The restaurant is all wood and leather. Rich mahogany floor boards in a contest perfect parallelism. While patiently enduring the blabber of the guests, spreading a distinguished glow of polished copper.
The tables stand on single solid legs, made of the same motionless wood. Their tops are dressed with smooth, yet cool, black leather. There is something kinky about the leather, be it in a classy way. Like if Grace from Monaco would, one night, turn luscious on the booze.
The slender yet comfortable chairs are covered with the same leather.
To the left of our table, large flats of plate glass overhang the waves endlessly rolling on and off.
Outside the Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy sways left and right along rocky inlets, each housing a hamlet-like collection of houses. Small buildings leaning rickety on each other. With boats pitching idly in the water of small ports. It is like a succession of villages who together form Marseilles. A string of midget towns that culminates in the Old Harbour, the Vieux Port, from which the Canebière shoots up the hillock that houses the busiest part of town. With shops, pubs, cheap restaurants and snack-bars. And on top of the hill, the Saint-Charles railway station.
It was clear that this was never built according to a plan. The mere coincidences and caprices of history had shaped this. Destiny guiding man’s hands putting stone upon stone, laying cobblestone after cobblestone. There was no plan, no logic behind how the streets and alleys of Marseille turned and twisted. One day, they were building an avenue and a couple of young lovers were holding each other in the closest embrace. So they bend the avenue around them.
And now there is a spot where the avenue turns left and straight back right without anyone understanding why. But meanwhile houses had been built into the curve of the avenue. Carpenters patiently plying the wood of windows to fit the rounded façade. Making it impossible to straighten the avenue out.
That is and will always be the main difference between America and Europe. Europe is not the result of considered planning. It just grew and evolved with the whims and quirks of its citizens. Centuries and centuries of moods, of happiness and sadness, of joy and anger somehow all put their mark on what Europe is today. America, in comparison, seems preconceived with cool logic and reason. It was built to serve a future purpose rather than just being an emanation of history. Europe is authentic, America a considered imitation.
Few places in Europe reflect that authenticity better than Marseille. This is where Charlier should sequestrate Egan. And finding a more authentic restaurant than Peron within Marseille, would be a hard task.
Brain fade Voigt sits to my left. Facing me is John Surtees, a former world champion on both two and four wheels.
The table to our right seats a woman with a young child. The dame looks expensive -fully Hermes equipped, carefully catered for nails and hair- and seems to be of an age to be the girl’s grandmother. Yet, the child addresses the woman as “mother”. Which can only indicate one of two things. Either the lady truly is the grandmother but refuses to be seen as a grandmother. Either the woman gave birth very late, leaving the child to grow up with an old mother. Both, to a certain extent, are sad.
“But we provided your driver with a car,” Surtees is uttering.
“And one that worked very well,” he adds.
Surtees is rolling his eyes direction Voigt, idly hoping for some support in that corner. To no avail. When Voigt needed a stop at the sanitary installation of the restaurant, I mixed some valium into his drink. Which has Voigt now somewhere floating between the heavy duty girls –we bumped into last night in a shaggy pub somewhere up the Canebière– and the ex-hippie turned resort manager he met in Thailand.
Mixing stuff into people’s drinks is not something I would generally do. But Voigt left me no other option.
We were barely seated at our table as Voigt, as usual devoid of any awareness of the situation, was staring at Surtees with blind admiration. And stammered something resembling an expression of gratitude for having received a car.
Which did not at all fit in with my plans. See, Coxon, a Surtees’ regular, got stuck in Shefield, with no way to commute to Monaco. Immediately after that news reaching the world, a friend Marcelo knew back from his Valencia-days, called up John Surtees and told him our driver could make a good sub. That man, proud citizen of the city of flowers, light and love saved our day. Guzik had a short, be it inspired, meeting with Surtees and a deal was struck. Voigt would drive the Surtees and, in exchange, we would make a generous contribution to the Surtees’ budget.
So far, so good. But John Surtees, a former world champion on both two and four wheels, had omitted to obtain payment prior to providing the car. In typical drowsy English fashion, it was probably considered a somewhat embarrassing detail. Being a champion on both two and four wheels does not necessarily make one a good businessman. Otherwise, Surtees would have made sure to get his hands on my money before even thinking of rolling his car of the transporter.
