GLOBETROTTER

Difficult questions, Jumbos anarchists and difficult questions

Boeing 747

Boeing 747 

 © Technik-Museum Speyer

If you want to impress your friends at dinner parties you can ask them what strange phenomenon occurred which caused practice for the 1978 Austrian Grand Prix to be stopped in the middle of one of the sessions. If they know anything about motor racing they will say: "Oh yes, someone hit a stag!" And you, in a rather smug voice, can reply: "Wrong! That was in 1987".

That will leave them completely stumped because the truth is even more bizarre than that.

A parachute display, which was supposed to have been cancelled, went ahead unexpectedly and so the Formula 1 drivers found themselves hurtling around the racing circuit with parachutists landing around them. The race officials, quite rightly, considered this to be a dangerous situation and red-flagged the session.

Having broken the ice with that one you can follow up with a supplementary question about what caused the stoppage of a Formula Vee race at Gimli in Manitoba, Canada, on July 23, 1983. The answer in this case was that an Air Canada Boeing 767-233 crash-landed on the main straight, after both of its engines had flamed out due to lack of fuel. Captain Robert Pearson, an experienced glider pilot, flew the aircraft for 13 minutes without engine power and managed to land without too much damage and without hitting any of the racing cars.

Boeing 747 © Technik-Museum Speyer

I was reminded of this bizarre event when I arrived at my hotel in Germany (I don't actually own it but I stay there on a regular basis). What was strange was that there was a Boeing 747 in the car park.

Experienced travellers are used to seeing Jumbo Jets knocking about and some of these marvellous machines even have rather bizarre paint jobs. I saw one with Pokemon on it the other day - after which my small (deluded) son said that when buys his own jet he will have it painted up in Pokemon colors.

Anyway, Jumbos are impressive beasts but are all the more impressive when they appear in places where there are no runways on which to land. There is a small aerodrome at Speyer and it is next door to the hotel but nothing bigger than a Cessna can land there and trying to put down a 747 would definitely end up with Speyer as an item on the international news.

I should perhaps explain that the Hotel am Technik-Museum at Speyer is a rather eccentric place. It is not as weird at the High Chaparral Hotel in Anderstorp, which is a cowboy town in the middle of a Swedish forest, but it is the only hotel I know where one can find a U-Boat, an Antonov cargo plane, fire engines, locomotives and assorted jet aircraft. And, since March this year, it has had a Jumbo Jet.

This begs the obvious question: How?

Clearly there was a story to be told and so we investigative reporters (overdosed on Schumacher victories) set out to discover how to get a Jumbo Jet into a car park. We uncovered the unlikely tale of Yankee Mike, otherwise known as the "Schleswig-Holstein". This plane flew between 1978 and 2002 and then, by an arrangement between Lufthansa and the Technik Museum flew to the Flughafen Karlsruhe/Baden Baden. This is about 50 miles to the south of Speyer. All that was then required was to transport the plane the last 50 miles. Such things are not possible by road because of bridge s, towns, telegraph poles and high-tension cables so the Germans did the obvious thing and took off the wings and the tail and loaded the fuselage onto a special trailer and, having laid some sections of temporary metal road (used by the military), the 747 left the airport going across the fields to the River Rhine where a large barge awaited. The trailer was rolled-on and sailed down the Rhine to Speyer, scraping under the bridges. At Speyer the trailer was rolled-off the barge onto more metal road and then towed through various back roads and between houses until it reached the museum. The wings followed. Since then the Germans have been putting Yankee Mike back together again...

Formula Vee race, Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, July 23, 1983

The moral of all this tales is that if you want something badly enough, you get it. If you are mad enough to figure out a way. Normal people give up and go home for tea but racing folk, pilots in distress and German museum owners decide to do the impossible and then do it. This is why life in the F1 paddock is such an amusing one. One is surrounded by people who think nothing of silly ideas. A colleague of mine in the Press Room is committed to one day breaking the World Water Speed Record. Ukyo Katayama, the Japanese GP driver of some years ago, used to say that his ambition was to climb Mount Everest without oxygen and once retired from his racing career he did just that, only just failing to get to the summit at his first attempt.

I am not good at remembering company slogans but I think it is Nike which tells the world "Just do it!". I have always felt that Nike would be a great F1 sponsor because that it the attitude one gets in the F1 paddock. We have an impossible problem that no sane person would even consider. Just do it!

The entire Formula 1 circus transported itself from Magny-Cours to Hockenheim in three days: Just do it!

If a racing team needs a new engine in a hurry they go up to the check-in desk and say: "Do you take hand luggage?" Just do it!

No mission is impossible and that is the magic of the sport. It is a sport full of anarchists who refuse to take no for an answer.

Anarchism does, however, have one or two drawbacks because in order for an anarchic society to work, there needs to be a chief anarchist. For many years Bernie Ecclestone has fulfilled that role but now, as we look to the future, no-one can agree on who should be the chief anarchist. Bernie is the man best-suited to the job but some of the suits in the motor industry seem to think that they are secretly anarchists (which is an amusing concept). And then there are bankers (a profession not known for its anarchic tendencies).

Well, I don't know the answer to all the politics but I do know what the paddock feels about the question.

Just do it!

If one can take a 747 to Speyer, one can sort out a few boardroom tangles and get the sport moving in the right direction.

Somebody out there must have an answer...

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