The last Championship race of Johnny Cecotto...
Saturday October 12th 2002 at Oschersleben, Germany
We planned to visit the last V8Star race at Oschersleben before Johnny became champion at the Nürburgring. Because it was a 600 km drive we took an apartment in Hahnenklee from Friday to Sunday. It was the first time we went away without our 2 children. Friday we arrived and went to Oschersleben on Saturday morning. It was terribly cold when we arrived at 07.30 hours. We picked up our tickets at Motopark Hotel which Markus Bäcker arranged for us and got to the paddock. Cecotto's car already was to the circuit for practice but Johnny was still in the truck. When Johnny saw us he welcomed us and when my wife kissed him he felt how cold she was. He had to go to practice now which we followed from the standing. While temperature was only 0 degrees (!!) Cecotto qualified in 6th. When we went back we walked into Johnny and I gave him a high five. I didn't want to keep him up because of the cold so we walked on to look around in the paddock. Cecotto's car had a special championship design. At the end of the morning just before Top 12 Qualifying there was a photo session of the Irmscher championship team and was able to take some nice pictures. Before Top 12 Qualifying we went to the standing. The sun looked through the clouds some times but it still was very cold with 5 degrees. We watched the 3 heats in which all kind of things happened like collisions at the start and in the pit. In Cecotto's heat Mutsch went off track also and Johnny finished 2nd behind Lechner and had 3rd position on the start grid in the race later this day. Back at the paddock we suddenly saw Johnny's wife Isabella and son Jonathan were also in Oschersleben. Johnny's car was brought back to the Irmscher stand in the paddock but Cecotto wasn't there so we went something to eat and while waiting at the McDonalds stand we saw Johnny pass in company of team manager Klaus Schuppener. Walking back to the paddock we walked into Isabella and Jonathan. I guess she knows about me but I didn't want to be impolite and go towards her to make contact. Some time later though Johnny was giving interviews in the paddock and Jonathan was with him. He liked the attention of the camera man who followed him with his camera. I did make some pictures of Johnny sitting next to his son. After the interviews it was time to prepare for the race which would start at 15.00 hours. When Cecotto's car was taken away to the starting grid all spectators went away. But Cecotto hadn't come out of the truck yet so I waited at the back of the Irmscher stand. When Johnny came out he said "Hey John" and I asked him if I could see him after the race. He said that was okay and I had to come to the truck. I wished him good luck for the race and we walked to the standing. We found a place right next to the place where Cecotto was standing on the starting grid so we had a great view and opportunity to make pictures. In front of Johnny Cecotto's car were three girls like you see in Rio the Janeiro dancing. I guess they must have been terribly cold there while they didn't had almost any clothes on. Cecotto came out of his car to go into the pit box and waved to his son who was standing above in the VIP room of Irmscher. He disappeared in the pit and came back a while later. Getting back to his car he went to the dancing girls to stand between them. Photographers came from different directions to shoot pictures of them. Johnny Cecotto seemed to have a lot of fun in this typical "South American" atmosphere. He stepped into his car again and waited for the race to start. After the start was given he was pushed of by Mutsch in the first corner and so his good starting position was gone immediately. He was in 15th position now and had to find his way through the field back to the front. He did very well and when the pit stops arrived he was almost hit by Lechner who just came out of the pit while Cecotto went in. He did brake very hard and so avoided a big collision. But he was hit in the left front side of the car and had some damage on his car. He also was standing outside of his pit zone now and his crew had troubles to get to his car for changing the tires. He lost lots of time there and dropped back again. He finished 11th in the first heat. He started from that position into the 2nd part of the race and did climb up to 7th in only a few laps. His car wasn't driving very well anymore after his collision in the pit and he had troubles to keep up the pace of the front runners. But he managed to hold that position till the end and come home safely with his car. While crossing the finish line his team waved at him with their Irmscher flags to celebrate his championship again. We walked towards the victory ceremony podium to take some pictures of the crowning of the winners and the champion of the 2002 V8Star season Johnny Cecotto. Still having an appointment with Johnny we went to the paddock afterwards to the Irmscher stand where everything was closed. I told Klaus Schuppener about the meeting with Johnny and he let us in but said we had to wait outside the truck while Johnny was still chancing. After a while Cecotto came out in a real hurry in company of his son Jonathan and I guess his father in law. He told me he had to leave at once to catch the only plane back to Italy today to be able to watch his son Johnny Amadeus in his first cart race on Sunday. We did only talk for a few minutes in which I told him of my plans for this new website and asked him if he would contribute to it. He would think about it. He signed an autograph for Brian, the son of Klaus Zeller who we met at the Nürburgring. We all left the Irmscher tent where a lot of people were waiting to see Johnny and to get an autograph as well. He just didn't have the time to give them all and left in a hurry to get to the airport. Johnny went to the other side of the paddock with his family and we walked back to our car to go back to Hahnenklee. Although we didn't have a lot of time today to meet Johnny it was a great day again. Johnny Cecotto was racing for 30 years in 2002 and I had been following him for some 27 years. I have always had lots of joy except for the moments of his bad crashes in motorcycle racing and formula 1. As I look back at the last year I must say a lot of great things happened to me. I never could imagine I would get contact with Johnny in first place. But it did happen though and I'm very pleased with that. After the meetings we had I not only see Johnny as my idol anymore but also a little bit as a friend. For me he not only is the best "all round racing driver" in this world, he’s also a very kind and hospitable person indeed. I hope my contact with Johnny Cecotto will continue in the future............THANK YOU JOHNNY!!!
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