I’m pretty sure that that young former mechanic of Brabham, who was now running his own Formula 2 team, did not need to have that much explained to him. Rous Demis or something was his name. Sounded a bit like a Greek singer, come to think of it.
Surtees was now trying to convince me to pay him. Which would, under normal circumstances, already be somewhat like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up his hill. But was now, in the wake of the race, like Easter falling on a Monday.
Monaco is Monaco and racing there is always a bit like trying to land a 747 on USS Enterprise. To render the racing through the narrow streets somewhat safer, the number of starters was limited to 24. With 31 cars entered for the race, it did not take a genius at math to figure out that 7 cars would thus not even be allowed to take the start. The times posted in qualification would decide which seven cars that would be.
Coxon’s flight only having been canceled on the Saturday, our Jonnie Voigt had not really had a chance to practice the car on track. And we al knew that even with a lot of practice, Jonnie boy was far from certain to make the cut.
As practice started, he initially remained stuck in the 1.28’s, about 3 seconds a lap to slow to qualify for the start. Then, with some more laps behind the wheel, he got his time down to a 1.26.4. Less then an additional second was needed. Marcelo proceeded with some undefined fiddling on the car. And Voigt went out for one last stint of speed and glory; the one that should yield us a qualification.
He only succeeded in getting collected in someone else’s wreck. His time still insufficient to qualify. Our race was over before it had even started. Surtees’ payday would be a long time coming. That much was certain.
So, to a chorus of excuses, pretexts and other trickery intriguing, I witnessed how Grant Riddall lead the field to the checkered flag. With Coxon absent, Riddall had the opportunity to strengthen his position in the championship.
He however had Goissen to his right on the first line of the grid. Knowing the extraordinary talent of the French driver, Riddall was deprived from the luxury of even the tiniest mistake on the start. As even the most infinite mishap would certainly entail an immediate reciprocation from gorgeous Greg.
As the flag dropped the Gregorian Brabham did not waste any time. Goissen jumped past the number 28 Surtees. On the first run up the hill towards Massenet, the Brabham was already stretching out a little.
The speed king from Hossegor was however not Riddall’s only worry. Austin Johnson, driving a one off Gene Mason entered March 711, cleared the Surtees on the outside line around Sainte Devote and was now sneaking away second place from Goissen as they stormed up the hill. Before one lap was completed, Riddall had dropped two places.
Californio Johnson won the sprint up the hill from Hossegorian Goissen. The March 711, actually acquired to go F5000 racing on the other side of the pond, was now leading a Formula 1-race.
Behind them, the entire field made it, almost miraculously, through the uphill section and past the Casino without incidents.
Meanwhile, Grant the Great was making up for time lost, having a prudent look on the inside of Goissen at the Station hairpin. Not to much avail.
Mayhem is never long awaiting at Monaco. And this year’s race would be no exception. Martinelli did not survive one entire lap, crashing into the pedestrian stairs on the exit of Bureau de Tabac. The front and the rear wing were ripped from his car. The front suspension seemed totally bend. The Frenchman, living in adjacent Beausoleil, limped back to the garage and retired from what was practically his home Grand Prix.
On lap 4, Grant Riddall had a second aborted look at second spot into Station hairpin. This time the charge did however not end there. The Surtees pulled along side the old number 8 Brabham on the inside of the first Portier corner. And effectively passed Goissen as they exited the second part of Portier. Grant the Great could start hunting down a Californian, F5000 destined, March.
Being passed by the Surtees did not take a thing away from the brilliance Goissen was once again displaying. The way he was roughing the ride of drivers in much more evolved cars up in his inferior machinery, was just magnificent. It therefore almost felt a pity that Greg now seemed condemned to a lonely run to the last podium spot.
Johnson felt Riddall’s heat and promptly clocked the then fastest lap of the race.
