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Seeing Johnny Cecotto and Jonathan again within 2 weeks...

Saturday & Sunday June 16/17th 2018 at Nürburgring, Germany
This was probably the fastest meet up again with Johnny Cecotto of my whole life. It was only 2 weeks ago that I saw Johnny and Jonathan at the Coupes Moto Légende in Dijon, France. Now I was going to meet them again at the NBC-Classic at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany. They were planned to do a 3 hours race driving together in a BMW M3 at the Nordschleife. But unfortunately plans changed and it was not possible to drive at the old Nordschleife due to security reasons. And so only a 40 minutes race was planned with the Tourenwagen Classics on the GP circuit of the Nürburgring. First priority though was to get a press card for the event. Looking at the rules I thought it would be very difficult to get one. But after contact and filling all forms for accreditation I became permission from Stefan Eckhardt of the NBR organisation. Being the owner and operator of an official website from Johnny Cecotto does have its advantages. I arranged a room at Pension Mühlenhardt in Herschbroich for one night which was near the Nürburgring circuit. And so it was of to the Nürburgring on Saturday morning at 7.30 hours. It was a trip without any problems and so I picked up my press card in the Welcome Center Scharfer Kopf near the circuit. I parked my car at the special A6 parking lot and walked to the media room where I met Stefan Eckhardt personally. I thanked him once more for allowing me to be here. After installing my photo camera's and gear I went of to look for the paddock of the Tourenwagen Classic cars. A lot of old DTM card were standing there. The good old days of DTM and STW came back in mind with the BMW M3 and E36 STW, Mercedes 190 and C class, Ford Sierra RS500 and Audi A4 and V8. Johnny was there first and we welcomed and talked a bit about the car which was run by a Dutch team. It seemed the car had some engine power issues. Jonathan and Giulia, who compared him, arrived a little later and also here was a warm welcome. We walked to the Dutch Vink Motorsport Team where Johnny introduced me to Marc Seesing. He was the Dutch driver of the BMW M3 in which Johnny was combined to drive with. Marc told me they tried to get some softer tires to make the car a bit faster but that the problem was the engine which didn’t give the needed power. He was proud he had Johnny Cecotto as partner to drive his car as he was an example for him in the past. We got to the TWC hospitality to drink and talk about all kind of subjects. Familiar people of the “Golden era of DTM” passed by like commentator Rainer Braun and driver Gianfranco Brancatelli to who Johnny talked for a moment. After that we did have diner together in the hospitality tent. We got back to the stand where Jonathan’s car was standing, prepared for the 2nd qualifying as for yesterday had been the first session. But first there was a photo shoot with some of the prominent drivers of the Tourenwagen Classics like Johnny Cecotto, Klaus Ludwig, Olaf Manthey, Marc Hessel and Christian Menzel. Now it was time for 2nd qualifying. Jonathan got into his #41 car and Johnny took a seat, which wasn’t there, next to him. He wouldn’t have to walk around this way. I got to the inner side of the first corner. You can take great pictures there of the cars that come along very close there. I good some great pictures of Jonathan in action. The #51 car though was driven by Marc Seesing. Johnny only got in at the last minutes of the session and so I didn’t get that many shots of him. But the ones I got were very good though. It was great to see them in action in the cars I never saw racing so close to me before. The BMW M3 of Johnny though wasn’t that fast as he wanted it to be. You could hear the difference in power with some other BMW’s. Finally Jonathan, who drove together with Olaf Manthey made it to the 13th starting spot and Marc Seesing/Johnny Cecotto car got 17th at the end. That was it for today then. I said good bye and got to the media room to work on the site and photographs. After that it was of to Herschbroich to get a fresh shower and hopefully a goodnight sleep. But as always I don’t sleep that well in a strange bed. On Sunday morning it was breakfast and checking out of Pension Mühlenhardt and of to the circuit again. The sun already was beginning to shine although Johnny would prefer to get rain because then he would have more possibilities with the BMW M3 car. It seemed this was not going to happen though. I prepared in the media room and got to the pit to look at the pit stops of the qualifying for the 3 hours race later that day. When I got towards the Tourenwagen paddock I walked into Johnny, Jonathan and Giulia who went to the pit building. They asked me to come with them. We arrived at the Project Floors VIP box where Johnny had to do a replacement interview for Roland Asch who got sick. When I hear the questions about Johnny’s career I mostly know exactly what he is going to answer. I’m a bit of a walking Cecotto Wikipedea and sometimes even hear Johnny say a wrong year when he announces his titles or wins. He’s not to blame, he won so much races and titles in motorcycling and car racing. When we got out Johnny said this was the most difficult thing of the whole weekend, he likes it more to be in action on the track. We all had a laugh about the text which stood on the door towards the Project Floors VIP lounge: ‘Don’t let idiots ruin your day” and Johnny and Jonathan posed to it on my request. Maybe they can ask the company to be their sponsor in the future and use the photograph for it. We got back to the Tourenwagen Classics hospitality to take a drink there. Johnny and Jonathan were going to prepare for the race now and I and Giulia stayed to talk a bit in the hospitality as it now was a bit cold outside. She wondered I wasn’t cold while I did wear a t-shirt. I’m