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vinceb

Montreal F1 GP

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vinceb

A friend, his son and I have just returned from Montréal. But we specifically went for the Canadian Grand Prix and although it cost an arm and leg, it was worth it. My friend and I are both gearheads and we are trying to persuade his son to become one too.The flight was uneventful but long. We arrived in Montréal the evening before the first day of the practice. Our hotel was close to the old Olympic village. We made a few inquiries at the front desk of the hotel and decided to try using the Metro. There was a Metro station two blocks from the hotel and we could change over to a branch line which started at the main station (Berri-Uquam) and cross the river to the Ile Notre-Dame. The Grand Prix track in Montréal is somewhat unique in that the track was built entirely upon an island. From the side of the hotel I could see the tower to which cables from the roof of the domelike structure (which presumably was build for the Olympics) were suspended.

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The Grand Prix appeared to be well attended, over the next three days I met people from the United States, England, Venezuela, the Netherlands and even South Africa. We met up with three South Africans in the hotel bar who had come over on a combined pleasure and business trip. At a rough guess I would estimate that there might have been between 80 and 100,000 people on the final day.

I experienced the Quebecois as friendly and approachable whenever we had contact with them, in the restaurants, in the hotel, the Metro employees, the vendors at the different stalls at the track and those in the Metro stations we asked for directions. They were certainly not surly, unfriendly or loathe to speak English and unlike the descriptions I have heard of them in Alberta. Maybe we were lucky but I prefer to believe otherwise. Obesity does not appear to be as much of a problem as in Alberta, the women and men are better dressed.

We did not have any trouble in getting to the track on the first day, we latched on to a retired couple in their late Sixties or early Seventies, French speaking, who make a yearly trip to both the Grand Prix's in the United States and Canada. I hope that when I am the same age I will have the same energy, confidence and freedom of movement. The first day at the track we used to settle down and get to know the route from the Metro station on the island to our stand. It was a walk of at least one to two kilometers but the path meandered through a park with stalls all along the way, selling all sorts of souvenirs which varied from expensive $80 T-shirts to $40 baseball caps, all with the insignia of a Grand Prix team. In this way you could accessorise yourself and show your support for your particular favourite team or driver. A section was set aside on a small cul-de-sac where the vendors concentrated their stalls and as is normal nowadays, there was a stage with a rock band which appeared to play throughout the day. The path crossed the outer circle of the track by means of a bridge.

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I must admit that I was surprised by the fact that several sections of the track which would have been visible from the path, the fencing was covered with black plastic to prevent you from seeing the track. Since nobody was allowed in without a ticket, and there was a no man's land patrolled by security guards between the fencing and the track, the only purpose of the black plastic would be to prevent you from seeing the track. The reasoning behind this puzzles me. I realize that most sport events do not actually need spectators and do well on the sponsorship and TV rights but this approach appears smallminded and meanspirited. The path circled the casino and eventually led us to a row of stands which had been erected all along the straight which passed the Grand stand and the finish line. These stands appear to be somewhat temporary in construction. As the days passed on, the absence of a stall which sold somewhat more useful products such as headache tablets, cushions, food other than hotdogs and sun protection creams seemed more obvious.

Our seats were in a stand on the inside of the track and close to the finish start line. There was no shade cloth and on the first day the sun beat down mercilessly and my friend and his son who are both lighter skinned than I am, were both burned. We had on the previous evening walked up to a pharmacy and bought some sunscreen but in the excitement we had forgotten it at the hotel.

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Now you have to know that the last Grand Prix I attended was when I was 18 years old, and although I have watched many Grand Prix is on the television over several years since then, it was a completely different experience to my first one. I am not sure if anybody remembers but the first few Grand Prix in South Africa were held in East London and only thereafter moved to Kyalami - well the one I attended, was in East London. The crowds were much much more and the level of noise infinitesimally more. There was the continuous background noise made by thousands of people talking, cheering and moving, interspersed with the howl of the engines. At the same time I was continuously aware of the assault on my senses by colour created by the colourful T-shirts, baseball caps, the flags and banners. It was like one of those psychedelic experiences. Definitely not the place to have a quiet moment.