Dutchman Blom, who was driving what, due to the inaptitude of Voigt, was the only other Surtees, felt the rear of his car stepping out into Massenet. The Surtees hit the façade of Hotel Heritage hard and in a mean angle. Blom’s race was over on the spot.
Meanwhile Jereb was trying hard to find a way past Juha Bos. He tried outbraking him into the Gazomètre hairpin, but only achieved a wide exit as a result of it. It was all Dana Schurer, who had been patiently abiding her time, needed. She slid her March past Jereb’s car in true Houdini fashion.
Swiss Jari Bruppacher seemed to be struggling in the Ferrari, hitting the steep kerbs at Casino and apparently missing a gear out of Station hairpin. With all respect due to the old Commendatore, but his cars looked pretty much like slouchy dromedaries trying to wriggle through the bed of a hare.
Bruppacher ended up hitting the inside armco barrier in the Chicane, ripping the two left wheels from his car. Brian Janik, running in the Ferrari’s immediate wake, could not avoid the ailing Italian machine. He speared his Brabham straight into the scarlet car, losing both his lobster claws.
Bruppacher called it a day. The Michiganese however continued his way without pitting. Which pretty soon turned out to be a poor idea as his car was clearly seriously under-steering.
That allowed the train Bos-Schurer-Jereb to close in. Schurer, who was now turning into a veritable female Rasputin, again seized the occasion and for the second time in as many laps, gained a place in the Gazomètre. The one demoted this time around was Juha Bos in the Lotus.
The Loti, by the way, looked pretty much the same as the Ferrari’s around Monaco. That is: not very elegant.
Janik was by now up to accepting his faith and stopped for lengthy repairs, putting him several laps down.
Up front, Johnson was still leading Riddall. The Briton nevertheless seemed to slowly but steadily close up. The most remarkable thing was that Goissen managed to keep up reasonably well with the two superior cars. Goissen in fact remained so close that he looked able to strike back at the smallest hick-up of one of the leaders.
The rest of the field was already lagging behind.
Acerclinth spun out of Tabac. Hlavac, running close behind, could amazingly avoid serious contact. Acerclinth could continue his ways, but was down to twentieth. With Martinelli out, it did not look like becoming a good day for the Tyrrell-team.
Dana Schurer ran out of luck. She let the March wiggle out of shape into Massenet and ended up in the barriers, the car loosing wheels and wings. Another day of racing was done with.
Further back David Jacques had ripped his box of magic tricks wide open and was trying every one of his tricks on Raul Jereb. The icy duck from Rijeka however kept his head cool and did not capitulate. It was the Canadian who eventually overcooked it into the Gazomètre. Braking too late and hitting the barriers into retirement. With not even 10 laps into the race, the attrition rate of the race started to be of an impressive scale.
Ruler Riddall by now decided that it was time to claim his familiar spot at the top back. So he closed in on Johnson. Then, under braking for the Gazomètre, simply moved to the inside. Left his braking a bit. Came alongside the Gene Mason March. And almost easily dispensed with it.
Starting lap 11, the running order now was: Grant Riddall almost obviously in the lead. Californian Austin Johnson following close in second, but already looking like unable to keep up with the pace. Goissen now further down in a lonely third place. Equally lonely in fourth: Martin Lacina. Yves Plaçais and Ray Riddall having an almost feigned dispute over 5th and 6th. Janak on Ferrari, Sabre on Matra, Hlavac on McLaren and Ryon on Ferrari rounded out the top 10.
The number of cars was already down to 19 and those running were relatively spread out across the track. The race was thus kind of turning into Montjuic revisited. Except that here the dresses in the shop displays were all branded with posh names, the cocktails in the bars more sophisticated and everything was, in general, more expensive.
Still, at the core, the Montjuic and Monaco races were, at this point, turning out to be equally boring.
It was thus probably a good thing that Riddall and Johnson started to lap backmarkers. That, at least, might be the source of some action.
Both leaders lapped Juha Bos through the Gazomètre without any fuss. Their next target was Jereb. The Croatian also moved over very graciously, allowing both leaders through in the blink of an eye.
