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A quick one day Nürburgring visit to Johnny Cecotto and Johnny jr...

Saturday May 26th 2006 at Nürburgring, Germany
Johnny Cecotto informed me that Johnny jr. was going to race the rest of the season for the Finish team of Koiranen Bros. Motorsport in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC series so he would race again this weekend at the Nürburgring. I had to work though and finally managed to get a day off (thanks Joyce) to be able to visit the practice sessions and race 1 on Saturday. I informed Johnny Cecotto I was coming all alone and would call him as soon as I would arrive at the Nürburgring. I left on Saturday morning at 06.30 hours to drive a "boring" way to the circuit since I was all by myself today. I arrived there at 09.10 hours and called Johnny on his phone. I had to come to the tunnel at the Zakspeed racing school where I was welcomed and picked up by Johnny junior. We went to the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team where I was welcomed by Johnny Cecotto and Francisco Freitas. Johnny introduced me to the new mechanic of Johnny junior's car Dennis. The cars of the team were prepared for timed practice and I immediately saw there was some sponsoring on the car of Johnny Cecotto junior. I talked a bit to Johnny who said he probably was going to race the 24 hour race here at the Nürburgring for Subaru later in June. I talked to Johnny jr. about some plans that he made to get money to finance his career. While Johnny jr. sat in the car they prepared it to the settings they wanted try for today in practice. The cars were taken outside for practice now and we all waited at the back of the pit. The car was prepared with rain tires which were now switched into slicks. Johnny Cecotto asked me if I could take some pictures of the car with Johnny jr. in it because of the new sponsors. No problem of course since I always try to make as much pictures as I can. I even presume Johnny jr. sometimes thinks "doesn't this guy never stop shooting photographs" . Johnny jr. prepared to get ready for practice and did put his gear on. He stepped into his car and waited for practice to come. The cars had to pushed further to the gate of the entrance of the circuit which was done by Francisco Freitas and Johnny Cecotto. While waiting there I saw Sebastian Buemi was lined up next to Johnny jr. and I knew him from last season in Formula BMW. For sure it's an advantage to have him also in this championship said Johnny. As always Johnny Cecotto talked a lot with his son while waiting. Mostly it's in Italian and I don't understand much of it but I'm beginning to learn some words now. But when I would talk Dutch you should see their faces. Our conversations go in English but it sometimes still is difficult for me to find the right words. I took some pictures from above of Johnny jr. sitting in his car while I think this always gives some nice views of how a racing driver is fitted in his car. There's not much space left for them and so it's amazing how they manage to handle their cars so well. The whole week it had been very bad weather but luckily so far today we didn't have any rain at all. Now and then some grey clouds were passing the circuit and I didn't expect to keep it completely dry today. And being a Dutchman and used to bad weather I'm normally good in pronouncing weather conditions. Johnny jr. still had to wait a few minutes to get onto the circuit while Johnny Cecotto and I went to the other side to get entrance into the pit. In the pit Johnny had a talk with some members of an Italian team. Some time later Johnny jr. came into the pit with his car and was placed next to Atte Mustonen and Timo Limmonen, his team mates of Koiranen Bros. Motorsport. I took some pictures and some movies in the pit while some cars already had left to get into the first timed practice session. Then Johnny jr. drove away to try to get a good result for the starting grid of today's race later this afternoon. I watched practice standing in the pit together with some of the mechanics while the rest of the team including Johnny Cecotto were behind the monitors on the pit wall. After some rounds Johnny jr. was still outside the top ten positions. But some time later he was in 7th position and he stayed there till the end of this first practice session. Johnny came back into the pit again for a 10 minute break before the second session was going to start. The car was checked on several positions and changed a little after Johnny jr. had given his thoughts about the behaviour of his car. Temperatures of track and tires were looked after. Johnny talked with his father now and then while sitting in his car waiting to the start of practice again. As practice began Johnny jr. stayed in a while. After a few minutes he went out and I asked Francisco if I could get on the pit wall with them. He said it was okay and I got up there with the rest of the team. Now I was able to look what happened during practice on the monitor. Johnny jr. didn't get a better position as 10th. During this practice his mechanic Dennis joked a bit with the making of the pit board of Johnny jr. as for he wanted to show him he had 54th position. He didn't get the board outside though to show it to him. Johnny jr. came in a few minutes before the end of practice and didn't get out anymore. He didn't seem to be completely satisfied with the car at this moment. I walked back with Johnny and Johnny jr. to the stand of Koiranen Bros. Motorsport. I went out to eat something and to watch other series on the standings. I got back in the paddock where they were preparing Johnny jr. 