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Meeting Johnny Cecotto and see Jonathan race in F4 at the Nürburgring...

Friday August 14th to Sunday August  16th Nürburgring, Germany
It had been more than a year again that we did meet Johnny Cecotto in person at the Coupes Moto Légende event at the Dijon circuit in France in 2014. Jonathan Cecotto had started to compete in Formula racing now in 2015 and so he was compared by his father at his races. I saw Johnny Cecotto himself race for the first time back in 1975. His son Johnny jr. I first saw race in 2005 and now in 2015 I wanted to see Jonathan race. I contacted Jonathan to see if he could arrange passes for us to be his guest at the races at the Nürburgring. He immediately kept 2 passes aside for us so we could visit them in Germany. Carolien was going with me so we booked a room at Bed & Breakfast Hörschhausen some 15 kilometres from the Nürburgring circuit. We had to call Jonathan when we would arrive on Friday evening so we could pick up the passes for the weekend. After a 3 hours trip to Hörschhausen we checked in at our room. We first got to Kelberg to have diner at a restaurant and then drove to the circuit where I called Jonathan. He was coming to the entrance of the hotel near the racing track. We walked to the Dorint hotel where we waited for a while. Then my phone went of and it was Jonathan. We were standing at the wrong place since he was at the Lindner hotel. He came towards us running by foot which was a great exercise for his condition. We welcomed each other and he gave us the passes to get inside. Jonathan had done qualifying some time earlier and didn’t get any further than 18th on the grid. But it had to be done in the race though. Together we walked towards the stand of the Motopark team where Johnny Cecotto was standing as well. It was good to see him again after more than a year. It’s always a bit difficult to talk to him for a long time because he always is busy with all kind of people or with phone calls. We stayed there for almost an hour to watch the team prepare their 4 (!) Formula 4 cars for the drivers with the number 9 car being Jonathan’s. We said goodbye for now and would be back on Saturday morning at about 10.30 hours. On our way back to the hotel we almost hit a deer which just crossed the road before our car. That was a bit of a scary moment. But luckily no harm done so we came back at Hörschhausen safely to get a good night rest before race day number one of tomorrow. When we walked in at the circuit on Saturday morning through the paddock tunnel we saw Jonathan come by on a vehicle of the Motopark team. He waved at us and turned around. He said we had to take place on the vehicle to bring us to the Motopark team. So now we had our own private driver. The weather was nice although it was a bit cloudy. The sun came through now and then. Today Jonathan had to do 2 races in Formula 4. The first one was at 12.00 hours. We had some coffee first at Motopark and watched them work on the cars. We walked through the Formula 4 paddock to look at the different teams. Teams like Mücke and van Amelsfoort Racing were present. At van Amelsfoort was another big name from Motorsport. No one else than Mick Schumacher, son of the legendary Michael Schumacher. There were a lot of people standing there to look if they could get a glimpse of Schumacher junior. We were here though for another big name: Cecotto. At Motopark Jonathan had already changed his clothes for his racing gear. His car was pushed towards the back of the paddock where the cars and drivers waited to be allowed on the racing track. I only brought my small camera with me so didn’t have the chance to make real “action shots” this weekend. So I tried to make as much pictures of the car, Jonathan and Johnny I could to have enough to use for my website. Jonathan got into the car when the signal of the officials came and was strapped in by his mechanic. Johnny gave some last instructions to his son and disappeared into the pit lane. I gave Jonathan a “thumbs-up” to wish him luck for the race and he gave one back. And off he went to the pit. I walked to the standings with Carolien on the back straight of the circuit just before the NGK chicane. After the Formula 4 cars had their warm-up lap you could hear the roaring of the engines when the green light was given for race 1. Jonathan was in the middle of the pack and I was a bit worried the first corner after the start would bring trouble with an amount of 35 cars. But nothing happened and they all got through without any damage. The race lasted for 30 minutes and 1 lap. Jonathan did well and moved up almost each lap and finally managed to get into 11th spot at the end. That wasn’t too bad at all after starting from 18th. If he could have managed to get into 10th he would have started on pole in race 3 on Sunday. But now he would be 11th on the grid tomorrow. We walked back to the parc fermé where all the cars came together. Jonathan stepped out of his car and walked together with us to Motopark. He was happy with his 11th place although the car had some technical problems during the race. Now there was a bit of rain falling down so we waited for a while at the Motopark tent and had something to eat and drink. We didn’t want to bother the team as well as the Cecotto’s too much so we went to the starting grid of the GT Masters. With our guest passes we were allowed to get on the grid. Some nice large GT cars were on the grid. As well as some nice black and yellow ADAC promo girls. A little later the grid had to be cleared for the race and so we got back to the Motopark team to wait there for the second race to come for Jonathan. Johnny was also busy with helping to prepare the car. As he taped some parts of the car he ripped of one peace of tape and adjusted it over my camera lens glasses. We all had to laugh about it but I removed it to provide any damage to my lens. There were some more guests with