Ayrton's missing pizza, Mad Dog and the adventures of Mac and Lauren

Mac & Lauren

Mac & Lauren 


Writing books for children is not an easy business. To be able draw kids into a story and keep them there is a rare talent for one has few words to play with - and one must very rapidly create magic to captivate them. It is a job which is getting more difficult for once there was no television, no Gameboys and no Internet. One must marvel at JK Rowling's ability to invent the world of Harry Potter and one must stand in awe of the talents like Lewis Carroll, Enid Blyton, AA Milne or Arthur Ransome.

The key to it all and the reason that so many of these tales started out as bedtime stories for the authors' children is that they must fire the imagination. The use of pictures is sometimes as big a handicap as it is a help. I remember being subjected to dull books when I was a kid and waiting for the reader to get to the bottom of the page so we could turn over and look to see if there was a picture on the next page. In modern times pictures have come to dominate. The words are strung around them. Gratification is easier and there is less need for the imagination. And that means that there are few modern classics.

About 15 years ago someone asked me to write a book for kids about the Paris-Dakar Rally. It was short and not very sweet. I wanted it to be Beau Geste meets Toyota but I do not think I achieved it. The book (thankfully) disappeared between two publishing houses when one was taken over by the other and so never escaped into the public domain. The other day I was skipping through the darker recesses of my computer and stumbled upon the story. About the only thing I liked about it were the names of the characters I had dreamt up: Jacques Pacquet, Harri Nakkinen, Freddy Rottweiler and Gaston Gringo.

I read it through and found little of value except that it reminded me of an old racing myth which has long been forgotten. There are, it said, very few green cars in motor sport.

Green is considered by racers to be an unlucky color.

I thought I might drop by Jaguar Racing and mention that...

The reason for this burst of interest in children's books was because at Silverstone Ron Dennis's wife Lisa launched a range of books about "Mac and Lauren". The concept was a simple one. Lisa is trying to do for racing cars what Thomas the Tank Engine did for steam engines. She has a deal to write a series of books (17 in total) about two silver and grey racing cars called Mac and Lauren and the adventures they have with a bunch of other racing cars some of whom are more than vaguely recognizable: Franco and Marco, the red cars from Italy and Sid the Safety Car seemed somehow rooted in reality (or what we in the paddock believe to be reality).

My favorite team in Lisa's paddock were the secondary good guys Wills and Harry, one a big advocate of stiff upper lip and the other impetuous and quick to flair up.

Frank and Patrick have found their place in the literary world.

The British GP is a time when we journalists have lots to do, running from party to party and launch to launch. It is a good time of year to launch books and we go along to events, listen politely, eat the sandwiches and trot off home with our (signed) copies of the book. We all have hundreds of motor racing books, some inane, some obscure and some magnificent. They are in different formats, in different languages and on different aspects of the sport. My racing library includes biographies, team histories, cookbooks and I even have a book about motor racing and religion. The one thing that has always been missing is the children's section - which in a sport with so many infantile characters is a curious thing.

This year's crop of new books included a wonderful publication called "Flat Out. Flat Broke" by Perry McCarthy. If you do not know the name you are probably new to the sport as Perry, known as Mad Dog to his friends, is one of the great characters of modern F1 although his tenure of office in the Grand Prix world was, at best, tenuous. Perry arrived in Formula 1 in the summer of 1992 as the driver of a ridiculous racing team which was known as Andrea Moda Formula, which was run by a man in winkle-picker boots and dark glasses who made little contribution to the sport except to be the last F1 team boss (up to now) to be arrested in the paddock.

Perry's talents as a storyteller are legendary and having known him for far too long I know that most of these ridiculous stories are true. In F1 circles one does not get to be called "Mad Dog" without good reason. It is a very funny book which tracks the adventures of Perry from being a hideous child to life on the oil rigs to raise money to go racing. Perry never had a cent but talked his way into F1 sometimes quite literally. My favorite story was from 1987 when Perry decided that he wanted to see if he could get into the Formula 1 paddock without the right passes and arrived at the paddock gate on a motorbike with two paper plates balanced on one hand, shouting "Pizza for Ayrton! Pizza for Ayrton!" He nearly got away with it but when apprehended and told that there was no pizza between the two plates, Perry soon had those standing at the paddock gate looking around on the ground to find Ayrton's missing pizza!

Silverstone is always busy and was made busier this year by the adventures of the Arrows team and so it was not until some strange (almost bizarre) hour of the night that I found myself tucked up in bed, coffee-ed up and struggling to sleep but desperately needing to, and reading my way through the four published adventures of Mac and Lauren. They were nice books, good harmless fun for kids.

The only problem was that each book ended in the same way - with Mac and Lauren whizzing across the finishing line in first and second positions (no team orders here).

Would that life were so full of such happy endings...

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