rather than write up a list of his achievements on the track, of which there are many, 20 years after his passing today it seems more fitting to remember his legacy as a force for change and improvement in his own life and those around him.  The racing world will always miss him, and were he alive today, success in Formula 1 would likely be but one of his accomplishments, as many who knew him well felt he was destined for greater things, including one day holding presidential office in Brazil.

Learning the larger story of his goals and dreams for his country are part of what makes Senna a more complete figure for me and less of just a superstar driver, so when I had a chance to visit the country in 2004, I made a special stop in Sao Paulo for the day en route to Rio to visit the cemetery and pay respects during the 10th anniversary of his passing.

Armed with an address and long redeye ahead from Miami, I hopped on a plane and into a seat with all the legroom one could need for the flight, but little else as I was sandwiched in the middle of a row of 4 medium to large guys – it was looking like a long haul.

As we made our way over South America, I got to know them, and the usual smalltalk gave way to why I was visiting Brazil  and I learned my news friend from Florida were in town to visit family.  When the conversation turned to my plans for visiting Senna’s grave for the day, the tone turned from one of small talk into one of concern, as I explained that I was going to visit the cemetery via taxi from the airport.  I was quickly met with a long list of questions, ranging from “Do you speak Portuguese?” to “Have you ever been to Sao Paulo”?

I had handled myself in other countries and situations before, but wasn’t going to let that keep me from seeking the best advice beyond what I’d learned already.  The rest of the flight I took down several suggestions, and gratefully accepted help in arranging a cab and guide at the curb after we gathered our luggage.

My trip through the city was memorable, to say the least.  The sprawl visible through the haze on landing approach had braced me for the traffic down below but the sights, smells, (and for the love of F1) – the driving – were unbelievable as we wound our way along a four lane highway beside a reeking 40 foot wide trench of ooze.  Real city life in Brazil was going to be very different from the sun, beaches and sands of Rio as smog, pollution and other signs of struggle and inner city turmoil were everywhere.

Traveling from the airport takes you through some tough neighborhoods en route to the relatively upscale neighborhood of Morumbi, where Senna was raised and lies today.  Arriving at the Morumbi district after a hour’s drive, the thick smog hung in the air as we started to climb the streets towards the cemetery with no clearing in sight, but as the traffic noise faded into the background, greener spaces opened up with more luxurious high rises nearby overlooking the city.

As we pulled into the cemetery, men were sweeping the parking lot with brooms made from branches and tree limbs, a humble reminder of things as they are in Brazil – simple, resourceful and eventually effective with enough hard work.  My driver asked where to go on my behalf and I started out on a short walk to a prominent point overlooking the district.  The grassy hill by Senna’s grave plaque was well manicured and was covered with the well wishes, flowers and tokens of affection – “Nothing can separate me from the love of God” reads the inscription.

 

Ayrton Senna da Silva 1960-1994: "Nothing can separate me from the love of God"

 

‘Amen’, I thought, knowing Senna was a deeply religious and spiritual person.

With nothing but the din of city noise in the background, I paused a few moments and wondered what it all meant now that I had finally arrived.  The entire cemetery was empty except for the taxi driver, myself and a half dozen gardeners.

Resting for a bit after a tense road trip, it was time to make sense of where I was exactly, what had brought me there, and what was I feeling.  Never having met Senna or his family, there wasn’t anything I knew beyond the many achievements and stories about the man.  It seemed like it should have been a larger than life moment – but sometimes the more profound one tries to be, the more the clearly the simple things stand out.

I was thankful for the chance to just be there, to see what life was like in the place around where Senna grew up and the disparity of opportunity and wealth he saw.  The more I thought, the more I appreciated my having made it safely, the help I’d gotten from complete strangers on the flight over, the articulated bus that didn’t hit us after it’s rear wheels hopped a curb and swerved into our lane. . . so without too much further thought I’d realized it had been about the journey.

Moment of clarity reached, I paid my respects and walked towards the car, keeping the experience to myself as my driver pulled towards the cemetery gates and onto the main road.  We signaled left to go back down the hill and across the street facing us was a huge mural – we stopped for this photo:

 

Muralista: Eduardo Kobra Location: Cemitario Morumbi, Sao Paulo

 

The image of Senna in front of the bandeira looking like he’s ready for another race or another battle is striking.  It’s directly across from the cemetery entrance and I still look at the photo of that mural and see a portrait of someone who’s ready to get on to what needs to be done next.

There have been several books about the man, and nothing puts his story and what mattered to him in so much perspective as my visit to Sao Paulo that day.   If you have a moment, visit the Ayrton Senna Institute and the legacy his sister Viviane keeps alive on behalf of Brazil.

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