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JULY 23, 2001

Brawn gets nostalgic

ROSS BRAWN visited the Ferrari Festival at Brands Hatch this weekend, joining Sir Jack Brabham and Sir Stirling Moss in a celebration of the marque - as was Michael Schumacher supposed to have done, until defeat at the British Grand Prix and a heavy testing accident at Monza waylaid him.

The event saw Brawn in a reflective mood as he was surrounded by Italian racing machines from Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati that stretched back 70 years, the most recent among them being Alain Prost's Ferrari 641 of 1990 and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F399 of 1999.

"When we design a car, we try to keep a sense aesthetics in mind," said Brawn. When aerodynamics were understood in the 1970s, the cars really changed, because then you had to design a car purely for aerodynamic purposes around the aerodynamic package. "We are enthusiasts so we do like a car to look nice, but it is difficult, because function is everything, and form comes after the looks."

The event caused some consternation among Silverstone staff, as the tenth annual Historic Festival at the Northamptonshire circuit has long been planned with Ferrari as the featured marque when it takes place next month. Brands Hatch owners Octagon Motorsports are also the leaseholders of Silverstone, but clearly feel that the two venues offer a different enough perspective.

Certainly it did to Brawn, whose career has not seen him return to Brands for many years and he found the venue little changed. "My career started in 1976 when Brands and Silverstone were alternating the British Grand Prix, and I recall doing a Race of Champions (non-championship F1 event), here one year. One of the most memorable things was getting stuck in traffic going through London on the way home - it was even worse than Silverstone!" he said.

"Brands was a place we looked forward to - it was a very tough track to set up a car on. It's what I would describe as a three-dimensional track, what with Paddock (the blind right-hand bend at the end of the straight) and the downhill and uphill sections. It presented different problems compared to normal tracks so it was a challenge to get a car set up correctly. So I'm pleased I've had the chance of remaking my acquaintance with the track!"

Probably less keen to have remade his acquaintance with Brands Hatch would have been Michael Schumacher, whose only racing appearance at the Kentish circuit was in the 1988 Formula Ford Festival, when he crashed out in the heats.