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After 3 years meeting Johnny Cecotto again with Johnny jr...

Friday May 13th 2005 at Francorchamps, Belgium
Since Johnny Cecotto junior was racing the Formula BMW ADAC championship this year and Johnny Cecotto was going to compare him at the races we wanted to visit some races this year. As always it needs some planning for us because of our work at the nursing home in the weekends. For the racing weekend at Francorchamps in Belgium it was only possible for me and my wife Carolien to visit practice day on Friday. Our trip started at 8.00 hours and already after 25 km there was some trouble as a hundred meters before us an accident happened with a motorcyclist who crashed heavily into the back of a car. Luckily the driver of the motorcycle, who tumbled over the highway, escaped unhurt and the cars behind, including us, were able to brake just in time. After a thumbs-up to the motorcyclist to see if he was unhurt we continued our trip to Belgium. We arrived about 10.45 hours and it already was difficult to find a parking lot for our car. Entrance to the circuit was for free today and we walked in at La Source, the famous turn-around corner which leads you to the straight of the circuit into another famous one, L'eau Rouge, the upwards bending into the long straight. To have this sight it gives me back great feelings from the past of earlier visits here. What a marvellous circuit it is, Francorchamps. Regrettably the weather isn't as fine as they pronounced to be, it's very cloudy and there's a cold wind over the circuit. We went to the paddock and searched for the TLM stand to see if Johnny Cecotto was there. We found it after a short time and I saw Johnny walking around the racing car of his son. I called out his name and he looked our way and although it was more than 2 years we saw each other he recognized us at once and called out "Hey John". He came to us, shaking hands and gave a friendly hug. Also his memory was very clear because while giving my wife a "welcome kiss" he remembered we always give 3 in Holland and so he did with a big smile. He invited us into the TLM stand and introduced us to Mr. Lauderbach, the owner of TLM and also the mechanic of Johnny Cecotto's car (sorry, I forgot your name) and gave us coffee. Johnny junior came in shortly afterwards and we welcomed him and also he recognized us. He seemed to be in a hurry and went away again so we didn't talk. Also Johnny had to go so I made some pictures of the car and we went to look around the circuit and paddock. We would come back at the Team Lauderbach Motorsport for free practice of the Formula BMW ADAC. We walked through the paddock of the DTM but we didn't see any of the drivers in that series. We went to the standings above the pit lane to see practice of the Formula 3 Euro series. Up there it was a bit chilly so we didn't stay there very long. Because it takes some preparation for practice we went back to the TLM stand to look how they did their job. As we walked that way Johnny Cecotto jr. rushed by on his scooter. You could see he likes speed. When we arrived at TLM he was just putting on his helmet and neck-protection and a little later climbed in his car. He was strapped into the seat belts by his mechanic. Johnny Cecotto meanwhile was checking the tire-pressure. The steering wheel was locked into the car and the engine was started. Johnny drove his car outside and lined-up in a row of Formula BMW cars in the centre of the paddock. I talked a bit with Johnny's mechanic, who to me seems to be a very kind guy (he even knew some Dutch words), about what position they had in the pit lane. I took some pictures of Johnny in his car and some close-ups from his helmet. You could see the concentration in his eyes. Some time later the cars were directed to the gate at the end of the pit lane where they still had to wait a while before they were allowed on the track. On the left and right were some discussions going on with marshals about the organisation. Johnny Cecotto was standing next to the car of his son awaiting for the gate to be opened. Finally the Formula BMW cars were allowed on the track and one by one they drove up the L'eau Rouge corner to start their free practice rounds. We hurried up to the standings above the pit lane to see where TLM was positioned. They were at the first pit box and regrettably we were not capable to get above that box. Free practice started well with both drivers of TLM in front positions but at the end they had dropped back a lot with Johnny Cecotto jr. in 21st position. When we arrived at the TLM stand it seemed Johnny was disappointed about his result. His father gave him some explanations while sitting on a car together. After that Johnny jr. talked with his teammate Benjamin Leuchter and disappeared again. Johnny Cecotto invited us to have diner with the crew of TLM and we had a big and good meal. Johnny's mechanic completed our meal with some drinks. Thank you to Team Lauderbach Motorsport for your hospitality!!! After diner we went to see practice of the DTM and we set on the standing at L'eau Rouge and here you could see how fast they race upwards that corner. Amazing and surely great respect for all racing drivers!!! At 16.00 hours we went back to TLM because the timed practice of the Formula BMW was starting at 16.40 hours. I went into their box to take some pictures of Johnny sitting in his car. At some times he looked right into the camera and I gave him a thumbs-up to wish him good luck. Johnny Cecotto asked us to come back after practice again. After Johnny jr. drove to the gate at the end of the pit lane awaiting the start of practice we went to the standing at L'eau Rouge to make some pictures and movies from over there. It had started to rain a bit by then. First practice went pretty well I guess and he finished 18th but after some rounds in second practice he came into the pit box with trouble. He started again after a while but finished at the back of the field. On our way back to the TLM stand we walked with Johnny Cecotto and he told us they had bad luck because Johnny had lost the wheel nut of the left rear. That's why he came back into the pit box. We talked about the possibility to visit the paddock at the Nürburgring on May 27th but as for this combines with Formula 1 it would be very difficult for him to arrange something for us. He gave me his mobile phone number so I could call him at the Nürburgring. Back at the TLM stand he offered us something to drink again and we talked a bit more. I had planned to take some pictures of me with both Johnny Cecotto sr. and jr. but things changed a bit when an official came in announcing that Johnny's fastest lap in practice was cancelled because of overtaking under yellow flags. When Johnny jr. heard the news he was very disappointed and I thought it was better to leave him alone. After a talk with his father in Italian which is all "abacadabra" to us he decided to go to the organisation to discuss the matter. Johnny Cecotto would take his son over there and made an appointment with us to meet at the end of the pit lane. He was going to get us some caps to take home with us. After a while Johnny returned on his scooter with 3 caps as a gift and we thanked him for his hospitality. He excused for not having more time for us this day but for us it had been a great time and there was no need to excuse. We wished good luck for the rest of the weekend and said good bye. After a long walk back to the car which stood in the village we went back home to arrive at 21.45 hours in Tilburg. We were both tired but very satisfied about this day although we had hoped things had gone better for Johnny jr. Well, maybe next time Johnny. We hope we will have some time to talk then and make some pictures together. For now we would like to thank Johnny Cecotto again for his enormous kindness and hospitality. We hope to meet you all again soon.

Formula BMW Francorchamps 2005

at TLM: Team Lauderbach Motorsport
Johnny Cecotto jr.
Johnny Cecotto in discussion