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Visiting Johnny Cecotto during a hot and “electrical loaded” weekend...

Weekend June 24-26th 2005 at Oschersleben, Germany
Although not planned we decided to visit the races at Oschersleben, Germany. Carolien and I arranged things with work and a place to stay for the kids. We had a hotel in Magdeburg for 2 nights which was in the neighbourhood of Oschersleben. We left home on Friday at 05.00 hours to drive without problems to Oschersleben to arrive there at 11.00 hours. We parked at the back of the circuit and walked straight to the paddock since I knew the way around of an earlier visit. We had to search a bit to find the TLM stand where they worked on both cars 29 of Johnny jr. and surprisingly car 33 of Robert Baughey, an Asian Formula BMW championship driver. We were welcomed by Johnny Cecotto and mechanic Franky and a little later by Johnny junior. We looked how the car was set up for free practice while Johnny jr. sat in the car. Although there wasn't a lot of sun it still was hot. In free practice we watched from the standing. Car 33 lost power at turn 2 and couldn't even run 1 lap while Johnny jr. only managed 24th place. After spending some time at the TLM stand we went to the standing to watch DTM practice. We got something to eat returned to the paddock since timed practice for Formula BMW was going to start very soon. We asked Johnny if he could arrange entrance for us in the weekend and he gave a card for parking in the paddock zone and entrance cards for the paddock and pit lane. Since I would like to get some tires of Johnny's car we agreed with mechanic Franky to get 2 of them on Saturday. Johnny Cecotto said we had to sit on the back of the car that took material and personnel to the pit lane and so we did. A few minutes later we sat in the pit lane with them. Although you can't see much of practice or race when you are there it still is great to be so close to the action. You see kind of things you normally can't when you are on the standing. Johnny jr. got 24th place in first practice. A 10 minutes break with something to drink, change things on the car and away again for 2nd practice. Things seemed to go better when Johnny jr. stayed in top 10 for a while but in the end he lost lots of places and came to 23rd place. After being at TLM for some time we had to leave as it was 20.15 hours. We had to go to our Magdeburg hotel and check in. We arrived there and got to our room, had a shower and had a phone call with our kids. We went to bed as tomorrow was going to be an early wake up. Saturday at 07.30 it was out of bed to start with breakfast. At that time we didn't have any idea what was going to happen to us all. It would become a day to remember for sure. We arrived more than half an hour earlier at the circuit. We could ride into the paddock parking while many people were sent back. It's fun to have the privilege to know Johnny Cecotto and he can arrange things for us. We went to TLM and were welcomed again by Johnny. Surprisingly Franky, Johnny jr.'s mechanic, wasn't here as he seemed to have left to get back home because of family business. Now mechanic Timo worked on the car with Johnny Cecotto. We sat in the back of the TLM stand when Johnny came in laughing and asked what Carolien's weight was. Since Johnny jr. had left for a meeting they needed a stand-in to sit in the car for setting up. Her weight matched closely to Johnny jr. so she had to get into the car. She stepped into it, which wasn't easy to do, and she sat there for 35 minutes. After leaving the car she was asked again to sit in it for another 15 minutes. Johnny jr. came in and I joked to him he had lost his seat to Carolien. As there wasn't much time left for race 1 they had to hurry a bit and Johnny jr. prepared to get his racing gear on. The cars were taken outside where sun was shining brightly and temperature was very high. All cars went to the entrance of the pit lane to await the gate to be opened. I decided to get in to go to the start grid first and would come back to Carolien on the standing to watch the race with her. In the pit lane I had lost Johnny Cecotto out of sight. I came at the TLM pit box but had to walk back again to get on the grid. I rushed back to get there where Johnny Cecotto jr. already was lined up. I took some pictures on the start grid and as the sign was given to clear the track I wished him "Good Luck" and hurried back to be in time on the standing for the start of the race with Carolien. I managed to get there in time but was full of sweat while running and crossing left and right through the crowd. Start of the race was without troubles but when all cars returned Johnny jr. was way back the field and when he passed you heard something scratch ground. In turn 1 he lost his front wing since this seemed to be the problem. After this lap he came in the pit and retired. Meanwhile the speaker announced heavy weather was coming this way. We went back to the paddock after the race and Johnny jr. told he had a collision and damaged his front wing. We had asked ourselves if it had to do with Carolien being in the car for set up but with a laugh of both of them that wasn't so. Johnny said I better didn't wish "Good Luck" as for in Italy it brings bad luck. If I knew before I wouldn't have done that. Johnny jr. and sr. left to their motor home to fresh up. Soon we would know this wasn't the only bad luck today. Carolien and I stayed with the TLM team in the paddock where at sudden storm and thunder arrived. In front of TLM a Formula 3 team tent was blown away. Also the TLM tent began to move a bit and mechanics began to hang on the pipes of the tent and so did I. Some material wagons were fastened to the pipes to give weight. The tent was closed to keep out storm and rain. About 10 people were holding the pipes while others worked on closing the tent when suddenly a thunder strike hit. Almost everyone was blown away by this and I felt the shock go through my body. When I looked up again I couldn't believe my eyes. There was a lot of panic with on the left mechanic Herman lying on the floor and on the right team boss Manfred Lauderbach full of pain on the ground. They both were hit most and stayed down for a while helped by some of the other team members. I myself had a twinkling hand and muscular pain in my right arm. Carolien