EFF ONE

The best thing about my garden shed is that it offers welcome relief from the three Ws in my life: the wife, the WiFi and the waffle that surrounds F1 at this time of year. Thus I have spent much time there of late. Of course one cannot just sit in a shed all day long and not do anything and so I have been ruminating about life while rekindling my engineering skills by fettling an ageing motorbike. Deep in the bowels of the shed I discovered someone with even worse writing skills than my own: the author of the Workshop Manual relating to my little speed monster.

"Carefully pry away the plastic locating pegs," it says. What does that mean in translation? Snap them off. The reason it says "carefully" is that if you are not careful you end up with a screwdriver stuck through the palm of your hand.

When the bastard wrote "turn clockwise" what he really meant was grasp the mole-grips firmly and hit them repeatedly with a hammer in a clockwise direction.

When he wrote that I should ensure that I "do not lose the very small retaining spring" he was in fact referring to that thing that shot past my ear and landed somewhere in the dust near the door.

"To reassemble, simply reverse the dismantling sequence," is roughly translated as "swear in different places".

Still, all of this kept my mind off motor racing except to wonder how exactly did I end up with a life in motor sport? I suppose it stems from a lifelong passion for things on wheels. If you asked the likes of Adrian Newey, Ross Brawn or Patrick Head why they started out on the long road to the F1 paddock they would probably say the same thing they probably approached the wheels in a rather more analytical way, studied hard, got degrees and had engineering flair, my forte ran more to destruction testing everything I got my hands on.

All I know is that I was the first boy on the block to put racing handlebars on a bike with 20-inch wheels. I was also one of the first teenagers in Britain to have a skateboard. Back in those black and white days, when MTV was just a mild form of Rickets, I was not too sure what to do with this thing I had bought from Lillywhites in Picadilly which was made with a heavy piece of wood with some wheels tacked on the bottom. I lovingly oiled this like a cricket bat and contended myself with walking up the steepest hills I could find and coming down at breakneck speed. Eventually I hit on the idea of getting a mate to tow me behind his bicycle, so that I could pretend to water-ski through the London suburbs.

Anyway all these activities meant that when I did emerge from my greasy labours I was genuinely amazed at the things which were landing in my Inbox. Much of this has come courtesy of dear old Ronald McLaren.

In recent years Ron has not been the most fashionable name in the F1 paddock. Other team bosses have been more flamboyant, other teams have won more World Championships and somewhere along the way we have all forgotten than Ron invented a lot of the image and presentation in F1 today. Clearly, everyone had forgotten that Dennis was the F1 poacher par-excellence, until, in the space of a few days he revealed deals with both Vodafone and Fernando Alonso. On top of his poaching activities, Dennis has managed to farm off Alex Wurz to Williams which must rate as some sort of payback for being suckered by Frank to take Juan Pablo Montoya off his hands.

I have to say I was worried when Minardi was sold at the end of last year that the new owners, who have the budget to turn it into a half-decent F1 outfit, would put an end to all the plucky underdog stories we have been able to write for the last 20 years. And what were we going to use to be the butt of our jokes?

"Can I have an oil filter for my Minardi?" we used to quip.

"Yes, that seems like a fair swap."

And so on. Thankfully, however, Super Aguri has now been cleared for take-off and for the next few months the team will be perfect with a chassis last used by Prince Bira and a Honda engine acquired from John Surtees.

Ever keen to bring you the latest trends, I had the first Aguri joke of the year: A woman goes to a doctor in Osaka and asks for plastic surgery for her face.

"Take all your clothes off and face the wall," says the doctor.

The woman is puzzled as to why this is necessary when she wants a face job but nonetheless goes through the motions.

"Ah-so," says the doctor finally. "Now I have seen you naked, I can see what is your compraint. You have the Zachary Aguri problem."

"What is that doctor?" the lady asks, somewhat perturbed by the news. "Simple," says the doctor. "It mean your face, is Zachary as Aguri as your bottom."

And no, I did not get that one out of a Christmas cracker.

At least with New Year out of the way, we have turned the corner and the start of the season no longer seems too far away. The season of Goodwill has pretty much driven me round the bend. Here in southern England many winter days have dawned bright, crisp and sunny, but I always had the uneasy feeling that the night time TV news bulletin would be about me and end with those immortal words "before finally turning the gun on himself."

And what of the motorbike? I hear you ask. The dormant beast is "awaiting parts," which I believe is the correct technical term for the fact that I've managed to break something that was working fine in the first place.

Print Feature