The melodious sounds of the racing engines as I remembered them, has replaced by a howl which I am struggling to describe, at times and certainly before I bought a set of earplugs, it was as uncomfortable as somebody dragging their nails across a blackboard. Well, this is what happens when you have engines revving at 18,000 rpm. There was the more pleasant sound, to my ears at any rate, of the Ferrari F430 cup race. I remain amazed that there are people rich enough to be able to buy a Ferrari and race with them. There were two large television screens, one to the left and one to the right. This was just as well as we could only see the straight and in this way we could at least keep track of what was going on elsewhere. We had a clear view of the Renault, Ferrari and McLaren pits. I saw all the paraphernalia that I had only before seen on TV such as the multiple set of tyres, the refuelling rig, and those little shelters which house the computer technicians and TV screens alongside the track.

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On the second day we went to Crescent Street in the city centre, it had been blocked off and was covered with stalls and vendors from end to end. I came across a shop selling clothing and to my delight saw that they had used three Fiat cubs in the display inside the store, for those who do not know, it was probably one of the first minicars and was cheap transport for millions of Italians in the postwar years. It had a 500 cc air cooled rear mounted engine, was minute in size and even had a sunroof. It was the beetle of Italy. I have a fond memory of travelling with my two sisters from Rome to the island of Elba for a week's holiday. It had a top speed of 85 kilometres per hour, and that was with the wind behind and on a slight downhill. It belonged to my elder sister. We had a blast.

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The day of the race arrived, and as is only proper we had each selected either a team or driver to support. My friend who has been a Ferrari supporter through good times and bad, listened to his heart and dressed up in a Ferrari shirt, but since we agreed that you could have a second choice, his cap reflected his love of red Bull (the drink) and I, after careful consideration had chosen to go with Hamilton, one of the McLaren drivers. Not only was he a strong contender but if anything he was the underdog. We agreed that it would be silly not to support a team or driver after travelling all this distance and you need to nail your colours to the mast. My friend was doubtful about my choice, he believed that Hamilton was still too inexperienced, and given the present state of affairs where he needs to compete with Alonzo and in general the absence of team orders by McLaren boss Ron Dennis, sooner or later he is going to crash, either in the wall or he is going to take his team-mate out.

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Prior to the race starting, the drivers were taken around the track by the Austin Healey club of Montréal. This was followed by a procession of flags which represented a selection of the nations of the world. The drivers set off on their warmup lap , moved into position and when the lights turned green, the race was on.

It was in some respects a strange race, the safety car came out four times, two of the main contenders were black flagged, one of the main contenders was given a 10 second penalty. I have no doubt in my mind that the best driver on the day won. Hamilton is an exciting new driver and if I look at his track record in formula Renault, kart racing and GP three racing, he is a major new talent and if he keeps his head, he will still win many Grand Prix's. Ferrari is not at the same level at present as the McLaren cars and they have been struggling the past two years and is it was not for Schumacher's brilliance, I doubt whether they would have done as well as they did. I suppose this is the normal way in which dominance cycles from one team to the next over a period of time. I am surprised that the Toyota Co still remains a middle of the pack team after several years of trying. From what I have read, they appear to be spending more money than any of the other teams on their Formula 1 effort with little return on their money. And for the other gearheads like me, a Toyota with a bent front wheel, and a 2 Ferrari F430's thundering down the track.

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Edited by vinceb

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Matisse
My friend who has been a Ferrari supporter through good times and bad, listened to his heart and dressed up in a Ferrari shirt

Good for him! Oh, I just hate all these fair-weather Ferrari supporters that only started waving the red flags when Ferrari became a winning team.

to my delight saw that they had used three Fiat cubs in the display inside the store, for those who do not know, it was probably one of the first minicars and was cheap transport for millions of Italians in the postwar years. It had a 500 cc air cooled rear mounted engine, was minute in size and even had a sunroof. It was the beetle of Italy. I have a fond memory of travelling with my two sisters from Rome to the island of Elba for a week's holiday. It had a top speed of 85 kilometres per hour, and that was with the wind behind and on a slight downhill. It belonged to my elder sister. We had a blast.