Cecotto but they only spoke Italian and so it was difficult to have contact with them. I asked Johnny if it was possible to get on to the grid for race 2 with Jonathan. He said he would look if there was a pass available and got to the back in the truck. He came back but was in conversation with some team members again. Then he disappeared again. It was close to race 2 now and the cars were pushed away again to get to the collecting spot. Carolien and I walked to Jonathan’s car but there was no one there still from the Cecotto family. Then Johnny came with Jonathan’s helmet and neck protector system. I thought he had forgotten my earlier request of the pass for the grid but he came to me and said we would switch our passes. Johnny gave his pit lane card to me so I could get in there and on the starting grid. Jonathan also came and sat down in his car. He would start from 23rd spot today on the grid. A long way back in the field. But he could get a lot of places towards the front in my opinion. As the cars drove away I ran towards the pit lane and took some pictures of the Motopark F4 cars which all stood in line there. The signal came for the cars to get to their starting positions on the grid and so I hurried to the back of the grid to see Jonathan arrive there just in time. I made some nice pictures of Jonathan standing on the grid of the marvellous Nürburgring circuit. As the signal came to leave the track I ran to the pit lane and was able to make some more pictures from behind the fence. Then I was sent away by a marshal as the start would be any second now. I went to Carolien who was standing at the back of the circuit at the fence near the NGK chicane. There we would watch the race. The start went well but during the race there were some accidents which caused the safety car to get onto the track a few times. And so it became a race behind the safety car for about 75% of the time. No chance for Jonathan to do anything in the 5 laps of racing all together. He made some spots up to 15th place but then the “race” was already over. Of course he was a bit annoyed just like us that this race had almost completely was driven behind the safety car. Back at Motopark it already had become evening and so we decided to go back to have diner near our hotel. We talked to Johnny and Jonathan for a short while about the race, switched our passes again and said goodbye for now. We had an Italian diner at La Lanterna in Zermüllen and already there you could see the weather was going to change. It began to rain and the wind was stronger. We got to our room to take a shower and relax for a while to have a good sleep for another racing day on our way on Sunday. In the morning we had breakfast at our hotel and checked out as we would go home again directly after the races. On our way to the circuit it already was raining. A cold wind also blew around the circuit. We walked by at the Motopark team but all tents were closed there. So we got to the Nürburgring Boulevard to look at the different shops and stands. Since Jonathan had to race at 15.35 hours we had the chance to look at the race of the GT Masters at the grandstand. But it was really cold with the hard wind and the rain. Carolien went to the stairway building to stand in a warm place as I informed Jonathan we would watch the GT Masters first and then would come to Motopark. That was no problem. The GT Masters had a loud and heavy roaring engine sound which reminded me at the time Johnny Cecotto raced in V8-Star. Nice to see and hear that. After the race we got something to eat on the circuit and watched some really damaged GT Master cars taken back to “parc fermé”. We walked to Motopark and sat there to drink some coffee. The cars were prepared and as it would rain further on they all had rain tires on it. As the team pushed the cars to the back again I went with them while Carolien was standing inside the tower at the pit lane to watch the race there as it was much warmer inside there. I got to the NGK chicane again to watch the race there. As race 3 started Jonathan was able to move up some spots and was eventually in 9th position. Then he dropped back. As the rain was coming down still and I became cold of the wind I also got inside the tower to watch the race from there. At the screen we could see what happened. Jonathan dropped back a lot now and wasn’t seen in the first 20 position at the end. When the race finished we got to the parc fermé where all the drivers and their cars came in. When Jonathan stepped out a television crew cried out to him for an interview but he said they had to come back later. Jonathan looked a bit annoyed so we thought it was better to leave him alone for a moment and got to Motopark. There Johnny came in and explained that Jonathan did have a lot of problems with his visor during the race. He couldn’t see anything because of fog in his visor and dropped back. Jonathan came in and was interviewed. The team already began packing the materials. We said goodbye to the other guests who were leaving already. Carolien made some pictures of me with Johnny Cecotto together before we would go home as well. As Jonathan was ready with his interview he collected his gear and stuff from the truck and was about to leave. We first said goodbye to Johnny and then to Jonathan. He thanked us for visiting him here at the Nürburgring. I thanked him for arranging the passes for us. I was sorry for that he did have so much bad luck here with his races. We got back to the parking lot and got back home. Another 3 hours ride with complete rain. But after a lot of rain and cold on the circuit there was no better place than our warm car. Anyway we did see both Johnny and Jonathan Cecotto this weekend. We thank them for arranging things for us and hope to see them again in any place at any moment. Hopefully it won’t take some years again...

GT Masters/F4 Nürburgring 2015

Jonathan and Johnny before race 1
Race 2 starting grid
me and Johnny