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A step higher with Johnny Cecotto and Johnny jr. in Formula Master...

Weekend August 24-26th 2007 at Oschersleben, Germany
It already had been 11 months we did visit a race of Johnny Cecotto jr. The last time was in September 2006 at the Salzburgring for the ATS F-3 championship. This season Johnny jr. raced the International Formula Master series with the Ombra Racing Team. So it was time to do a visit to see the IFM live at Oschersleben in Germany. Johnny Cecotto himself would also be at Oschersleben and that was nice thing to look forward to. It also was necessary because I did have a lot of autograph requests. I did get media passes thanks to FABIO RAVAIOLI and AURELIE DANZELOT, respectively of FIA WTCC and IFM media delegate. Just like last time we had booked ourselves a hotel in Magdeburg for 2 nights. Without problems we arrived at Oschersleben on Friday and picked up our passes at the Media Welcome Centre. We could drive to the circuit with the parking ticket and that was a major advantage. We went to the media area where journalist can work and again it was a new experience for us. Then we tried to find the Ombra Racing Team where we were welcomed by first Johnny and also by Johnny jr. a little later. In testing Johnny jr.'s engine had broken down and had to be replaced. Meanwhile we sat with Johnny in his motor home for a while where Cristina was with him and a little later Johnny jr. also. Carolien and I got a watch and a light from Johnny with the name and helmet of Johnny Cecotto jr. in it. At the same time they were working on the car but it still was not sure if it would be ready before practice again. However Johnny jr. knew to get to the pit at the last moment but he just came too short to get onto the track. There were a few hours space before today's last free practice would start and so we went to the IFM hospitality to see if there were some passes for us. We did get these and so we could eat and drink there the next few days. Now we went to the standings to watch a few practice sessions of other series. As it became time for free practice of the International Formula Master we went back to the Ombra Racing Team and watched their preparations. After all the cars were driven into the pit we walked back to the standings to follow practice there. It had been nice weather all day but just when the practice session was away a few minutes it started to rain. Practice was abandoned because of an incident on the track. At this moment all drivers changed to rain tyres on the cars. Practice was going again and Johnny jr. reached 12th spot in the ranking. We went back to Johnny Cecotto for a while and said good bye for today. It was 20.00 hours and we still had to get to Magdeburg for something to eat and for checking into our hotel. At 23.00 hours it was bedtime because tomorrows qualifying session already would start at 08.15 hours. So we had to get out of bed very early the next morning. On Saturday at 06.00 hours it was out of bed again. We took something to eat and an hour later we already were in the car to get to the circuit. Some half an hour afterwards we walked to the paddock again to have a cup of coffee over there. The first cars of the IFM came pushed by to get to the entrance of the pit entrance. While we walked towards the Ombra Racing Team they came towards us with their cars. Also Johnny jr. and Cristina came upon us and told me that Johnny was still in the motor home. I dropped my laptop there with a lot of autograph request in it and we agreed to finish these later that day. We went to the pit entrance to await the cars to get onto the track. Johnny wished his son all the best and went to the pit to watch at his result there on the monitor. Carolien and I got to the standings to look at the practice of the IFM. As always I made photographs from all kind of angles at various places of the circuit. Johnny jr. did well and changed positions all the time and at one point was 3rd but fell back to 10th position on the grid for the race later today. As we went through the paddock of the WTCC we now and then saw some of the drivers of this series. These drivers were Zanardi, Thompson, Gene and our own Tom Coronel. We wouldn't want to miss the first practice session of the touring cars from the WTCC and so we stayed on the standing again. It had become marvellous weather with a temperature of 25 degrees and a lot of sunshine while it had been a bit cold and windy morning. It was a long time ago I did see these touring cars in action. It gave me a special feeling to see these cars again. As being Dutchman I was very curious about the result of Tom Coronel in his Seat. I made pictures of all competitors of the WTCC field. Famous names came by my lens: both of the Müllers, Zanardi, Coronel, Priaulx, Menu, Thompson, Larini, Tarquini