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International Motorcycle Races Raalte 1978

Getting really close to Johnny Cecotto...

Sunday June 11th 1978 at Raalte, Holland
We were going to the motorcycle races again. I only had been able to see one race before in which Johnny Cecotto participated and that was back in 1975 in Francorchamps, Belgium where he won the 250cc. I always followed his results on radio, television, newspapers and magazines. Today Johnny would compete the International motorcycle races at the Luttenbergring in Raalte in the 500cc. Together with my father, mother and my brother and his girlfriend Corine we went to Raalte by train and bus. It was very crowded and so we came too late for heat 1 in the 500cc. At the circuit I tried to get a glimpse of the race that already was coming to an end but I was still too small to see much of it. I only heard the speaker say that Cecotto had finished 4th in the first heat . So when the race was over we walked towards the paddock when I suddenly saw Johnny Cecotto walking right in front of me. I remember the strange feeling to see him just a few meters in front of me, a kind of pleasant but scary feeling. He still had his helmet on and walked together with his girlfriend Manuela. The name CECOTTO on the back of his red-white-blue leathers only gave me the confirmation it really was him. Instead of going towards him I got afraid and didn't even dare to get an autograph. For me he was "the big” Johnny Cecotto and I was only an ordinary guy who just had become 15 years old. My mother pushed me in the back and I ran a bit harder to overtake him and gave him a small peace of paper with a pen. While Johnny Cecotto was still walking and talking in Italian (?) to Manuela he did put his signature on the small paper. My mother made a picture of him from the front and although his helmet still was there you could clearly see him smile. I was overwhelmed by this event. We followed him in distance to see where he was staying in the paddock. We watched how his Japanese mechanics worked on his red and white Yamaha. A while later Johnny came to the Yamaha tent and my father took a picture of him. Johnny went to visit his brother José who also was racing here in Raalte. My mother told me I had to go to him so she could make a picture of me with Johnny. But I didn't dare to ask or say anything to him so to go stand next to Cecotto for a picture was even further away for me. Although he could have been my older brother (he was seven years older than me) I only saw him as my "great idol" in his red, white and blue Yamaha jacket with big sunglasses on his head. Johnny was talking to his brother and even without any words from me he knew what we were meant to ask. While I was getting closer to him step by step he turned around a little and smiled. My mother quickly made the picture before I could change my mind. At that moment I rather would have ran away but now I'm happy with it and I can laugh about it (I think Johnny will also laugh when he reads this). I didn't see much of the 2nd heat of the 500cc. It just was too crowded. We went home before the race was over and later I heard that Johnny Cecotto had finished in 3rd position. Also he was 3rd overall. So that was my first "scary" meeting ever with Johnny Cecotto which I still remember very clearly. Surely Johnny doesn't know about that anymore. But that's how we met for the very first time. Would I meet Cecotto again in the future? Well, I just had to because years later I lost the autograph I got from him in Raalte when my mother cleaned the house once and threw away a part of my Cecotto stuff I had collected so far at that time. So I just had to get me a new autograph from Johnny Cecotto somehow and somewhere.....