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Back at the Nürburgring again with Johnny Cecotto and Johnny jr...

Weekend July 5-7th 2005 at Nürburgring, Germany
We combined our holiday with a visit to the DTM race weekend at the Nürburgring where Johnny Cecotto jr. had to race in Formula BMW. We did rent an apartment in Bad Münstereifel, a village 45 km from the Nürburgring circuit. Now also our kids Lindsey and Wesley would meet both Cecotto's and they looked forward to that. They met them before but that was 3 years ago in Belgium in 2002. Surely they would recognize each other although everyone had been grown up a lot. On Friday we got on our way at 11.00 hours and arrived at the circuit 45 minutes later. There clouds got darker and darker. Since we had been here before a few times it wasn't difficult to find our way and arrived in the paddock soon. We had to search the stand of Mamerow Racing, the new team of Johnny jr. in which he also competed in the race at the Norisring. It already started to rain a bit. Without knowing we had walked by the trailer but on the way back we saw Johnny's car standing next to the Porsche of Chris Mamerow who also races in his dad's team. There was no sign from either Johnny jr. or Johnny Cecotto. We looked around a bit at the paddock and got back to Mamerow. Now Johnny jr. was there and he welcomed us. He got us to the back of the Mamerow stand where we awaited Johnny Cecotto who was just having lunch in his motor home. Arriving 10 minutes later he also welcomed us. It was close to free practice and Johnny jr. prepared himself and did put a clear visor to his helmet as it was bad weather. We left our bags at the Mamerow trailer and went to the circuit to watch free practice of Formula BMW in very rainy conditions. A lot of drivers were braking too late at the straight and slipped which enjoyed my son Wesley. Regrettably Johnny jr. only managed 22nd place. We had something to eat and went back to sit at the Mamerow stand for a while. Together with my son I went for a look in the Formula BMW paddock and we walked in on Johnny Cecotto. He went on a picture with Wesley. Later he also got on the picture with Johnny jr. as well on request when we got back in the Mamerow stand. While Carolien and Lindsey still were warming up at the back I made some pictures of the car with Wesley standing next to it. Time had gone fast and everyone prepared for timed practice sessions which started at 17.40 hours. We watched Johnny jr. get in his racing car and he drove of to the entrance to the circuit. We walked to the standings and stopped at the place where Johnny was waiting for the sign to get admittance to the track. He was out of his car again. When he wanted to step in again his mechanic didn't have anything to clean his racing boots. I gave them my handkerchief so they could clean the boots. Johnny got in his car and I got my dirty handkerchief back from the mechanic with the message I should keep this one without cleaning it. I think I will follow his instructions. I made some more pictures of Johnny jr. sitting in his car before he went on the track to get to the pit lane. There he had to wait with the other drivers for first timed practice which gives the grid for the race on Saturday. I went with my family to the standing on the end of the main straight where you have a great view over a big part of the circuit. As first timed practice started the track was dry but the clouds were grey. Johnny jr. came to position 19 when practice was stopped 3 minutes before the end. Thinking they wouldn't start for a few minutes anymore the team had started working on the car. Though practice was restarted and Johnny could get out only in the last minute and dropped to 21st on the grid for tomorrow. After a 10 minutes break next practice session started which gave the grid for Sunday's race. Now and then raindrops fell down but the track did stay dry and gave no problems to the drivers at all. Johnny Cecotto jr. managed to get 19th this time so would start on 10th line of the starting grid on Sunday. We got back to the paddock where my daughter got onto a picture with Natacha Gachnang, the female driver in Formula BMW. It had been a cold, windy and rainy day and Carolien and the kids were cold. We got to the Mamerow team where Johnny Cecotto arranged for me to get into the pit lane and starting grid for Saturday's race. We said good bye and went back to the apartment in Bad Münstereifel. We looked at the pictures I made today and Wesley was happy about the pictures where he stood next to Johnny Cecotto and Johnny jr. Also Lindsey was very font about the picture with Natacha Gachnang. But she also wanted a picture with Johnny jr. later this weekend. On Saturday at 08.00 hours it was out of bed again to start with a fast breakfast. At 09.30 it was time to