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A step higher with Johnny Cecotto and Johnny jr. at Francorchamps...

Saturday May 13th 2006 at Francorchamps, Belgium
Johnny Cecotto junior was going to race for the Finish team of Koiranen Bros. Motorsport in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC series at Francorchamps this weekend. It was going to be my first visit of this year and regrettably I was only able to visit on Saturday. I had informed Johnny Cecotto we were coming and on Friday evening he did sent me an SMS to tell he had arranged a pass for me to get in. Compared with my daughter Lindsey and her friend Jeske we left at 05.30 hours to get to Francorchamps since we had a meeting with Johnny at 08.00 hours. We were there a bit earlier and waited for Johnny and Johnny jr. to arrive. They came by in their BMW sometime later and parked their car to welcome us a little later. It was nice to see each other again since it had been in October 2005 we met personally the last time at Hockenheim. We were taken to the paddock by shuttle and went to the pit of the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team and I was introduced to Francisco Freitas, engineer of the team, who already seemed to know about me. I took some pictures while Johnny jr.'s #99 car was prepared for practice. There were 2 more cars from Johnny jr.'s team mates Tomi Limmonen and Atte Mustonen, both Finish drivers. A little later Johnny jr. changed into his racing gear and while sitting in the pit he had a talk with his father. Timed practice would start at 09.00 hours and so it was time to get ready for that and Johnny junior stepped in his car and was strapped in by his mechanic. There was some talking between Johnny Cecotto, Johnny jr. and the engineer while he was waiting in his car. It seemed to me they all were very relaxed and even a few jokes were made time by time. Also the other drivers of the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team were sitting in their cars with #27 and #28. When the sign was given for the start of the timed practice of the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Johnny jr. drove out of the Formula 1 pit onto the circuit. Since only I had a pass to get into the pit and the girls couldn't see that much this way I decided to look to the practice session on the track. We went to the other side of the paddock where we could watch the cars coming out of La Source going into the straight. The weather had been very good all week but now there were grey clouds and the track was a little wet of some rain earlier this morning. All cars were on rain tires and Johnny jr. did very well as we could see on the pit board when we returned into the pit at the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team. Johnny jr. got 4th place at the end of session 1 and came in for a 10 minutes break in which he talked to engineer Francisco Freitas. Some things were checked on the car like the temperature of the tires. I took some more pictures from Johnny jr. in his car while waiting for the next practice session. Clouds were still very grey but it didn't rain but despite this all cars stayed on rain tires. As the sign was given for the cars to get on the track once again for the second session almost all cars were gone before Johnny jr.'s was ready to get out and it made him a bit worried.  As his engine was ignited he got out in a hurry. We got the the back of the track again and watched how Johnny came by to try to get a good result. But with still some minutes to go he didn't pass anymore and we went in at the pit of the team where we saw he had come in. Johnny Cecotto told me they got him in because of the fuel limit. He was 4th at this time but dropped back into 7th position at the end. That wasn't bad either in my opinion. The team also seemed to be pleased with the results of their drivers so far. We watched around at the pit of the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team and took some more pictures, one of Lindsey and Jeske standing next to Johnny jr.'s car. We went to the standings at the main straight to eat something and to watch the practice of the LMES to get the starting grid for the 1000 km of Spa Francorchamps, tomorrow's race. We took a look around the circuit and once again it gave me some good feelings as for me this is my favourite track. What a marvellous circuit Spa Francorchamps is. As we got back to the pit at Johnny Cecotto it started to rain heavily. A little later Johnny Cecotto junior with a laugh came rushing in as for he had got himself a wet suit and boots. We looked how Johnny jr.'s mechanic prepared the car for the race which would start at 13.00 hours. It stopped raining again and we were able to get outside again. Standing at the back of the pit Francisco Freitas came to me and said he would contact me because he wanted to have some pictures of Johnny Cecotto junior. I agreed to that of course. I went out to talk a bit to Johnny Cecotto and to take some pictures together that I needed to sent to a website of the Dutch motorcycle magazine Moto 73. We talked a bit about the new website, sponsorship and future plans. As it was close now to prepare for the race we got inside again. Johnny jr. stepped into his car after his father had cleaned his boots to have optimal grip. All the cars got outside and drove away to get around the circuit and go to the main straight and get in position of the starting grid. Johnny Cecotto and I walked to the pit lane together and while we got to the start grid it began to rain again. I