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Meeting Johnny Cecotto in person the first time “for real”...

Saturday December 8th 2001 at Essen, Germany
Today I would finally meet my great idol Johnny Cecotto in person for the first time since 15 years. I did see him in some races during his motorcycle and car racing career but never really got a chance to meet or get near him. And the times I was standing near him I didn’t make any contact to him as for I was looking up to him too much. For me Johnny Cecotto was the GREAT racing driver and I was just an ordinary boy. At least that was how I looked at these things. With computers and internet being introduced to me in the late 90’s I had better ways to follow the results of Johnny Cecotto in racing. In the year 2001 Johnny was racing the German V8Star series and in the meantime I had started working on a personal website. This website was about all my interests and of course it had a big part about my idol Johnny Cecotto. Already then I found that a lot of people still were fans of him looking at the messages I received by internet. In this V8Star series of 2001 Cecotto became the champion and I was very happy with this of course. Now because of my interest website I became in contact with Vicente Fernández, a Venezuelan friend of Johnny, and also with Giovanni Cecotto, his father. Now and then we had contact by e-mail and I also did sent some videotapes to Giovanni Cecotto in Venezuela with footage of Johnny’s career in cars and on motorcycles. Then it came to my attention that in December 2001 Johnny Cecotto would be a guest with Irmscher Motorsport at the Essen Motor Show in Germany. And so I asked them if they maybe could help me to meet Johnny Cecotto there and so they did. Vicente and Giovanni informed me that Johnny knew that I was coming and I could meet him there in Essen at the Motor Show. That was a big surprise for me. I never thought I ever would be meeting Johnny Cecotto in person. I was very excited and happy about it but also felt very nervous. And so on this Saturday December 8th 2001 I went to the Essen Motor Show together with my wife Carolien, daughter Lindsey and my best friend Ardie. At the Motor Show we went to Irmscher where Cecotto's car was exposed. Johnny Cecotto was not there though and so I asked an employee of Irmscher where he was. He said that Johnny would give autographs to the fans at 13.00 hours here at the Irmscher stand. I took pictures of his car and racing gear and since we did have some time left we looked around at the Motor Show first. At 12.45 hours we came back to Irmscher and waited for Johnny Cecotto to arrive. Without noticing he had walked by me and stood right behind us talking to some members of the pit crew of the Irmscher V8Star team. Some time later he was sitting behind a chair and table and started giving autographs to his fans. I waited for a while since it was crowded and when most of the fans were gone I went towards. The guard who was behind him looked a little bit concerned because I got so close to Johnny Cecotto. I was now standing next to him and told who I was and asked if his father had told him that I was coming. "Ah yeah, sure, it's very nice to meet you" Johnny said. Now the guard stepped back as for he saw that Johnny knew about me. I asked Johnny Cecotto if I could meet him personally later that day here. "Yeah sure" he said and we made an appointment for 15.00 hours. In this minute I already had said more to him than in my 3 earlier encounters in the past. We went for something to eat and walked around at the Motor Show. However I was more interested in my meeting with Johnny Cecotto and so we were back early at the Irmscher stand. At 15.00 hours Johnny Cecotto came out to take seat at a separate table at the Irmscher stand which wasn’t available for public and got something to eat from the Irmscher hostess. I went to him and when he saw me Johnny Cecotto stood up and gave me a hand. "Hi John" he said, “Welcome” and invited me at the Irmscher table. Although he was very kind I really felt very nervous. Johnny had no objections if my friend took pictures of us. Other people also took pictures of Johnny Cecotto and me sitting together, a weird feeling. Later a picture of Johnny and me at this table while he was eating was published in a report about the Motor Show somewhere on internet. Very strange to see!! Here I sat next to and talking to the person who was my idol for 26 years. I was happy but feeling uncomfortably at the same time. I hope I didn't say or do anything stupid. Johnny was very kind though and he's a normal guy like you and me but I still looked at him as "the great Johnny Cecotto". My wife Carolien and daughter Lindsey were also invited to sit at the table. Conversation was difficult though because they don't speak English. I don't recall everything we talked about because of my nerves at that time. Some objects were my contact with his father Giovanni and the videotapes I sent to him in Venezuela. We talked about his son Johnny Amadeus who also wanted to start racing as well and about his old racing gear. He said he would see if he could get me a LEM helmet he used in the 70’s in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. I think he forgot about that and hope he will remember when he reads this (NOTE: in December 2003 I received a JEB's helmet used by Johnny in his last GP motorcycle race in Germany 1980; THANK YOU JOHNNY CECOTTO!!). Johnny signed some posters I had with me. I gave him a nice photograph of 1978 on his Yamaha 500 at the Salzburgring. After being together for more than half an hour he had to go to the V8Star stand. Johnny gave me a present: a "Johnny Cecotto watch". A collectors item to me now. He thanked me for being his fan for such a long time. I would be as long as he would race and also afterwards. I thanked Johnny Cecotto for his time and present and said good bye. With a happy feeling I went home. I met Johnny Cecotto "for real" the very first time today. Thanks to Giovanni, Vicente and of course Johnny himself.....
PHOTO GALLERY TO FOLLOW

Essen Motor Show 2001

Johnny Cecotto Irmscher stand & John
Johnny Cecotto & John
Johnny Cecotto watch