just to bad and cold weather here in Holland. Finally we got to the paddock to pick up the Cecotto father and son drivers and together we walked towards the pit where we waited for the start of the Tourenagen Classics race. Since the timetable wasn’t correct anymore the pre-grid seemed to be cancelled and the cars already were on line at the starting grid and immediately got underway for their warm-up lap. It was a bit frustrating for Jonathan since he had installed his GoPro in his car and couldn’t turn it on now. I also wasn’t able to get to the grid to take some pictures there. Was I lucky both Cecotto’s were second driver for both teams. I ran to the first corner to witness and photograph the start of the race but just came 5 seconds too late for that. But nothing really exiting happened there so I didn’t miss any of the action. I took some photographs of all different cars getting by. It made me feel a lucky guy to witness these cars I only used to see from far away of the standings in the eighties and nineties. Now I couldn’t get closer than ever before. As I knew there were to be mandatory pit stops I needed to get back to the pit in time. I wouldn’t want to miss the driver changing of both Johnny and Jonathan Cecotto. In the pit they both were standing in full racing gear ready for the cars to get it. As always I made a lot of photographs of them. I think they sometimes get a bit crazy of me while I’m swarming around them with my camera’s. Now first Olaf Manthey came in to hand over the car to Jonathan but there seemed to be a problem as the mechanics checked the car longer as it should take. Meanwhile also Marc Seesing came in with his BMW M3 to turn it over to Johnny. Though before he could get into the car they needed to put a pillow into his seat as for Johnny was much smaller than Marc. Jonathan was already strapped in but still was waiting to get the sign he could go out on the track. Also the “big Cecotto” was ready for take of and I had made as much pictures as I could of the drivers changing from both Jonathan and Johnny. Great to be so close to the action with these drivers and cars. Johnny Cecotto got away first directly followed by his son Jonathan. That was a fine moment to watch and I was very anxious to see what would happen now. Was Jonathan able to stay or even pass his dad? I again ran to the first corner and that wasn’t easy with some cameras around your neck and shoulder I can tell. I didn’t want to be too late again this time as it were the Cecotto’s who had to be in my camera view. I saw Johnny come by and made some shots of him. But I was missing Jonathan. Where was he? I waited at the same spot for a while and again Johnny Cecotto came by on the next lap. Some later Jonathan also was in action again but I didn’t have any clue why he was away that long. I changed to some other spots to get different angle views of both Johnny and Jonathan in action. I also wanted to have some shots while they would cross the finish line so walked back to the pit and took place at the pit wall. With all the action with the pit stops and various cars to retire I really had no idea what the positions were of the cars. Giulia who was also at the pit wall told me Jonathan’s car had a lot of problems with losing oil. He had come in already 2 times but was still driving. I heard the announcer of the circuit say that Johnny Cecotto was underway very fast. How strange. Normally not really but as the car wasn’t driving that great in practice I didn’t have any expectations for today’s race. I already heard the engine sound was much better as it was yesterday. It seemed the car was much more competitive. When Johnny passed in the last but one lap I saw the mechanic wave to him from the pit wall but I really didn’t know why. I thought they just wanted him to know he drove well. The race was won by Thorsten Stadler in his AMG-C Mercedes. More cars finished and then Johnny came towards the flag. The mechanics stood on the pit wall and waved and balled their fist. They laughed and hugged each other. I got to them and they told me Johnny and Marc had won the race in their class. What a surprise! I really had no idea. The mechanic said they worked hard on the engine to change some things and it had worked out very well. I told Giulia the news Johnny had won and together we walked towards the Parc Fermé. Johnny already was out of the car and stood talking to Marc Seesing. I asked them “Did you win”? Johnny confirmed it with with a big smile. I congratulated them both with their victory and they had joy with that result. Johnny said the car was better than before and it had much more power in the engine. Well, that was a nice compliment for the mechanics of Vink Motorsport. So we got to the victory ceremony and both Marc and Johnny were full of joy of winning class 3. Johnny got some nice words from old DTM commentator Rainer Braun. Giulia made some photographs of me, Johnny and Jonathan together and I must say she has the feeling of a good photographer. Next time she should bring her own camera as well. After this it was changing time for both Cecotto’s again and we got to the hospitality together to have something to drink and eat. It had been a great weekend again although I had hoped things had gone better for Jonathan for sure. But the victory of Johnny made up for that of course! We all wanted to get back on the road again to get home and so we said good bye to each other. It was great to see them again after Dijon and also to meet up with Giulia for the first time, a really nice and kind girl. It was packing time again for me at the media room and got to the car for an almost 3 hour drive back home. But with this result and the memories I got again this weekend it was a nice ride back to Holland. And so here’s another report on my site with some new experiences. Hopefully more will follow soon....

NBR-Classic Nürburgring 2018

Johnny with the Mercedes 190
Jonathan Cecotto
Johnny Cecotto in the BMW M3