The fun of the F1 “jet set”

It is pouring with rain here in Spa (no surprise there then) and there are only a couple of cars trolling around out there, so it gives me time to tell you of my adventures yesterday. I went to Spa in the company of my pal Brad Spurgeon of the International Herald Tribune, another Paris-based F1 journalist. We headed north in his car and all was well until we reached Cambrai where his Ford Focus decided it was a good place to die. Luck was on our side as we rolled to a halt not only in an area where work was being done and the slow lane was closed, but also right next to one of those emergency telephone things and so we pressed the right buttons and 40 minutes later a truck arrived, scooped us up and dropped us off at the local Ford garage. It was closed for lunch. So we decided to do the same and walked into an odd little place called The Jolly Sailor, where there was indeed a jolly sailor, an Englishman who insisted on playing the piano and singing songs, in the style of Noel Coward. This rather surreal interlude was followed by a large amount of needlessly wasted time with a Ford person who had no interest in being helpful and was obviously in need of a few classes to understand that customers are what keep the Ford Motor Company in business. I’ve never had a Ford car myself and I doubt I will ever get one after that experience. In the end he deigned to serve us and we wandered off to the local Europcar to rent another vehicle. By the time we got to Spa everyone was going home… so there was not much to report. Still, at least it was a sunny day.

This morning it was back to the usual Spa of mists and rain.

31 thoughts on “The fun of the F1 “jet set”

  1. Watching FP1 on BBC atm, plenty of water about. A shot of Monisha, talking, but the question of import in the rain is, does she have the same flowery boots on today? Or now that she is amongst the “F1 Jet set” does she buy new boots for each race. Oh how the other half live eh?.

    Kobi has done a lot of laps, will he have enough tyres for tomorrow? The race is forecast to be dry but there is a 20% chance of rain tomorrow according to wunderground.

    Will the Lotus version of DDRS work?

    1. Used to be made of glassfibre and glue at Two Gates works Tamworth Staffs 🙂 Tend to fall over on bends.

  2. Your Ford story would probably be different in the UK and you would still be at the roadside now waiting to be picked up.

    But of course Ford is not French. The chaps working there probably have an inferiority complex and the need to take it out on all who perpetuate the sin of not being French.

    Hopefully in a couple of months I am going to buy my own first ever new car (as opposed to new company cars I have had in the past). It is frustrating that to get the same level of spec as my current 14 year old Citroen Xantia TD SX, (which I bought 2 yrs old when I retired) I have to look at the top end of most modern car ranges. I think immediately of the DS Pallas and the kids “Mon Oncle” faking collisions in traffic. Buy it’s probably going to be a Kia, a crime so bad that one would get shot on sight in France.

  3. I’ve heard similar stories from friends with Fords (I’m restricting my comments here to Ford France not the UK). I own a Honda and have always had really good service here in France. Forget Renault – just as bad as Ford, particularly around Paris apparently.

  4. Yeah, I nearly bought a Ford myself before realising that the French just don’t “do” American cars – even if they’re designed and built in Europe for Europe.

    The Prius might just have been a better choice.

  5. Nothing to do with this post so forgive me!

    Have just finished Joe’s book – The Grand Prix Saboteurs.
    What an amazing book.
    So incredibly well researched – rich in history in many ways.

    It is a story of so much more than racing personalities.
    The courage, integrity and pure bloodymindedness of the personalities in this true story is beyond what you or I could believe possible.

    The research required to write this book must have been incredible.
    To piece together passages of time from so many different sources must have taken years of patience.

    I cannot exhort you all enough to buy this book on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/The-Grand-Prix-Saboteurs-Saward/dp/0955486807 – (or a bookstore if possible).
    For your education – as well as to make Joe a little richer – he deserves it.

    Please enjoy and let us all know what you think.

    1. Yup, I trust you also have “The man who caught Crippen” a tale of high adventure, and daring do, and like Spa, lots of water is involved, some of it frozen. The true story of Joe’s great grandfather.