Jonathan Acerclinth, recovering from his earlier mishap at the Bureau de Tabac, had by now caught Juha Bos. The Tyrrell was clearly faster but actually getting passed the Lotus seemed much less obvious. And Bos does not have the reputation for making it easy to pass him.
The Swede was sniffing at every little gap that presented itself, but yet had to find the one spot to make a move. The Tyrrell seemed to have better handling, but the power of the Lotus allowed it to pull away faster out of turns. Having Acerclinth somewhat facing an impossible task.
Grant the Great had been pulling out a bit of a gap over Johnson for several laps in a row now. And as Austin encountered some difficulties to lap slower cars, the gap between the one and two car was suddenly up to about 5 seconds.
Acerclinth was crawling up Bos’ gearbox now. The Swede was almost desperately trying to find a way past the Lotus, while at the same time dealing with faster cars lapping him. A task in which he acquitted himself quiet brilliantly, it must be said.
The top 10-changes in position from lap 10 to lap 20 could be summarized briefly as follows: nada al dente. Maybe, I thought, it was time to hit the gin and tonics again. Imagine that this time, I would mistake Princess Grace for Tineke or Loes Fokkens… I guess old Guzik would always manage to get me out of the Principauté. So what the heck?
That being said, witnessing the welcome that posh Monaco would have or not have in store for the Fokkens’ sisters, could add some spice to the afternoon. Even the struggle for seventeenth between Bos and Acerclinth had now tarnished. Bos again enjoying a four seconds advantage over the Tyrrell.
Bos then quenched any last remnant of life in the fight with Acerclinth. He slid his car into the barriers at Casino and bend the rear suspension. The Belgian came into the pit for repairs. He left with a car that was only provisionally repaired and was hampered by an unpredictable handling. Which ended with Bos smashing the car even harder into the armco barriers at Casino. This time finishing his race.
Fatigue was now really starting to take its toll on the race. Hlavac spun his car into the barriers at Massenet while being lapped by one of the Matra’s. He made it back to the pits but his crew decided that the damage could not be satisfyingly repaired. The Czech retired the McLaren.
On lap 26, Martin Lacina’s March hit the right inside of the Chicane. His car was turned over and slid, upside down, at virtually unabated speed towards Tabac. Where it ended its race on the same pedestrian stairs that had taken out Martinelli earlier.
Mick Chapman, who was running a third Lotus, went straight at the Chicane, down the escape road. He could avoid serious damage to the Lotus and continued the race. Albeit having lost valuable positions.
All that allowed Jundt, who was again showing to have more talent than a Swiss cheese has holes, and Richard Wilks back into the top 10.
Wilks was however within the view of Whited, and the Virginian driver was mounting the pressure. Wilks crashed in the Chicane soon after, leaving the path to the top 10 wide open for Whited.
Steve Parker was less lucky. He could not avoid the Lotus’ debris and got launched into the air. The impact upon rejoining the ground beneath totally wrecked and ruined his BRM.
The Chicane was not done with claiming victims though. Jereb touched its left side and got launched into the opposite right side. The second impact broke up his car, sending the cockpit straight into the harbor.
At this stage, Johnson seemed able to reduce the gap to Riddall to down about 3 seconds. And the gap seemed to reduce even further. To do so, the Californio was however letting everything in his car hang out. Exiting almost every turn on the back of giant powerslides. Which left many wondering how long his tires would be holding up with such treatment. For the time being, the Californiac was however keeping the Brit very honest.
Next to abandon was Gerard Ryon. It was another somber day for Maranello.
With the race now halfway, more than half the field had retired and only eleven cars were still running. Leading them was still ruler of Monaco for a day, Grant Riddall. Gene Mason Racing driver for a day Austin Johnson was hanging about 3 seconds behind. Goissen, still amazingly running third in his old Brabham, was another 30 seconds down. Yves Plaçais in the Matra had risen to fourth and was the last driver on the lead lap.
In fifth followed Ray Riddall with the last running BRM. Michal Janak held the last points scoring position for Ferrari. Not that that would offer those undoubtedly being abused in Maranello much comfort. Position seven was for the second Matra, driven by David Sabre. Jundt was running eight and, amazingly, again was looking at possibly scoring points in his underpowered, underdeveloped, underperforming March 701.
