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Strange feelings while visiting Johnny Cecotto and Johnny jr. in Austria...

Weekend September 15-17th 2006 at Salzburgring, Austria
After confirmation of Johnny Cecotto that Johnny jr. would race at the Salzburgring in Austria Carolien and I could arrange things to visit them there. Because it was going to be some 950 km for us to get to the circuit in Austria we decided to make a "small holiday" out of it. We left on Thursday morning at 09.15 hours towards the German Inzell where we arrived at 19.00 hours at the "Haus Patricia" where we had booked a room. On Friday we did visit Austria as for Carolien had never been there before and neither had seen a real big mountain. Enough of them there and so we stayed in Zell am See whole morning. Rest of the day some sightseeing and walking in Inzell. On Saturday we left at 09.15 to get to Bad Reichenall to buy some presents for our kids from where we drove on to the Salzburgring. We never had been there before so it was a bit of searching to find our way to the entrance of the paddock. I called Johnny Cecotto but he wasn't at the circuit at that moment. He would try to arrange for Johnny jr. to get to us. We had to wait for some half an hour till Johnny jr. came and gave us tickets. He said he was standing with the Target Racing team in the pit box and already drove there while we arrived there by walking a little later. I made some pictures of Johnny jr.'s car which was a complete different one as those of Ombra Racing. Ombra didn't succeed in getting a 3rd car so that's why Johnny jr. now again was driving for Target Racing. While the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC went into practice I searched the pit lane for the Koiranen Bros. Motorsport team but they didn't seem to be there. Half an hour later though there was Francisco Freitas, engineer of Koiranen Bros. standing at Johnny jr. pit. We did stand there a while talking and it was nice to have seen each other again. Also the Ombra Racing team stood next to Target so also there some familiar faces. I've been talking a few times with an associate of Neil Brown Engineering as for he as being an Englishman had very less guys to talk to while almost nobody in the Ombra Racing team speaks English. We meanwhile had given back our pit cards from the mechanics and received different entrance cards. When we got outside the area however and tried to get back in we were refused to get in again. Fortunate the security guy allowed me to get into the pit and recollect the tickets while Carolien had to wait there. After that we just stayed in and on the pit. Regrettably I have to say the Salzburgring so far is the most non satisfying circuit depending view enjoyment for spectators. It mainly are 2 long straights with a only few curves which it does make a very fast circuit of course. Also with the Salzburgring I mainly have "bad memories" because Johnny Cecotto himself had 2 big crashes there in motorcycle racing GP and got badly hurt in 1977. It was kind of strange to finally see the spot where it all happened at that time. If you see how fast they drive at that stage it must have been a really terrible accident. Now the circuit luckily is much more safer as back then because at those times the guard rail was just next the track with only a few straw bales between them. At about 15.00 hours Johnny Cecotto came in with some persons which were unfamiliar to me and also his son Jonathan. When I called to Johnny he came to us and said hello. I made some pictures of Jonathan with Johnny jr. and while he was sitting in the mini car of SLC. I had some request for autographs with me which were done by Johnny Cecotto and Johnny Cecotto jr. as well as Mattia Pavoni of the Ombra Racing team. Meanwhile the cars of the Target Racing team were ready for the race. The fierce red SLC R1-006 car (Super Light Cars) with an Opel-Spiess engine is one of the 4 different types that compete in the Recaro Formula 3 series. The other 3 are Lola, Ligier and Dallara. Next to Opel also Mercedes, Toyota, Honda and Renault engines are used. Like Johnny Cecotto jr. also his team mate at Target Racing Riccardo Azzoli stepped into his car. I made (while still standing in the pit box) the necessary pictures of Johnny junior. A little later the cars were pushed outside and ignited. Johnny Cecotto wished his son all the best for the race which showed he wasn't going with him to the starting grid. All cars of the Recaro Formula 3 series drove out of the pit to drive to the track. I asked one of the employees of the Target Racing team if I was able to go with them to the start because I still had the pitwall ticket. He himself even didn't have his card with him and he joked that if someone was going to stop him he just would smash him on the head. Luckily there are some people at this team that do speak some English. We didn't have any difficulties to get on the starting grid. Again I stood on the track of a famous circuit and so another experience richer. It was a nice view to see the long straight with at the end the mountains around. Of course I made a lot of pictures on the grid to be able to use them for this report. Johnny Cecotto jr. stood in 10th position while team mate Azzoli was in 8th. At the level where Johnny jr.'s car was standing a piece of red tape was placed on the guard rail to make it easier for him where to stand if he came back of the warming up lap. When the signal was given to clear the track I wished Johnny all the best and walked back to the pit box in a hurry to get up there to watch the start and the race course. Carolien was already there and was waiting for me. Also Johnny Cecotto himself was there with a mechanic of the Target Racing team. He had taken place on a kind of stage together with the mechanic and so was secured of a good view as far as that's possible on the Salzburgring. Of course I made a picture of that which made him have to laugh. Johnny jr. had a good start and after the 1st round he had climbed up to 7th place. It wasn't really easy to make decent pictures from this place. Johnny jr. was in struggle for better position but was also under big pressure himself all the time. He climbed to 6th place but didn't manage to get further to the front. I heard the speaker say that Schlegelmilch got a time penalty and I made notice of that to Johnny Cecotto. He looked a bit misunderstanding to me when I said to him Johnny jr. was lying in 5th spot. When I some time later attended him to look at the pit board he was pleased it was for real. And so Johnny jr. finished in 5th while Azzoli came in 4th spot. Johnny Cecotto and I did shake hands because of the good result of Johnny jr. in this race. The Target Racing team also was extremely pleased. When both drivers