and Farfus to mention a few. After free practice we watched some different classes in GT cars. While now the Formula BMW was preparing for their practice session we again went back to Ombra Racing where I asked Massimo Pollini if it was possible to get onto the starting grid of the IFM race. He didn't think that would be a problem at all. The cars were prepared for the race of the IFM and after the tyres had been put on the cars they were pushed towards the pit entrance. When the cars became the signal to get into the pit I walked inside with the team. It didn't give any problems and so there I stood in the pit of the International Formula Master. All these cars next to each other is a very fascinating view, they look just like small Formula 1 cars. Also Johnny and Cristina were already in the pit. I noticed that Johnny almost doesn't get involved with his son, he has "to be able to stand on his own feet" like he says. While the mechanics got the car with spare tyres and materials towards the track all the cars drove out of the pit to get to their starting positions. Meanwhile I walked with the team members to the track to await for the arrival of Johnny Cecotto jr. You can see this is a more professional series as in which he has driven so far. Everything is more disciplined and it all looks a bit nicer. Of course this also counts for the grid girls. There I suddenly stood on a spot which I had seen only by watching television so far and of which I had hoped to see for real some time. And now that time had come around and I was in the middle of it all. The girls which stood for Johnny jr.'s car smiled friendly when I made some pictures and movies. I think it's all in her playing role I guess. Also the camera man of Eurosport took her in a close shot and afterwards it seemed that I had been live on television also when they took Johnny Cecotto jr. in their vision. I made a lot of photographs from it all because it (probably) regrettably will be the one and only visit we will do to the IFM this year. After the signal came for all assistants to leave the track I gave Johnny jr. a thumbs-up to wish him all the best. I said to Johnny and Cristina that I was going to Carolien on the standings to follow the race but that I would come pass by later after the race. I had some spare time left when I got to her to see the warming up lap and followed by the start of the race. It always gives you the excitement if all the cars will get in one piece through the first corner but that just was the case now. The race didn't go that bad for Johnny jr. and he was very close to the championship points. But a few laps before the end of the race he was hit from behind and did spin in the first corner after start and finish and fell back to an eventually 13th spot. We looked at the victory ceremony of d'Ambrosio who had won the race for just another time in front of Dutchman Kris van der Drift. Now we went to the IFM hospitality for something to drink and we watched to a Mini Challenge race. We went back at about 14.30 hours to Johnny, Johnny jr. and Cristina who all sat at the back of the tent of Ombra Racing. On request of his father Johnny jr. got my laptop out the motor home and I took all the autograph requests out of it. They were signed by both Johnny and Johnny jr. and some of the pictures gave some good old memories. One picture of a 19 year old Johnny Cecotto gave reason to laugh because he looked so much at Valentino Rossi there. Here after we said good bye for today and we went to Magdeburg to do some shopping and have something to eat. It was into bed on time because the next morning we would be out of bed very early again. Warming up would be at 08.00 hours and so it was out of bed at 06.00 o'clock. We came to the circuit half an hour earlier and already saw some of the cars standing ready for the pit entrance. Also the Ombra Racing team was there while both Johnny jr. and Cristina stood there waiting. Warming up went on without any problems. Johnny jr. drove his laps for mostly the whole session together with his team mate Dominik Muermans. After this we went to drink a cup of coffee and got back to the tent of Ombra Racing to wait there till they went to the pit entrance again for the race which would start at 10.15 hours. A little later all the teams had gathered there again. Johnny himself, which I didn't see so far today, came a while afterwards on his bike to see his son before he would step into the car. Sitting on his bike he posed with a big smile for a picture on my request. After the cars got clearance to get onto the pit I again walked with the team and waiting there until Johnny jr. was getting on the track to get to his starting position. Again I didn't have any problems to walk to that spot on the track. Carolien already stood at the height of where Johnny jr. had to stand in position and made some