get to the Nürburgring as the first race started at 11.50 hours. When we arrived at the Mamerow team everyone was working on the car while Johnny jr. sat in it and Johnny Cecotto was watching. We decided not to disturb them and went to look around. When we got back Johnny handed me the pit lane card to be able to get in. Johnny jr. got in his car and went of to the entrance of the circuit. The weather condition was better today with a little sunshine through the clouds. I walked to the entrance with Johnny Cecotto and talked about the "Race of the Legends" which he did at the Norisring. When we arrived at Johnny jr. he was out of his car and sat next to it. I made pictures of the car and of both Johnny's sitting next to each other. Carolien and the kids stood behind the fence looking at us and Wesley was busy making pictures of everyone and everything. I had given him my old digital camera so he could make pictures from another angle which I could use for the site as well. A lot of people still ask for autographs and pictures of Johnny Cecotto. This same morning I saw Jean Alesi (who races in DTM) having trouble to get through the crowd because on every meter they jumped on him for an autograph. Johnny thought it  now was better for him this way as at times he was still full-time racing driver. He has more time to do so now instead of when large crowds jumped on him as well. Johnny jr. walked to his car and I sat on the fence with Johnny looking at the preparations. I remembered I had a cap with me for Johnny. I took it out of my bag and showed it to him. He had to laugh and asked where I did get it from. It was a yellow cap from 1975 with the Yamaha logo in front with "Johnny Cecotto" on one side and on the other side "World Champion". Mostly he gave me caps, now I had one for him. He accepted it with a smile. Now he helped Johnny jr. with his head and neck security system of his helmet. Johnny jr. got into his car and was strapped in by his mechanic and got on the track. Johnny and I walked through the pit lane to get to the track. It was a long walk and I explained him I still wasn't used to be at these places. He had to laugh and said he wasn't also because he mostly did this by car and not on foot. Although I don't talk to Johnny as much as I want (still look up to him) it enjoys me to be in his neighbourhood. He is such a kind and hospitable man! We arrived at the track some minutes later and walked towards Johnny jr. who was at the 21st place. It would be very difficult for him to get more to the front in the race and as I looked to the start line and saw all the cars rowed up in front of him I realized that. I did make some photographs from all kind of angles of Johnny jr. in his car. Weather conditions were dry and it seemed to stay this way. My family had gone to the standing at the back of the circuit. In this occasion I tried to make as much pictures as I could. When Johnny jr. sees I'm taking a picture he kindly looks into the camera. That always gives these pictures something special. The sign was given to clear the track and I gave Johnny jr. a thumbs-up. Johnny gave some last instructions and we walked back to the pit lane. There I parted from him and we would see each other after the race as I was getting to the standing to see the race with my family. I ran to the standing getting through the crowd left and right to arrive there in time to see the cars get by in the formation lap. The race started and we watched how Johnny jr. got a bit to the front. I tried to make pictures while Lindsey filmed some pieces of the race with my video camera. Johnny jr. managed to finish 16th. That wasn't too bad at all since he had started from 21st place. It is very difficult to get in a better position when you start from the back of the field. Back at the Mamerow team Johnny Cecotto signed the cap of Wesley and Lindsey wanted him to sign her shoe of which he had to laugh. He gave us 2 DTM VIP cards to be able to get something to eat and drink in DTM hospitality from either Audi, Mercedes or Opel. We could try to get in there two by two he said but were stopped at our attempt at Mercedes. I tried to get in with my son at Opel and we were kindly allowed and even the hospitality guy gave permission to get in all four at the same time when I requested. It also helped when I said I drove Opel myself. After this we went back to Johnny Cecotto to say good bye to be able to get some sight-seeing in Bad Münstereifel. But first also Johnny jr. had to do a signature. The case of Lindsey's shoe gave some fun to both Johnny's and some team members. Johnny said I could keep the pit lane card with me for tomorrow. We agreed to get back on Sunday before the DTM race would start and left the circuit. As Johnny jr. raced after DTM we had the opportunity to sleep a little longer this