took some pictures of Johnny jr. lined up on the track of Spa Francorchamps. It was a great feeling to stand here with this marvellous sight from the back of his car right into L'eau Rouge, the fast uphill corner at the end of the straight. I never had been on the grid with Johnny standing so far in front. Something special again for me. A television camera came close to Johnny jr. to take some shots and I made a picture of that also. The rain was coming down heavier now and now the sign was given for everyone to get from the track. Only Francisco and Johnny's mechanic stayed with him now. Johnny Cecotto jumped over the wall back into the pit but for me it wasn't that easy to do since I had a camera bag in my hand and the camera around my neck. Johnny took the bag and camera and now I jumped over the wall also. The sign was given to start the engines now and the last few people disappeared from the track now. Since I was standing in a pit box to take shelter from the rain I couldn't see very much. Johnny Cecotto got onto a car to get a good sight of the start. My daughter Lindsey and her friend Jeske were at the standing and took some pictures of Johnny jr. at the starting grid. The red light was given and the engines started to give us a huge growl. Then they got away and I tried to look what happened when all the cars got into the L'eau Rouge. I couldn't see what position Johnny jr. had because of the spray of water that rose from the track. I looked questioning to Johnny Cecotto and he gave me 4 fingers which meant Johnny jr. was lying in that position. The team of Koiranen Bros. Motorsport got back with all the material to the Formula 1 pit while Johnny and I stayed at the main straight to take position in the stand of some LMES team to look at the monitor with lap times. This way we could follow the whole race lap by lap including the positions and sector times of all the drivers. Especially the first few laps gave an enormous water spray as the cars passed by. It showed me how difficult it had to be for the drivers to see the track. Johnny jr. did very well and his laps got better and better. Johnny Cecotto clocked the times also on his stopwatch and in the 5th lap he clocked the same time as race control did. That gave us some fun. Johnny jr. came into 3rd position and got in the back of John Edwards. It gave some excitement to us but when he was in lap 7 he lost some 5 seconds and dropped back to 4th with some 2.5 seconds behind Chris van der Drift. Johnny said he thought this happened because Johnny jr. had tried to overtake Edwards. Every lap I tried to take a picture as Johnny jr. passed by but that wasn't easy to with that speed and bad sight. In the closing laps of the race Johnny jr. managed to get closer to van der Drift. But it was not enough to overtake him anymore and so he finished in 4th place less than 0.7 seconds behind the 3rd position. While I and Johnny Cecotto were pleased with the result we embraced each other. Johnny joked to me he got this good result because I didn't wish Johnny jr. "good luck" which gives you the opposite in Italian thoughts (see reports Oschersleben 2005). We walked back to the paddock to go to Johnny jr. and we talked about Johnny's progression in racing. He is still young and has less experience but is learning very fast. I said to Johnny I was hoping Johnny jr. was going to be as good as he was. Some people gave their congratulations to Johnny while walking back. Back at the pit of the Koiranen team Johnny congratulated his son with the result. Now Johnny, Francisco and Johnny jr. stood together evaluating the race while I was next to them. Johnny jr. explained how the handling of the car was and what happened when he tried to overtake Edwards. Nevertheless the team was happy with this result. While Johnny jr. got inside I gave him a pat on the back for his good driving and he was congratulated also by his team mate Atte Mustonen. Outside the car of Tomi Limmonen was taken back and that one was damaged badly in the left front. Johnny Cecotto got out to take a look at it and also began to inspect the tires on Johnny jr. 's car. As Johnny and Johnny jr. left to get changed we went to the main straight to look at the top of the pit to the other race series. We went back to the paddock and looked at La Source to some races. Both Johnny's came by and said they had a meeting first and then would get back to us. Since it took a long time before they got back I called Johnny on his phone to say we were going to leave. They both came to us in short time now. We talked about the time to come and which races I would visit depending of what will happen after this. Johnny jr. offered us to bring us to our car with a vehicle of the Koiranen team which we of course accepted. I thanked Johnny Cecotto for arranging things for me again and we all said good bye to him and got on the car. On our way back I talked a bit to Johnny jr. about the race. Arriving at our car we said good bye to him and I said to "give power" in Sunday's race. Driving back home we came into a line for more than an hour. In Holland we got ourselves something to eat and arrived at 21.15 hours in Tilburg again. It had been a long day for us and were very tired. But it had been a fantastic one. On Sunday morning I watched race 2 live through internet and saw Johnny jr. become 3rd. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Now let's hope we can visit some more races this year.....

Formula Renault 2.0 Francorchamps 2006

Johnny Cecotto & Johnny jr.
Johnny Cecotto & Johnny jr.
Johnny Cecotto