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Seeing Johnny Cecotto becoming Champion in V8 Star...

Saturday July 21st 2002 at Nürburgring, Germany
Today we were going to the V8STAR race at the Nürburgring, Germany. We did inform Vicente who said Johnny would surely welcome us. Theoretical Johnny Cecotto could be the new champion today but personally I didn't expect that. That possibly could happen in Oschersleben at the last race which I also had planned to visit. At 04.30 hours we went to the Nürburgring where at 08.30 hours practice would start. This time I was with my wife and daughter while my son had to play football. We were at the paddock when Cecotto's car was still there. Shortly after that the car was pulled to the pit but Johnny wasn't seen yet. A few minutes later when the Irmscher crew already had left Johnny came out in his racing gear with Günther Irmscher jr. My wife made some video footage as I walked to Johnny. When he saw me he was very surprised. "Hey John, how are you?" he said. He shook my hand and said: "I didn't know you were coming". I walked with him for a short distance and wished him good luck for practice and said I would see him later. In practice there were some problems with the car but he did manage to get 7th position. During practice which we followed from the standings I took some pictures. We went to the paddock where we went to see Klaus Zeller, a German guy which I knew of the Forum of the V8STAR website. He recorded television broadcasts of the V8STAR races for me while I wasn't able to get the DSF channel in Holland. It was nice to meet him. I promised to help him to get an autograph of Cecotto, one of the few he still missed. Because it was a little cold most drivers weren't very much outside. Also Cecotto wasn't seen a lot so the chances to meet him were less. But some time later there was a camera crew at the back of the Irmscher paddock so I guessed Cecotto would come there and so he did. A lot of people who were at the other side of the stand hurdled to the back where I already was in front position. Cecotto gave an interview and I could make some good pictures and video footage. The interview was about what it takes to get good results and what a driver has to do to get in good condition. After the interview I did get the promised autograph for Klaus and asked Johnny if I could see him later that day. That was okay but it had to be after the race while he still had to eat and prepare for the races. A lot of people wanted an autograph of him but I did manage to get a picture of me standing next to Johnny. We went to the standings to look at the Top 12 Qualification race in which Cecotto would compete. After a big battle with Widmann Cecotto finished 4th in his heat and would start in 9th position in the race. His rival for the championship Thomas Mutsch had troubles in his heat and would start in 12th position. We did look around in the paddock again and came back to Irmscher to see Johnny sitting in his car ready to be pulled to the starting grid. We walked with them as far as we could and I took some pictures again. In the first part of the race it was very tight. When Nissen slowed down at once Mutsch and Cecotto collided back in back with him. Cecotto had damaged the front but was still driving. Also Thomas Mutsch went on. But a few laps later Mutsch didn't pass anymore and he came literally pushing his car into the pits. A while later news came Mutsch was out for the rest of the race while his car couldn't be fixed anymore. Now the chances for Cecotto grew to become champion again but he also had troubles. With the forced pit stop his car had to be prepared on the front and he stood for more than 2 minutes in the pits. He dropped back to 14th place at the end of heat 1 so he had to start all over again. My wife looked at me like everything was over but I just gave a shrug with my shoulders and said to her: "He will come back, don't worry". I was used Cecotto raced from the back to the front. But nevertheless I was nervous when the 2nd race started. Missing a peace of his front car Cecotto raced towards the front positions round after round. He was already 5th after four laps and was closing in on the front runners. In lap six he took 4th place and chased Roland Asch for 3rd. In lap thirteen Asch was overtaken and so Johnny Cecotto was now in 3rd position. If he could hold on he would be the (old and) new champion of 2002. I was really nervous now because of the fact if his car would hold on. After 23 laps Lechner did finish to win the race for Kurt Thiim. Johnny got 3rd place and was champion. There was a lot of jubilation on the standing as Cecotto passed and I was one of them of course. We went back to the paddock where I made a picture of the front of his damaged car. After a while Johnny came back from the victory ceremony to celebrate his championship with his crew of Irmscher. There were a lot of people who wanted to get near to him but he went into the Irmscher truck and I didn't see him come out anymore. I asked to team manager Klaus Schuppener where Johnny was but he also didn't seem to know. I told him about our appointment after the race and he said we could go to the Irmscher VIP room above the pit box to see if Johnny Cecotto was there. So we passed the security person and walked to the VIP room. When we came in Markus Bäcker, press man of Irmscher, was giving a speech but I couldn't see Johnny yet while still standing half in the doorway. But when we managed to get into the VIP room we saw Cecotto was also there. When the speech was over everyone began to congratulate him and so we went to him also. Johnny welcomed us and we congratulated him with his championship included with kisses from my wife and daughter. He offered us something to drink and we sat at a table. We felt a little uncomfortable while being with so many people in a VIP room. We simply weren't used to that at all. Though when Johnny came and talked to us we felt a lot better. I told him we also would come to the race at Oschersleben and he immediately arranged some tickets for us with help of Markus Bäcker. He now gave an amount of autographs for some of my friends and for fans of him who requested them through me. We did stay there for almost an hour and then decided to go home. We said good bye to Johnny and made a arrangement to see each other again in Oschersleben later this year in October. Well, it had been another great day for us with meeting the "new champion" Johnny Cecotto again. I already was looking forward to our visit at the V8Star races at the circuit of Oschersleben in Eastern Germany.....

PHOTO GALLERY TO FOLLOW

V8 Star Nürburgring 2002

Johnny Cecotto: Irmscher Opel V8Star
Johnny Cecotto
Irmscher Opel V8Star & Cecotto