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Johnny Cecotto back on the race track again...

Saturday and Sunday August 2nd & 3rd 1986 at Francorchamps, Belgium
After Johnny Cecotto's big crash in 1984 during practice of the Formula 1 Grand Prix of England on the circuit of Brands Hatch he needed some 12 months to recover from his injuries. He wasn’t able anymore to compete in Formula 1 and so he started racing again in Touring Cars in late 1985 where he did some races with BMW. In 1986 however we could watch his results on Eurosport where a broadcast report was given after every race weekend in the European Touring Car Championship. In this ETCC he now was driving for the RAS Volvo team. Together with my wife Carolien I planned a visit to the 24 hours race at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. We left on Saturday morning with my Honda CB750F to drive to the circuit near Spa. We arrived a few hours before the start of the race and had time enough to look for a nice place to watch the race. I still knew from my earlier visit to the Spa Francorchamps of the possibility to get above the pit lane. We watched there how the mechanics of the Belgian RAS Volvo team worked on car nr. 1 in which Johnny Cecotto was going to race with Anders Olofsson and Mauro Baldi. A great view from here and I could take nice pictures from up there. When all the cars lined up at the starting grid I saw Johnny standing in his private clothing with sunglasses on his head together with some other people in the pit box. He walked up on the grid and it seemed to me he didn't have much obstacle anymore from his injuries of the accident in 1984. The race was started at 17.00 hours and Johnny Cecotto watched from the pit for a while and then disappeared. A few hours later he was standing in racing gear in the pit box and talked with his team managers. I took some nice pictures again from above them. The team and Cecotto prepared to take over. When the Volvo came in Johnny Cecotto took over from Mauro Baldi. The windows were cleaned, the car was checked and away it was with Cecotto on the wheel. We walked around the circuit to make pictures while Cecotto was driving the Volvo 240. While we mostly were at the end of the straight and uphill corner "L'eau Rouge" it was difficult to take pictures because of the speed of the car at these positions. It already had become dark when Johnny Cecotto came in and handed the car over to Anders Olofsson. Cecotto had worked his way up to second spot in the race at that time. The temperature was going down in the evening and it became a little fresh. Since Johnny Cecotto wasn't going to drive for some hours we tried to get some sleep somewhere lying in the grass behind the pit lane. But because of the cold and the noise of the racing cars there wasn't much to sleep for real. So after a very short break we got up again and went back to look at the race. We watched the race from the standing on the other side of the pit box. During the night while lying in first place the Cecotto Volvo became trouble and it was in the pits for a long time and had dropped back in the field. In the early morning when Johnny Cecotto was in the car again we tried to get behind the paddock to wait for him as he would get out of the pit box. We managed to get through and got into the Volvo area behind the pits. Because Cecotto was still racing the car we didn't have any idea when or if he was going to get through there. So we just had to wait patiently. We couldn't look into the pit box of the Volvo team because the doors were closed at the back. But suddenly there was a lot of noise and so there was action going on in the pits of the Volvo area. Johnny Cecotto seemed to have come in to hand over the car again to Olofsson. A little bit nervous I waited to see if he would come out of the pit box. The noise of the Volvo getting away from the pit back into the race again faded and there was some silence for a while. Then some people came out from the pit door and suddenly Johnny Cecotto came into sight. Cecotto was now standing near to a couple of tires and was in discussion with his team manager Henry Lotterer and someone from the Pirelli company. I made a picture and got ready to go to him as soon as he was finished with his conversation and would pass the truck. When he did I quickly went towards him with our JEB's "Cecotto" helmets to get an autograph on them from Johnny Cecotto himself. Since my wife couldn't handle with the camera no pictures were shot from me standing next to Johnny Cecotto. He had some difficulty to look for a right spot on the helmets to put the autographs since they had these strange streamlines. Johnny Cecotto did sign the 2 helmets which still now are kept in very good condition. But again this time I only dared to thank him and didn't talk with him about whatever. Man, what a stupid guy I was. Johnny Cecotto talked shortly to someone of his team and went away to somewhere further up in the paddock and I took another picture of him from the back with his helmet in his hand. We did look at the race for another few hours but because of didn't getting any sleep for some 22 hours now we got so tired we decided to go homewards. Another problem was that we both had to work again the next day. I remember very well that the drive back home was very difficult because I was so tired and still had to drive my heavy motorcycle. The only luck was that the weather conditions were fine. When we came home we got us something to eat and went to bed immediately. We did sleep in one piece until the next morning. Afterwards we found out the Volvo had finished in 14th place. It could have been much better without all these troubles in the night but that's motor sports. I again had a great day since I had met my idol Johnny Cecotto again for the third time in my life. But it would be the last meeting with him for a very long time indeed.....

ETCC 24 hours race Francorchamps 1986

Johnny Cecotto helmets