fearful was looking for me but I said I was alright. When Manfred came back to positives a bit he ordered everyone to get into the trailer so we all would be safe. We stayed there for 10 or 15 minutes until storm, rain and thunder passed and we all looked at each other as we had seen a ghost. It just was unbelievable! Manfred, Herman and another girl of the team went to the doctor as they were hurt most. When Cecotto came back to TLM he first didn't believe our story but when everyone told the same and he missed some people of the team he was shocked. The hurt team members came back with muscular pain and burned tongues because of the electrical shock. We talked about what had happened and an hour later most of us could laugh again. We decided to go to Magdeburg to shop and eat. We didn't see Johnny neither in the paddock or motor home so I called by phone to tell we went away and made an appointment for Sunday at 12.00 hours. We did shop in Magdeburg and had diner. A shower and some talking about this strange day made us go to sleep awaiting what next day would bring. As Johnny jr. had to race after DTM we could sleep a little longer on Sunday and got out of bed at 08.30 hours. We had breakfast in our hotel and sat outside in the sun. We left at 09.45 and stood in a line for a while. Where everyone was sent to other directions we could drive on with the paddock ticket. A big smile I had on my face at that moment. We arrived at the Oschersleben circuit at 11.00 and got to TLM to inform how they were doing. All seemed better except the burned tongues. Everyone was working on the cars to get ready for the race. We shortly stayed here but went out to the standing to watch some races. It was very crowded and was no fun to get around as we needed more than half an hour to get over the bridge to the other side of the track. We went back to TLM to find some refreshment in this heat. While getting there we passed the MRS stand where Roland Asch, who raced against Johnny in the past, was giving autographs and I got in the row to get one for my V8-Star friend Klaus Zeller from Germany. At TLM we met Renzo Micelli who works for Cecotto as an agent to find sponsors. He had new stickers with him for Johnny jr.'s helmet and car and some pictures were made. We now looked at the start and race of the DTM for a while but returned in time at TLM to see them leave to the pit lane entrance. While waiting there Johnny said maybe Isabella was coming for the race but she seemed to be stuck in the traffic. Johnny jr. had to give autographs to some fans. A girl that got one made a happy jump in the air, funny to see. People gathering around still seem to know the name of Johnny Cecotto well. I could hear them explain to their children who this man was in the past and who this new boy is. Cecotto had a talk with Renzo while waiting in front of the pit lane to get access on the track. When sign was given Johnny helped his son to get his gear on. Johnny jr. got in his car and left in the pit while we went to the grid where Johnny jr. had to line up. We had to wait for a while before all cars came by one by one to their starting places. I said to Johnny I wouldn't say a thing now to Johnny jr. and he had to laugh and said I could say "Give Power". After taking some pictures and movies the sign was heard to leave the track and I gave Johnny jr. a thumbs up and he gave one back. I walked back to the pit lane with Johnny Cecotto and told him I would go to Carolien on the standing again to follow the race. We would see each other after the race. I hurried to the standing to get in time to see the start of the race. The start went well but in lap 2 Robert Baughey was pushed of twice by Coletti and crashed. Johnny tried to keep position in the back of the field. In corners and short straight he didn't have problems to do so but on the long straight end you could see his competitors were faster. Johnny jr. did his best and was pushed a few times by another driver. The driver became a warning for his behaviour but Johnny lost position after position by this. Finally he came in 23rd position. Back at TLM everyone had started to break off. Car #33 already was back but Johnny's car was still in the parc fermér. Robert’s car was damaged badly on the rear right. Johnny jr. had a talk with some people and did some photo shooting with fans and also with Carolien. Now Johnny Cecotto and his son had left to change. Johnny's car came back and you could clearly see he was pushed hard in the back. Johnny Cecotto still hadn't returned so I guessed he had to pick up Isabella. Then Johnny came back sitting at the back of Johnny jr.'s scooter. He said it took some time to get back here because Isabella had arrived with her father and he had to catch them up. They would get here in a moment. Then Johnny jr. came back on his scooter with in front of him sitting Jonathan, his little brother. Johnny explained him we were the people of the website. We walked to the paddock parking where we ran into Isabella and her family. Finally we did meet in person. It was very nice to see her and talk for a while. We told here the story of the day before which seemed to impress her and her father very much. Julie was also there and already had grown a lot and was now 7 months old. I made a picture of Isabella holding her daughter. All kind of people came to her and Johnny when seeing them with the baby. After a while we agreed it was better to stay and drink something together because there was a lot of traffic going on. After some searching by Johnny nothing seemed to be open anymore to get a drink. We finally decided to pack things and leave the circuit to go home. We kissed and said good bye to all and went to our car. Johnny was already packing things in his motor home when we drove away. Already after a short time we got in a line and it stayed busy till the Highway to Hannover. Also on the highway we got in a line a few times. The TLM trailer and truck came along our way when we drove to Dortmund. We finally came at our home at 0.30 hours. We had another fine weekend despite the bad happenings on Saturday but also felt exhausted. But thanks again to Johnny and Johnny jr.! We'll meet again at the Nürburgring in the beginning of August.

Formula BMW Oschersleben 2005

Johnny jr. & Johnny Cecotto
Carolien in the car
Renzo Micelli & Johnny Cecotto