If you are a gearhead, I guess you might already know this - Fiat is reviving the 500 (see here). Unfortunately it's most unlikely that it will ever reach Canadian shores, so you'll have to go on an Italian holiday again!

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vinceb
If you are a gearhead, I guess you might already know this - Fiat is reviving the 500. Unfortunately it's most unlikely that it will ever reach Canadian shores, so you'll have to go on an Italian holiday again!

Thanks Matisse, no I did not know that :D .

I also now remember that it did not have syncromesh in all 4 gears, I had to learn to double declutch to change gears from 2nd to 1st. The Seicento was being built at the same time and was the Italian taxi vehicle in my youth.

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hennie_dup

Thanks for the report vinceb. I'm definitely not a gearhead, but do enjoy the F1 GP's & really hope that I'll be able to attend at least one live once I'm in Canada. I'm also a big Ferrari supporter who suffers every weekend when they cannot keep up to the McLarens. I'm not sure if the cars have been left behind, or if the difference we see is the absence of the Schumacher magic though.

Hamilton appears to be quite good, but it is so much easier to appear good when you have the best and fastest racing car beneath you. Still if a McLaren has to win this year, I prefer it to be him rather than the arrogant Alonso

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Liz

I'm so jealous! :D Was just talking about the Grand Prix on Sunday morning and saying I'd still like to go and watch a live race someday...

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Matisse
I'm also a big Ferrari supporter who suffers every weekend when they cannot keep up to the McLarens. I'm not sure if the cars have been left behind, or if the difference we see is the absence of the Schumacher magic though.

I don't think there's much of a performance difference (if any) between the McLarens and Ferraris. After one of the previous races of this season Alonso actually felt the Ferraris were ahead of the McLarens. Despite all the technology of modern F1 racing the human factor is still very important. Raikkonen has the talent, but he is inconsistent. Massa actually surprised me, but he still can't keep up with Alonso or Hamilton. Ron Dennis has been nurturing Hamilton for many years, which just shows how important Dennis considers the role of the driver to be. If Ferrari can't win it, I would also rather prefer Hamilton to be the champion than Alonso. After Sunday's race Alsonso has already been whining in the Spanish press about being the lonely Spaniard in an English team.

I've also said I want to attend the Montreal GP when I'm in Canada, but I don't know if I will ever be willing to pay those crazy ticket prices!

Edited by Matisse

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Guest

Vinceb it must have been interesting attending your first Grand Prix in so many years. How technology has changed with F1 cars revving at +18000 RPM. For a techno junkie :ilikeit: like my self the rhythm of these cars is music to the ears. I enjoyed your interpretation that modern day F1 cars sounds like somebody putting their nails to a blackboard or something like that. Canada’s Montreal formula one track is one of the most scenic on the F1 sporting calendar and one I will be visiting once we arrive in Canada. There is also of course the USA grand prix

My team has always been Ferrari and we are four South African’s that undertake a trip to a different Grand Prix every year. This is a boys only trip :D and one thing I can say we make every trip a never to be forgotten event, not that I am saying women do not enjoy formula one? This year we will be visiting Italy/Monza in September 9th and Belgium/Spa-Francorchamps on September 16. We are fortunate that these two Grand Prixs are one week apart and ;) have planned it so we can attend both. The highlight of our Italy trip will be our visit to the Ferrari factory.

:holy: Regards,

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vinceb
The highlight of our Italy trip will be our visit to the Ferrari factory.

I have discussed the possibilty of a trip to Italy with my wife, I believe I have enough aeroplan miles for at least one return ticket :D .