  6. Why don’t we get rid of the very boring Hungaroring and change Spa to early August? It’s such a pity to have a wet race at Spa.
    But then I guess the teams don’t want Spa so early because by mid season their high speed package is not ready yet!
    Besides this, Joe I sincerely regret that your James Bond car broke down in the nice little town of Cambrai! I always thought it was wrong for James to drive a normal car like a Ford Focus!

  7. Your story brought a morning smile, as I read this column.
    A few years back, I was forced to have a FORD rental for an extended period of time. Initially, my impression was that it was a nice car, but after about a week, I wanted to shoot anyone associated with designing the damned thing.
    FORD,- Found On the Road Dead

  8. General observation:

    It is astounding to read/experience the difficulty of obtaining service (your encounter with Ford staff) from people who are allegedly in the service business, regardless of the product involved.

    Get a life and do something you might remotely enjoy!

  9. I can give one positive report about a Ford. A few years back, my wife and I rented the tiny Ford Ka for a couple weeks exploring in central Italy. Our expectations were low, but it performed well on autostradas and had no problem climbing up to little hill towns in Umbria. And a breeze to park in crowded cities!

  10. My first-ever car (unless you count a Mini I had for a month) back in the 1980s was a three-year-old Ford Fiesta Mark 2. Unlike the above commenter, I loved it to bits and had it for years until it rusted to pieces 10 years later, but Oh My God the Ford servicing…

    In the early days I just lightly serviced it myself (6000) or with a local garage (12000), but just before buying my first house, I decided to splash out the money (while I still had some) to take it to a proper Ford garage to be MOT’d and major-serviced. My Dad had had a Ford once from the nearest dealer, and said he’d never have another one from them due to their terrible servicing (he even got one of their own salesman to admit it as well!), so I took it to the Ford garage in the next town.

    When I drove it away from them the next morning it sounded rough as all hell and had no power at all, and then about a mile or two up the road it suddenly lurched and wouldn’t do more than about 40-50mph. I couldn’t turn round as I would have been late for work, so just had to persevere.

    At lunchtime I rang the garage to complain, only to be told that they were full and couldn’t book me in for three weeks! I pointed out that the day before, I’d delivered them a perfectly healthy car, and got back something that would only do 40mph. At first they tried to pretend it was nothing to do with them, and then as I protested louder and louder, he grudgingly said “well if you run it into us on Friday morning, we’ll have a quick look at it”. (This was Tuesday or Wednesday.)

    “Sod that,” I thought, “I’ll have a look at it myself”. I got my toolbox out, opened up the bonnet and found that…

    1. None of those shiny new spark plugs had been gapped, they were all (from memory) sitting at the 1.5mm they come set at from out the box, rather than the 0.75mm they should have been. This presumably explained the original rough performance.

    2. The ignition had slipped round to fully-retarded, because they hadn’t tightened up the distributor retaining bolt hard enough, and as soon as I’d put my foot down, round it went to about 20 degrees retarded, which is why it ended up being unable to do more than 40mph!

    One set of regapped spark plugs and a retimed and tightly-secured ignition timing later, it ran like a dream.

    Needless to say, I never used that Ford garage (or indeed any other Ford garage) ever again, and told everyone else to avoid them like the plague. No, I didn’t complain to them, the guy’s attitude to my original complaint made it clear it would have been pointless, and given my Dad’s experiences, it seemed that complaining higher up the chain would have been useless.

    Shame though, they’re still nice cars. A couple of years ago I was driving a friend’s Ford Focus ST170 Estate (yes, they do exist!) around quite a lot, and for a family car it was a lovely thing to drive. Just so glad I didn’t have to get it serviced though…

  11. I had a Ford once. The treatment worked, and I’ve never felt the need again, thank goodness. Modern kit is all well and good, but, I am not a fan of a vehicle that relies on a computer to be able to start and then run. Nope, I’m sticking with my ’36 Frazer Nash- BMW. It is easy to maintain and it sounds absolutely glorious! Oh, and it is appreciating in value, too! Bonus. If I decide to change, I rather fancy an Invicta 41/2 litre S-type low chassis.

  12. And round here that stands for Fix It Again Tony…….had a FIAT 131, ouch! These days I drive Subarus, the perfect car for Canada, tough reliable and unstopable in any conditions especially in winter

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