Jason Whited, running for Frank Williams, and Mick Chapman rounded out the top 10.
Johnson’s tires were now starting to show some scars from the abuse they endured earlier. The American nearly spun the car in the Station hairpin. Which allowed Riddall to stretch out further.
Jundt, with a decrepit V8-engine in a ragged off chassis, somehow succeeded in reeling in and then passing Sabre, who had a brand new Matra-chassis with a powerful V12 at his disposal. It left the Swiss driver only one position away from scoring points. There was little doubt in my mind that the Swiss’ abundance of talent would allow him to also overcome that last obstacle.
The racing gods were even about to make it very easy on Jundt. Yet another one was about to go down at the Chicane. This time it was Ray Riddall in the last running BRM. Jundt had secured his first point. But why leave it at that when you come from a country that controls half the banking activity in the world?
With the three quarter point approaching, the race was now so boring that old Guzik proposed to draft a race announcer in. Like the one they used to have at the first Daytona 500 races. Back in the day when Daytona was still ran part on the beach and part on the road longing the beach. That announcer would be blatantly lying to his audience, to make the race more interesting.
He could for instance scream that Yves Plaçais had blown his engine and was out of the race. Except that Plaçais had really retired.
With 60 laps and three quarters dispensed with, the running order was now:
- Grant the Great Riddall in a commanding lead;
- Californio Johnson apparently settling into second;
- A flabbergastingly amazing Goissen still in third, and last man on the lead lap;
- Janak inherited fourth from Plaçais but was already two laps down on third placed Goissen;
- Maybe even more impressive than the Hossegorian’s achievement was Jundt running his destitute March in fifth;
- The second Matra of Sabre in sixth.
It seemed almost certain that, except for an Apollo missile crashing down on the track, this race was not going to yield much more action. It would be counting down the laps to main man Riddall’s magnificent victory. The Surtees’ man was preparing to put even third placed Goissen a lap down.
Jundt seemed set on being at least as impressive as the top three. After having dispensed with a French V12, he now repeated the feat with an Italian V12. Relegating Janak to fifth and taking over fourth. Enzo Ferrari smashed a bottle of fine Barolo into one of his stranded cars.
The organizers hoped that Janak and Jundt would provide some trills during the last part of the race. But Jundt soon started to edge away. Leaving many to wonder how Jundt could leave behind two V12-powered machines in his jalopy March. Things like better handling of the March chassis and the weight of the Ferrari were uttered. But the truth was that Jundt was just a top notch driver who had saved his tires. And was now reaping the rewards of his intelligent and skillful racing. There was a man who deserved a contract with one of the top teams.
And Voigt would be more than happy to take over the destitute March.
Besides Johnston now fishtailing his car ever more insanely out of the hairpins, there was really nothing to tell about the race.
With 5 laps remaining, Sabre had reeled in Janak and could now start imagining how to maybe step a position up. This being Monaco, and the tires by now worn off, getting past Janak would not be a walk in the park.
But then, between Tabac and Gazomètre, a gap suddenly opened up and the Matra was in fifth. It was later rumored that the Commendatore at this point simply switched off his television and made a phone-call to Turin.
With two laps to go, Whited thirsted for some of the attention and smashed his car into the barriers at Massenet. He lost the entire front of the March, including a wheel. But decided to continue without even stopping at the pit. It would earn him a one-race suspension.
Nothing could however stop Grant Riddall from taking his second consecutive win. Wild card Johnson took second with Goissen rounding out the podium. Jundt impressively took home three points for third. Sabre and Janak were the last two point earners.
With Coxon being absent, Riddall also substantially enhanced his position in the provisional standings. Riddall now enjoys a 9 points lead on his team mate Coxon, who still holds second. Johnson amazingly shoots to third in the championship standings, on the back of only one race. Fredriksson, Goissen, Hlavac and Jundt were tied for fourth.
The series will now head out of the Southern cities into the dunes of Zandvoort. But one thing seemed certain. Already at this early stage of the season, it seems that the final honors will be going to a Surtees.
Then again, the championship is still long.