I want to visit my younger sister who lives close to Rome, she is an Italian citizen by naturalization. I would also like to visit my mother's grave, she is buried in the family grave in a small town close to the Adriatic coast. I would also like to spend a few days in the small town my mother's family lived in for so many years. I spent 6 months there when I was 9 years old, my parents received special permission for us 3 kids from the school authorities. Nostalgia is a powerful sentiment and it seems to become more powerful as you grow older.

I would also like to visit and spend some time in Tuscany, visit Florence and Pisa and Livorno, and hopefully travel up to Maranello and also visit the Ferrari factory. My wife has never been to Tuscany and has only seen Venice and Rome in detail. However from internet searches, unless you either own a Ferrari, belong to a Ferrari club or are a dealer, it appears almost impossible to get permission from Ferrari to visit the factory itself and you appear to be relegated to the Ferrari office building, and the ferrari museum which appears to be a separate entity.

Have you been able to get permission from Ferrari to visit the factory itself, Lawrence?

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hennie_dup

I have in fact been to the Ferrari museum in Maranello, and have to say to me it was a big and costly disappointment. Entrance is expensive (I think it was 50 Euro or something similarly ridiculous) and there is really not that much to see. Also getting to Maranello is not easy. If you make use of public transport it's a train to Modena and then a bus (which runs every hour or second hour) to and from Maranello. From the bus terminal in Maranello it's also about a 2km walk to the factory, which is on a side road and not well signposted.

I'm not sorry I went, but disappointed in the limitations. There are quite a few of the roadcars, but not an original Testarossa, which to me is the ultimate roadcar. I think there were about 6 F1 cars from previous seasons, and then some engins and gearboxes in glass cases. The most interesting to me was one of the used F1 tyres. It's incredible to see how that thing looks. I can't imagine how it must be to drive on it, as it is pockmarked something terrible.

As for Italy in general, I cannot get enough of the place. I love the food, the music, the people, the country. If I could get a decent job there I'd be over in a flash, but no such luck. I've travelled extensively in the North, especially within 200km of Venice and visited most of the little towns. Well worth a visit in my opinion :D

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Have you been able to get permission from Ferrari to visit the factory itself, Lawrence?

Vinceb one of our travel F1 fanatic team members that is well connected in South African racing circles and has managed to get us a tour with a little more privileges than an average tour group. However, that said no we would not have permission to visit the assembly line, considered hallowed ground unless you are very very well connected. As a small consolation, we will also be visiting the Toyota factory in Germany with a full access.

Every F1 grand prix we have been to has been a unique experience and through these travels, I have collected some priceless memorabilia. In Malaysia last year, we had a German national sitting in our row that came second in a Michael Schumacher look-alike competition in Germany. This chap was a Michael Schumacher fanatic (photograph below) and on race day had the full racing gear including overhauls racing shoes etc. He paid for his enthusiasm as the local Malaysian folk were all over this poor chap wanting photographs taken with him and Ferrari memorabilia autographed. During the frenzy, we managed to chat to his girlfriend and she said that they attend four F1 GP’s per year.

Vinceb one of our travel F1 fanatic team members that is well connected in South African racing circles and has managed to get us a tour with a little more privileges than an average tour group. However, that said no we would not have permission to visit the assembly line, considered hallowed ground unless you are very very well connected. As a small consolation, we will also be visiting the Toyota factory in Germany with a full access.

Every F1 grand prix we have been to has been a unique experience and through these travels, I have collected some priceless memorabilia. In Malaysia last year, we had a German national sitting in our row that came second in a Michael Schumacher look-alike competition in Germany. This chap was a Michael Schumacher fanatic (photograph below) and on race day had the full racing gear including overhauls racing shoes etc. He paid for his enthusiasm as the local Malaysian folk were all over this poor chap wanting photographs taken with him and Ferrari memorabilia autographed. During the frenzy, we managed to chat to his girlfriend and she said that they attend four F1 GP’s per year.

MichaelSchumacher.jpg

The Michael Schumacher look alike is lot plumper than the real deal and I was of the opinion he looked more like Michaels brother Ralf Schumacher.

:D Regards,

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