's car. Since he wasn't satisfied with the settings they tried in practice they returned it to the same conditions as it was in Spa Francorchamps at his request. Johnny jr. meanwhile worked on the car by cleaning some body parts and the brakes. I showed Johnny Cecotto some emails I had with me and the pictures of him and Johnny jr. from a few months ago in Venezuela with Eduardo Perez gave them some joy. Time came short to the race now. Mechanic Dennis filled the car with the amount of fuel they had chosen. Last checks were made and body parts were put back on the car. Johnny jr.'s car was the last one to get out of the stand of Koiranen Bros. Motorsport. Tires were changed again while waiting to get entrance to the track. A marshal directed Johnny jr. more up to the front since they already tried to line the cars in position for the starting grid while they still were waiting. Johnny jr. sat on his car and talked to his father. Some dark clouds were coming towards the circuit but it still was dry. On my question to Johnny Cecotto if it was going to rain he said he didn't know. Johnny jr. stepped into his car as the sign was given they were permitted to the track now very soon. Johnny Cecotto and I went to the pit to wait to get onto the starting grid there. As the cars came on the track we walked to the place where Johnny jr. had to line up and waited for him. As he was in position I took some pictures of the Nürburgring straight with the cars in line. A nice view that is. Now it began to rain a bit and a sign was given by the race director it was going to be a "wet race" and there was 10 minutes time for teams to decide what they would do with their tires. Johnny Cecotto discussed with Francisco Freitas about what to do. They waited for a while. Some teams already began to change the slicks for rain tires. Rain came down a bit more now and I looked at Johnny Cecotto with a face like it would stay this way now. There now were only some 7 minutes left to the start of the race and you're only allowed to work on a car till 3 minutes before it. While Francisco made some changes to the rear spoiler Johnny Cecotto talked to Johnny jr. and suddenly the decision was made to change the tires of the car. Mechanic Dennis started in a hurry to work on the tires on the front first while Francisco finished his work on the spoiler. He now also began to work on the tires on the front. While working they looked up to the sign to know how many time they had still left to work on the car. The sign of 5 minutes was given now. Quickly they went to the back of the car to change the slicks as well into rain tires. Johnny worked also in a hurry to get the right tire pressure. All the tires of Johnny jr.'s car were changed just in time before everyone had to leave the track except for Francisco who stayed to ignite the engine. I gave Johnny jr. a hand to wish him all the best for the race. We all got back into the pit and walked to the box where the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team was positioned. The cars went out for their formation lap and got back in starting position. As the lights went red the engines raised in power and the speaker announced drama for pole man van der Drift as he didn't get away when the lights got out. Johnny jr. got away well and was in 4th position at the end of the straight. Conditions were a bit bad with the rain still coming down. In the first laps of the race Johnny jr. lost some places because of a mistake in the first corner while the view was so bad. Johnny jr. lost some space to 5th man van der Slik but managed to get very close to him in the last lap. He came only 0.5 seconds short and finished 6th. After the race I walked with Johnny to the "parc fermer" where we saw Johnny jr. just step out his car. He walked to us and it seemed he was a bit angry about the driving of one of the other drivers. Since he spoke Italian I didn't understand at that moment. Johnny later explained van der Slik had made some dangerous moves while Johnny jr. tried to overtake him. Together with Francisco he went to the race director to tell the story but while they didn't have any television recordings and there were no reports of the marshals either nothing could be done. We sat down at the back of the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport stand and talked a bit about the weather conditions and future races. Atte Mustonen showed his mobile phone with the song of "Hard Rock Hallelujah" from the band Lordi who won the Eurovision song contest. It gave some fun in the team. As the cars came back I took some pictures from all the cars in the stand on request of Francisco. At this time it was still raining. I looked around while the team worked on the cars again to set them up for tomorrow's race. It was almost 17.30 hours now and I told Johnny I was going to leave soon while I had to work again tomorrow. I said good bye to Francisco and he said he would get me a pass again for Zandvoort next weekend. It had stopped raining so now Johnny and Johnny jr. took me to the parking lot on a Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team vehicle. Johnny Cecotto still had some autograph request in his car which I did sent him a while ago and they still needed to be fulfilled. After Johnny had signed all the photographs we said good bye and would see each other again one week later at Zandvoort. I arrived back home at 20.30 hours. Again it had been a satisfying day for me and was looking forward to visit the next race weekend at Zandvoort.....

Formula Renault 2.0 Nürburgring 2006

Johnny jr. & Johnny Cecotto
in the pit
on the start grid