The trials of F1 in May

The poor IndyCar people are stuck in cloudy Indiana, and the NASCAR folk in Charlotte are watching scattered clouds scudding past. Here of the Côte d’Azur, as Monaco approaches, it has been a sunny day. The film industry has been doing what the film industry does over in Cannes, sitting inside and watching movies. Out on the road it was a delightful day in the Rhone Valley. At Salon de Provence we turned to the east, avoiding the temptation to go straight on to the venerable oval at Miramas, once a Grand Prix venue in the 1930s. The last GP cars to run there were probably the Williams-BMWs as today the facility belongs to the Munich firm. Don’t bother visiting because you cannot see over the walls… It’s flatter than Indiana down there in the Rhone delta, which the world knows as the Camargue.

At Aix-en-Provence we decided that a lunch by the water was required and so ended up in Cassis, the kind of French port that they use when making movies about small French ports. I used to stay there back in the days of the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard – the last now 24 years ago.

The town has changed a lot and on a sunny Saturday in May it was packed with tourists, but there was still space left and a quayside restaurant did the job admirably… working some magic with some vegetables and a few scallops, with a marvelous pistou and some baguette to whet the appetite and, of course, a glass of rosé from just around the corner in Bandol.20140517-190441.jpg
20140517-190550.jpgAfter lunch it was onward again to Toulon and then up behind the Massif des Maures towards Le Luc, where you can pay money and drive F1 cars of various sorts. Before you get there, however, you pass by Gonfaron, the town famous in F1 circles as the home of AGS (Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives), which ran an F1 team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The activities at the Circuit du Luc is all that is left of AGS these days…
A while later we were on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, where they used to hold a street race in the late 1930s, revived in 1946 as one of the earliest post-war races, won by the Maserati of Gigi Villoresi. I’d need a week to tell the stories of racing on the Riviera but right now, it is cocktail hour in Beaulieu and I’m looking out of the window at villas once owned by James Gordon Bennett Jr and Ettore Bugatti and in the distance I can see La Turbie, above Monaco Carlo, a place up to which they used to have a hillclimb with Grand Prix cars in days when racing drivers were bolder…

Life is NOT tough.

37 thoughts on “The trials of F1 in May

  1. Reading this I can sense the makings of another book about the historic circuits of France. Where do I place my pre-order?

  2. Tales like this are why sympathy is in short supply when you have to spend hours waiting to obtain a visa for various countries 🙂

  3. This has nothing to do with the current posting, but I would like a reply. Are you planning to hold your usual audience on the Friday evening before the race in Montreal? We were in attendance the last four years and would not want to miss this year (if it’s to be). Yours friends in Chicago…Marilyn Nance & Jeffrey Simon

  4. I’m enjoying these travelogues immensely; if I can’t be there eating and drinking in the south of France, then I’m glad you can, Joe. And, probably healthy for you to focus on something pleasant for awhile, instead of the seamy machinations of F1 politics and business.

    1. Did you read Joe’s old Globetrotter series? It is wonderful. Back when there was time for that sort of reporting. I loved them all.

      1. Ah, the Globetrotter! Indeed, I enjoyed those very much, terrific stories, and very funny too. When I started reading those stories, on Grandprix.com I think it was, I had not idea who Joe Saward was (shame on me). And I could easily see the Mole join Joe for lunch in Cassis with one of the Penelopes of course.

        Wish you a good week Joe! Thanks for the engaging stories. They make good content for a “Joe’s trail”.

  5. We really appreciate your shouldering of these arduous toils in order to bring us your fine journalism Joe. Chin up, don’t lose heart. I’m sure the worst of it is over now 🙂

  6. Oh Joe. You poor thing. It is so sad to read about your suffering. Only a few scallops? Those miserly portions must leave you famished.
    Again, my sympathies for your plight. 😛

  7. Just noticed the Monaco GP is not live on BBC this time.
    Will be first time not seeing it live in 20 years.
    F1 is in such great shape eh!

  8. It’s sunrise in Key West and checking my email from bed is the first order of business. One of the things that I personally find so endearing about this F1 blog interestingly enough, are the pieces like both today’s and yesterday’s. These add the personal touch and the things away from racing. It’s the personal touch. Of course today I’ll be watching the qualifying at Indy, which has always been a complicated affair, yet always fascinating event at the same time. This year there’s an F1 influence added with the “Fast 9” all going for the pole at 2 EST (7 GMT) and while the question looms in the air if anyone can beat Carpenter’s 230 MPH runs yesterday and Friday, waking up to the French Riviera was indeed, a fantastic way to start the day! I love the piece and the pictures were a wonderful surprise addition. Thanks Joe! Keep them comming!

  9. From what I hear, the “poor indycar people” only got 21k to show for their first ever GP of Indiana @ IMS. Only about 1/2 of what they wanted… Oh, and it could only manage a 0.9 Nielsen on ABC. 😆
    I also hear IMS looks like a ghost town for their “exciting new qualifying format”. Of course, perhaps the cloudy weather is keeping the masses away… 😉

    Enjoy the working vacation and the race. Monaco will be the first race of the season I can watch on TV. We’ll see if it can pull better numbers than the .1rl did with their last race, which had a more favorable time slot. 😛

  10. Glad to see AGS get a mention from you Joe – one of my favorite hopeless F1 teams, although they did have a couple of moments of glory. If we look at the scale of the operations even Marussia and Caterham have nowadays, it’s hard to comprehend that a point-scoring F1 team operated on the shoestring and staffing that AGS did.

  11. My idea of heaven, good for you .
    If you can find the time, drive down to Juan-les-Pins and enjoy a glass of vintage champagne on the terrace of the Hotel Belles Rives -stunning!

  12. I tried to think of a smart alec comment but imagination failed. Couldn’t you persuade her indoors to escort you to Barcelona in the car, long trip, followed post-GP by a leisurely trip over the Pyrenees to Monaco? Santander and Bilbao grew up because they were close to where the transatlantic telegraph links terminated. So I presume that today they have good internet communication, for business, and there are so many opportunities to absorb (not waste) time looking at interesting stuff.

  13. “The poor IndyCar people are stuck in cloudy Indiana”

    You should try it sometime, Joe. It’s actually rather nice and the atmosphere is incredible. Crowds of actual racing fans, rather than people that are just there to be seen.

  14. The old Miramas circuit is more or less intact (in the middle of the proving ground) with concrete grandstands and paved surface. The ‘recent’ F1 cars ran on the proving ground which is almost as big as IDIADA or Mira. Martigues is worth a visit – a kind of mini Monaco…..

  15. Watched ABC’s coverage of the Indy qualifying and on both days, there didn’t appear to be very many fans out there suffering from the gloomy weather. There weren’t many fans there at all.

  16. Looks and sounds amazing (from your word description) – Have you time in your schedule to branch into Travel Writing?
    (Not the puff pieces in Sunday magazines (though they propably pay better) but articles good books are made of).
    Thanks again, great read, as ever.

  17. I was lucky enough to be in the Côte d’Azur in Antibes in a private home during the week before and after Monaco 2 years ago. Beautiful place and weather. Now if only my Lotto numbers would come through I could live there.

    Monaco was rather cramped however, not sure the money to live there would be well spent. The surronding environs are much better.

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