Big-breasted women in short frocks and other stories

Have you noticed that every man and his dog - except F1 News - is now holding an Awards Ceremony at the end of the year. There are awards for marketing, films, fashion, cars, art, management, literature, interior design - even automotive journalism. I expect if you search hard enough you would find trophies for ballooning, tax evasion and even gynecology ("And the winner for best amateur performer goes to...")

This gratuitous slapping on the back dates back to the dawn of time when good soldiers were tapped on the shoulder by the king after a battle and thus became Sir Somebody-Somebody or The Earl of Wombat. In this century, however, kings were hard to find and, as everyone wants to win "an Oscar" in his or her particular industry, bright spark realized that you don't have to be qualified to give an award...

And so in 1921 Photoplay Magazine began giving out prizes to popular and pretty film stars. This was followed by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers who started handing out "Wampas" and, finally, in 1928 by the "The Academy Awards". It was not until 1936 that these became known as "The Oscars" - because the gold statuettes giving out looked like the uncle of one of the Academy's secretaries - Uncle Oscar.

Ever since then there has been a new award every 15 minutes. In recent years award ceremonies have become an industry. Anyone with a bit of empty space now builds a convention center (Williams Grand Prix Engineering being a classic example) so that bookings can be made for some silly awards ceremony just before Christmas.

It was inevitable that this would seep gradually into motor racing. Organizing clubs all around the world have trophies named after old fellows who did heroic deeds although the international automobile federation blew a perfect opportunity to host "The Motor Racing Oscars" because their annual event in Paris consisted of Frenchmen making very long speeches and kissing one another or was cancelled because the French nation was on strike again. It was thus left to an Italian racing magazine to come up with the idea of a Casco d'Oro - a golden helmet award.

A few years ago I was closely involved in one such award scheme - it had best remain nameless to protect the innocent - and we used to sit around and brainstorm about we would turn a pathetically-small reader vote into a big international "do". We came up with a blue print of how to do it. The most important thing is to make people want to be there. This is achieved by spending nothing on the actual awards - a framed piece of paper will do - and pouring all your money into alcohol. You promise everyone free admission, free booze and a lot of big-breasted women in short frocks. Most middle-ranking racing drivers somehow manage to turn up - although getting them in tuxedos is not easy.

To get a big star you need political clout or money. Or you can try promising them an award. Awards need a little credibility - "voted by the readers" is the best - but as no-one knows how readers vote you simply keep the voting results quiet and make up the results, thus nominating the winner you know is coming to the event. If all else fails you can simply create a special award for your VIP. Good sportsmanship and lifetime contributions to the sport make this an easy task. The only thing left to do is to make sure that everyone gets absolutely hammered and has a good time. Big-breasted women in short frocks seem to get excited by racing drivers - and vice-versa.

In the second year you move to a new venue. Somewhere a little quirky - to attract attention. You charge for tickets but let the press in for free. You get hold of a couple of racing cars and dump them outside on the pavement and you pay a few photographers to stand around and snap people arriving. This creates a crowd of idiotic passers-by. Add a couple of searchlights pointed up into the sky and you will have a fair crowd of idiots applauding anyone getting out of a taxi. A couple of dinner-suited bouncers will do no harm to create the idea that the Award Ceremony is a big exclusive event.

On this occasion you make the "guests" pay for the booze - they feel obliged to get drunk at their own expense because that is "the tradition" - and you spend the money on the venue.

By the third year - amazingly - there is a demand for tickets because people remember photographers, crowds and bouncers in tuxedos. These are signs of exclusivity and people want it. You axe all free press tickets but supply good press releases. You start selling entire tables to sponsors so that each little group is having its own party - and paying for it. If you announce that the event is nearly sold out a few months in advance there will be a rush to buy tickets. With money pouring in you can pay for stars to come - initially travel expenses only. You can hire a famous master of ceremonies - Murray Walker is booked years in advance - and make special films to introduce each award. If you have great footage (cars on fire are good for this) you may need to invent an award so you can use it during the dinner. You must add a few sideshows and raffles and treble the number of photographers allowed in.

In Year Four you hike the prices again and to justify this have to get a decent caterer and improve the quality of the booze. You will find that the press has convinced a sponsor to pay for a table so they can be part of the party again. You have chairmen and chief executives fighting for seats and so seating plans become vital because the event then becomes a place to do business - which attracts racing people. You end up with professional seat-fillers (big-breasted girls in short frocks) so that there is never an empty seat in case the stars go home (which they often do).

You will find that the event will expand to fit the biggest available room in the country and all you have to do is sit back and count the money. Now is the time to reduce the number of awards available - too many categories and not enough drinking time is a trap many awards ceremonies fall into - and you make sure that any playing around with the voting figures is stopped so that there can be no accusation of corruption.

Eh voila! You have a self-funding promotional tool. If you are mad about money you can start selling the individual awards to sponsors - but this is very tacky and affects the exclusivity of the event. The more sponsors you have, the tighter the tickets become and the fewer big-breasted women in short frocks there are wandering about.

Europe is now so advanced with these awards functions that I have a suspicion that very soon there will be a package tour organized taking the stars from dinner to dinner for a fortnight in December. For which they will be paid vast sums of money and accompanied everywhere by big-breasted women in short frocks. There will no doubt be subtle sponsorship logos appearing on tuxedos before long.

Having been through this entire process once, however, I have no desire to do it again. Anyone who organizes such a show ends up having a miserable time because there is always some crisis going on somewhere. It is a lot easy just to sit at home and make up Award winners - it saves having to count votes. And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, the 1996 Globetrotter F1 Awards go to the following:

Driver of the Year: Damon Hill

Rookie of the Year: Jacques Villeneuve

Biggest Surprise of the Year Oliver Panis, Monaco

Best qualifying performance: Michael Schumacher, Monaco

Best race in a good car: Damon Hill, Canada

Worst race in a poor car: Giovanni Lavaggi, Monza (DNQ)

Best race in a poor car: Jos Verstappen, Argentina

Worst race in a good car: Jacques Villeneuve, Monaco

Best Move of the Year: Tom Walkinshaw (signing Hill)

Worst Move of the Year: David Coulthard (switching from Williams to McLaren)

Most enjoyable venue: Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne

Least enjoyable venue: Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paolo

The Stefano Modena Trophy

(for the disappointment of the year): Eddie Irvine

The Jackie Oliver Trophy

(for what might have been): Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Monaco

The Martin Brundle Award

(for the biggest crash of the year): Damon Hill's negotiating team

Mule of the Year Award

(for persistence): Ron Dennis (for efforts to convince the F1 media that the McLaren was a good car)

The Sorry Ron Best Car of the Year: Williams-Renault FW18

The Least Happy Designer of the Year: Adrian Newey (Williams-Renault FW18)

Motorhome of the Year: McLaren MP4/11

The Golden Hand Grenade

(for engine building): Yamaha V10

Best Actor: Flavio Briatore in "Benetton Can Win"

Best Supporting Actor: Schumacher's dog in "Mutt meets Money"

Masochist of the Year: Giancarlo Minardi (for two consecutive races in which his cars collided and then signing a partnership with his old enemy Flavio Briatore)

Con of the Year: The yachts in Albert Park Lake

The "Hey Big Spender" Trophy: Gerhard Berger, for his out of court settlement in Queensland

The "Hey Big Earner" Trophy: Bernard Ecclestone

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