came back in the pit they were congratulated by the Target team. I also gave Johnny jr. a congratulation with his good result. He gave a report to the mechanics and managers about the race and it was in Italian and so again I didn't understand a thing of it. We drank a cup of coffee with Johnny Cecotto while Johnny jr. went to change and we talked a bit about the website. On request I made a picture of 2 Target Racing mechanics with some nice looking ladies which let to some joy in the team. After that Johnny seemed to be disappeared so we couldn't say good bye to him when we left. We said good bye to Johnny jr. and some people of the Target Racing team and drove back to Inzell where we had a diner in a restaurant. At the hotel Carolien went to sleep soon and I meanwhile worked on this report. Tomorrow there would be another visit to the Salzburgring. The last day of our stay here and so after breakfast we checked out at the very kind and hospital "Haus Patricia". It would be a pretty heavy day for us because after our visit to the circuit we would straight drive back homewards. And I knew in advance this was going to be a ride of more than 10 hours. So we had planned to leave as soon as possible after the race of Johnny jr. in the Formula 3 to get back home. At 09.15 hours we went towards the Salzburgring where we parked our car just in front of the paddock this time. We called Johnny Cecotto because we couldn't get into the pit because had given back the cards of yesterday to the Target Racing team. He was in a meeting though but he would pick us up as fast as he could. After half an hour Johnny came towards us with his son Jonathan on a bicycle and gave us the needed cards. Some time later we stood at the pit of Target Racing. Johnny jr. had qualified just like yesterday in 10th position in the morning practice. Weather looked nice with lots of sunshine. Again I walked into Francisco Freitas and we had a talk for a while. Johnny Cecotto came in and did put Jonathan into the car of Johnny jr. and he joyful let photograph himself. He sat there in the cockpit playing a computer game while Johnny had a conversation with Francisco of Koiranen Bros. Motorsport. Carolien stood on top of the pit box for a while now looking at the races and to smoke a cigarette. At the back side of the pit Johnny jr. just came out of the truck of Target when we passed by there. He didn't seem to be pleased with practice of this morning. While we waited in front of the pit box Johnny, Johnny jr. and the team manager had a talk. Carolien and I went standing at the pitwall to look at the finish of the Toyota Yaris Cup. While after that the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC race started they at Target Racing were preparing for the Formula 3 race. Johnny jr. sat talking to a mechanic in the mini SLC car. Jonathan walked around everywhere and now and then I talked to him a bit. He seemed to speak German but he didn't know who I was. After I told him I was the guy from the Cecotto fansite he remembered though. It now was time for the drivers to get into their cars to wait for permission to get on the track. While Johnny jr. stepped into his car Johnny and Jonathan watched. Johnny wished his son success and went to the top of the pit to see the race there. I made some pictures in the pit box first to get upstairs as well to make some there. When all the cars drove out of the pit I walked with the mechanics to the starting grid and made some movies and pictures while Carolien was waiting behind the fence at the level of where Johnny jr. stood with his car. It still every time is a special feeling for me to stand on the track of a famous circuit. As always I was very busy with making pictures as the sign was given to clear the track again. I quickly gave a hand to Johnny jr. to wish him al the best and walked towards Carolien. Together we stayed there behind the fence to wait for the Formula 3 cars to get away for their warming up lap. At this point Hülkenberg got stuck on the grid and some of the cars only just managed to get passed him. Because I wanted to make better pictures during the race as I did yesterday we walked to the standings at the beginning of the straight. We missed the start with this but were there in time to see them pass by after the first lap in which Johnny jr. drove in 8th position. While I was standing ready armed with my photo camera I heard the speaker say there was a red car crashed hard into the barrier. When I saw Azzoli come through the curve I knew enough. Johnny jr. had flown straight ahead through the "Fahrerlagerkurve", the fastest curve of the circuit, and had ended into the guard rail there. It was the same "famous" curve in which Johnny Cecotto himself in 1977 fell down heavily. My feelings about this circuit didn't get any better with this. Fortunate I saw Johnny jr. get out of his car by himself and climb over the guard rail with help of a marshal. While Carolien and I got of the standing Johnny Cecotto came by on his bike together with Jonathan. He looked a bit concerned and so I told him I'd seen Johnny jr. did get out of the car himself. That seemed to reassure him a bit and he went back to the pit box. We walked there also and waited for Johnny jr. to come back. Johnny didn't seem to have a clear peace of mind though because he walked around a lot. Then I saw Johnny jr. on the backside of the pit box already changed coming out of the trailer so I called out to Johnny. He walked towards him and Johnny jr. gave clearance about what happened. Some time later the car of Johnny jr. was brought back into the pit box and it was badly damaged. The fact Johnny jr. was completely unhurt seemed to be a small miracle to me but it does show however how strong and safe these cars are nowadays. In between all this I did have some small talks to Johnny about the website and the future. It's very much a question of what is going to be any further at this time. We told Johnny we we're going to leave very soon now which seemed to surprise him a bit. I explained him we had to drive for at least another 10 hours before we would get back home. After we said good bye to Johnny jr. we walked back to the Target truck with Johnny and also said good bye to him there. Our ride back home started at 15.00 hours and it was full of road activities, rain, accidents, thunderstorm and lines. We arrived at our home at night at 01.30 hours and as for I had driven all alone I was exhausted. All together it had been a nice "mini holiday" and we had enjoyed it a lot. Since Johnny Cecotto was going to let Johnny jr. More on his own feet from now on it was a big question when our next race visit was going to be where he would also be present....

ATS Formula 3 Salzburgring 2006

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