pictures of me on the track. It's great to stand there but on the other hand it's a shame you don't have real contact with the team. There's no one who speaks any word English except for Massimo. But you don't want to disturb him and that also counts for Johnny Cecotto jr. himself and the mechanics of course. But it still remains a great experience to be on such a starting grid every time again. At Ombra everything seemed to be under control but at other teams there was running and screaming now and then. There was a blowing wind and it made the Venezuelan flag move up and down next to the car of Johnny jr. which was a nice view to look at. Johnny jr. got another thumps-up from me to wish him all the best for the race and he gave one back. The mechanics gave him a hand to wish good luck and everyone went of the track now except for the mechanic who still has to start the engine of the car. I got underway to Carolien at the standings because you see more of the race there as if you're staying in the pit. The start went well for Johnny jr. without any damage although he did loose 2 positions in all the traffic. He knew to get behind a big group of cars but lost some space when just in front of him Campos Hull had a roll-over accident. A few laps before the end of the race Johnny jr. had 8th into sight but dropped back because his tyres had no more left and he began to slide a lot. He got 10th position at the end and the Ombra Racing team seemed to be pleased with it. Dutchman Kris van der Drift won the race quiet easily and later on we seemed to sit next to his family when we had something to eat. We also didn't want to miss the WTCC race and got back to the standings. After the start there was a double massive accident in which also Tom Coronel was involved and had to retire. The last part of the race we watched in the media room on the television screen. It wasn't so hot there and you also could get something to drink there. When we stood there the car of Coronel was taken back in and the front of his car was badly damaged. During the race of the WTCC we had heard the speaker announce there would be an autograph session of the IFM drivers at 12.40 hours and there also would be handed over a lot of racing tyres to the fans. We wanted to see that as well of course. We walked to the hospitality area of the IFM because that was the place to be. Tables and chairs stood ready to which the public had to walk to let the posters be signed by the represented drivers. As first one Kris van der Drift and Kasper Anderssen were there. On the other side of the road different teams brought their old racing tyres of the IFM cars to leave them there for the public to take them away. Johnny jr. also came now to give his autograph to the public and meanwhile I searched for a tyre of Johnny jr. in the big stable. I didn't find any of him still. We walked passed by the Ombra Racing team where also a stable of tyres were left. There was 1 tyre left with a note on which it said "take for FREE, Johnny Cecotto's tyres". Of course I took this tyre with me and went to my to put it in there. At that moment Johnny jr. sat together with Cristina and some of the mechanics and other drivers in the IFM hospitality. We would go home again in a short moment now and so we searched for Johnny Cecotto. We didn't see him anywhere though and so I decided to call him on the phone. He was in his motor home and we agreed to meet him there. Johnny let us inside of the motor home and while we had something to eat and drink we together watched a part of the Formula 1 race in Turkey. We talked a bit about different subjects and we already had gone further in time for another hour. Because we had to drive for more than 6 hours we decided we really had to leave now. We said good bye to Johnny and he gave us some fruit and cold drinks to take for our trip home. We went to the IFM tent where we said good bye to Johnny jr. and Cristina who sat there watching at the Formula 1 race. At 15.00 hours we got in our car and went back home to Tilburg again. There was a lot of traffic at our trip back home. Even when we had to tank there was a line. At 20.30 hours we drove into Holland and went for something to eat in a restaurant. Eventually we arrived to our home at 21.45 hours and we had been underway for some 7 hours to get there. Looking back on how many traffic there had been it wasn't that bad at all afterwards. The children were happy to see us again and of course we were also. Things had gone well and so it makes it a bit easier to go again in the future. It had been a nice and succeeded weekend for us and of course it was a pleasure to have met both Johnny Cecotto as Johnny jr. and Cristina again. Till next time we say, where and whenever that will be...............

Formula Master Oschersleben 2007

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