Apologies for the blog being quiet for a while. I have lots of excuses, but no really good ones and I cannot even claim to have been lazy as I seem to have been working every day since Bahrain.
Still, I opened the gate yesterday at an early-ish hour, early enough to watch a fiery orange ball of sunlight appearing on the horizon as I belted across the locked down French countryside. It is amazing to me that when everyone is supposed to be hunkering down at home that the French still manage to have traffic jams. I was soon frustrated to be at a standstill so early in my trip to Italy and so I deserted the autoroute and worked my way through suburbs with names like Antony (once the home of Gerard Larrousse’s F1 team) and Chilly-Mazarin (which sounds like a cool cardinal) before finding open roads again not far from Alpine country at Viry-Chatillon.
A few hours later I was in real Alpine country and stuck in a jam at the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel. It took an hour to climb the hill from Chamonix. This was because the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for the tunnel authorities to take advantage of the low levels of traffic to do repairs… and so there are still delays.
When I emerged on the Italian side, after 7.2 miles inside the mountain, the sun was shining and the valley at Courmayeur was beautiful. An Italian policemen stopped me and asked where I was going. I showed him a pile of paperwork that indicated that I was allowed to go to Imola and with a shrug he waved me on…
What no-one ever tells you about the Mont Blanc tunnel is that when you emerge in Italy, with all the joys that come with that, you then go into a series of 10 tunnels that cover almost all of the 22 miles between the famous tunnel and the town of Aosta. After finishing the main tunnel in 1965 the Italians seem to have developed a taste for further underground activities, presumably in an effort to speed things up and to preserve the valley as much as possible, and by the time you get to Aosta you are beginning to wonder if there really is light at the end of the tunnel. As a feat of engineering it is impressive.
And it’s Italy, of course, where the joy of living is more evident than in northern climes. The speed limits are signposted everywhere but they seem to be ambitions rather than aspirations and none of the locals seem to believe the signs that say that they have speed traps. The one thing you notice about the road down through the mountains is that Italians have some odd names (take Guenther Steiner, for example). As I was whizzing down the Dora Baltea Valley, listening to an RMC DJ called Kay Rush, I noted a village not far away called Etroubles, which is close to Derby and not a million miles from Champagne, all settlements in this same charming bit of Italy. It may just be me, but Etroubles sounds either like a kind of greeting in Yorkshire or it is what happens when things go wrong for Alejandro Agag…
Anyway, driving from Normandy to Imola gives you plenty of time for thinking and I concluded on my way that the “Gran Premio del Made in Italy e dell’Emilia-Romagna” is a truly awful name for a motor race – and a very bad precedent for the sport. If money is allowed to dictate race titles (rather than sponsors) we will soon be attending the “We love Vlad Russian GP” and the “It’s bigger than Texas United States Grand Prix in Miami Gardens, powered by Hard Rocks”.
For me, all this verbiage is far less interesting than dull names like “The German Grand Prix”, but I guess that is what happens when one lets Americans “reach out” to sponsors.
NASCAR has long won the prize for the most horrible names for motor races, with such gems as the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner 300”, or the “Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500”. You are not going to get me calling a race the “SpongeBob SquarePants 400” or the “Subway Jalapeño 250, powered by Coca-Cola”.
Actually, there is one that is worse than all of these, but I don’t have the energy to type the whole thing out. I’ll just have to cut-and-paste. Yes, folks, don’t miss the “Crown Royal Presents the [Your Hero’s Name Here] 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com”.
I honestly think that the marketing people over there in the US have a contest to see if there are any journalists sufficiently ingratiating to actually use these appalling names, which roll off the tongue like detached teeth.
The key question for me is this: Do people acually go out and buy enthusiastic sea sponges called Bob because he (Does a sponge have a sex? I am sure that woke folk will have a view.) sponsored a motor race? I have my doubts.
Anyway, please excuse me if I drop all the crap and call it the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari – otherwise known as Imola.