Sunday. We had breakfast together and left at 10.45 hours to the Nürburgring. Arriving there rain clouds were sailing over the circuit but it was dry. At Mamerow there was no sign of Johnny Cecotto neither Johnny jr. so we went to the paddock where Lindsey got on a picture with Nick de Bruijn, a Dutch driver in Formula BMW. As it began to rain we went to the Opel hospitality since we still had our arm braces of yesterday but it was so crowded that we didn't even try to get in. We got something to eat and watched the DTM parade and start of the race. It rained again and we got shelter under a tent where we could watch the DTM race from the back of the circuit. At 15.00 hours we went to the Mamerow team and walked coincidentally into Johnny jr. who was on his way to the Formula BMW hospitality. However he walked with us to sit at the Mamerow tent to talk about the plans we both had of making a new site. Johnny jr. will make an official Johnny Cecotto site and I am going to make a new bigger unofficial site about both of them. Lindsey got on a picture with Johnny jr. after which he left. He soon returned to prepare for the race. Also Johnny Cecotto came in now. It was racing time and we left to the entrance of the track where Johnny looked at the other cars to see what kind of set-up they had. The cars were released on the track but that seemed to be very early and Johnny and I walked to the pit where we found all cars standing instead of on the grid. All cars had rain tires since it was declared to be a "wet race". My family was on the standing at the back of the circuit. Sign was given to get in formation on the grid. Johnny Cecotto and I walked to the start while we talked about his own racing activities. He said he still hadn't retired of racing and if he got a good offer he still would consider to race. They mostly invited him for 24 hours races which he certainly doesn't like. When Johnny saw the track was dry he got back to the officials. I walked to the grid where Johnny jr. had taken position. Again I made pictures and gave a thumb-up to wish him all the best for the race. While I walked back Johnny ran by to be able to talk to his son just before everyone had to leave track. Cecotto came back and said "They're crazy" meaning they declared it a wet race while the track was dry and it didn't rain. I said I would see him afterwards. Start was given and in the first corner was an accident which we saw on the big screen. Johnny jr. was able to avoid the involved cars. Lap by lap Johnny closed his opponents and did a great race. One by one he overtook them and after 10 laps he was in 9th place coming from 19th. It rained in the last laps and a lot of drivers had trouble to get through the NGK chicane. Also Johnny missed the turn in the one last lap which gave a driver behind opportunity to close. In the last lap I saw Sergio Perez Mendoza in his slipstream and I knew he couldn't hold position at the NGK chicane. He tried and almost stayed ahead but had to let him go at last. Johnny came in 10th which was great and we were happy about it. As the cars came by to wave to the audience you could see Johnny's car had black stain on the side showing how close he had battled in the last corner. We walked back to the paddock where they seemed to enjoy his result. After a while the mechanics returned and shortly after Johnny jr. and his father came in. They were congratulated by the team and both Johnny and Johnny jr. seemed to enjoy that. I also gave my congratulations to them and I said that if Johnny jr. could start more from the front he could race for a place at the podium. Johnny Cecotto agreed to that. Johnny jr. left as he had a driver meeting. Lindsey was awaiting Natacha Gachnang who became 2nd to get an autograph and to congratulate her. But she didn't show up. Johnny Cecotto asked me to get to the back where he stood with his motor home. We talked a about our plans of visiting the races at Zandvoort and he gave us some cards and passes to get in there with the whole family. He even gave us a parking pass to be able to get our car in the paddock area. Johnny jr. had returned and they started to pack their things as for they wanted to get back home as soon as possible. We all said and kissed good bye and got on our way back when we walked into Natacha Gachnang. So my daughter Lindsey got what she wanted after all. She congratulated her with kisses and she kindly gave an autograph. Someone of her team shouted she had to get to a meeting and in a hurry she ran away to make it in time. Again it had been a great weekend for us despite the bad weather. Thank you Johnny and Johnny jr.! We see each other again in our country at Zandvoort circuit the last weekend of August.

Formula BMW Nürburgring 2005

Wesley & Johnny Cecotto
Johnny Cecotto & Johnny jr.
Lindsey & Johnny Cecotto jr.