Words and pictures by Billy Dulles
Prize giving was in Mugello Town Hall. We were severely dehydrated and craving liquid of any sort. The village had sold out of every soft drink. We were offered drinks in the Mayors parlor but of the Italian variety. Sticky and sweet and totally un-thirst quenching. No wine even, just spirits. Admitting defeat I asked for a whisky, thinking I could top it up with WATER or SODA. Fat chance, I got poured half a tumbler of neat Scotch.
No surprise therefore that within about twenty minutes nearly everybody was drunk.
The proceedings were slow to start and there were chants of "Why are we waiting? Oh WHY are we waiting......?"
Terry Hunter (Speedwell Sprite) got up and gestured for silence as if he was bringing the meeting to order; then proceeded to sing deadpan with accompanying gestures:
"The Cuckoo is a pretty bird,
This opened the floodgates to a whole repertoire of football songs and recitations by the likes of Robin Widdows (Works MGB) and others.
We were in good voice, rather like a Welsh miner's choir and even had a request from some Italians for 'Tipperary'. They had never heard our version before and it is probably fortunate they did not fully understand the words!
There were also some fun stories.
Lord Cross, who looked like the archetypal English aristocrat, straight out of PG Wodehouse driving his AC Cobra in pebble glasses, and getting only 5 or 6 miles to the gallon, having to refuel every lap! It had not occurred to him to ask for start money, he was just doing it.
Ed Nelson, in a lightweight E Type, came tearing round a corner and hit a sheep in an unofficial practice. He pulled out some Lira and dealt them out until he saw the farmer's expression change and explained that there was a race coming through and that he was 'multo cativo' to obstruct the track with his sheep. Thinking he had resolved the problem Ed roared off and the next lap at the same spot an inner voice cautioned him to lift off, luckily, as by this time the whole flock was waiting for him.
Grahame White, A-H Sprite, ran out of gas (petrol) up in the mountains and he appealed to the spectators for fuel. One said he could have all the gasoline in his car, but had no can. This was resolved when a group of spectators descended en masse on an old boy who was swigging wine from a large Chianti bottle which was quickly drained of its contents and filled with gas and he was on his way.
After the race Tim & I had planned to go to Modena to visit Colotti who made a five speed box which fitted the mini gear case. Our contact was Alf Francis, Stirling Moss's former mechanic, who lived in Modena, had been working on an abortive Formula 1 project for Serenissima, with Mike Parkes, if I recall, and now was tied up with Colotti.
We went to the factory, said we wanted to buy two gearboxes and before we could even think we had wheeled the Marcos in, pulled the engine and split the gearbox. Colotti's men then showed us how to install the gear set and we re-installed the unit. They then said they had booked the Ferrari test track at Furano for us to try it out. We thought we had died and gone to heaven.
We were staying in the Real Fini Hotel in Modena, the only place where you could network anything in the motor racing world. Pete Coltrin, US journalist, seemed to have a permanent stool at the bar. While waiting for a bank transfer to pay for the second gearbox, Tim & I had hatched a plan to thank Mick for all his efforts, especially all the all-nighters he had put in. In short, without him there would have been no racing. We discussed our plan with Alf and told him we had decided to treat Mick to one of the 'Ladies of the Night' we had noticed plying their trade. Alf replied that he personally knew ".......all the Goddamn Whores in Modena!" and not to worry as he would find us a suitable one.
We went out to dinner, and had a fair amount to drink listening to Alf's fascinating stories, I suspect injected with a little Hungarian hyperbole, but fascinating for all that. It was getting late and we realized that there were no more street walkers, so Alf said not to worry we could always pick one up at Modena railway station. Well there was one, more homely than glamorous, and Yugoslav with limited Italian. But to us, in our condition, she was Marlene Dietrich, and we checked her in to the Hotel.
Mick went down the corridor to claim his prize and I tried to get to sleep, feeling the onset of a thumping hangover after all the beers, topped off with Italian liquors like Grappa, Zambucca and Strega. All unwise.
I was suddenly awakened with the room flooded with harsh light; Mick framed in the doorway in a towel, swaying slightly:
"Bill do you want her? I couldn't bleedin' do it!"
Mick's South London Cockney accent added pathos to the situation.
"Could'nt bleedin' do it! Sent her off a couple of times, but I couldn't bleedin' do it! Must have been the beers."
Mick said this as if he was unraveling a mystery.
"D'ya want her? She's there waiting"
And paid for, but my head was in the vice like grip of a cheap booze hangover.
"Turn the bloody lights off, go and see Tim"
Tim told me later that when he got to her room she said something about '...luce in camera' which meant turn the lights out in the bedroom.
Now I think we had all seen the latest James Bond movie where Sean Connery makes love to the glamorous Russian spy with the KGB filming the scene from behind a one way mirror, which caused Tim to jump up and say:
"I'm not having any bloody cameras in this room!"
You will have to ask him what happened next.
Our convoy then left for Switzerland where we left the Cooper S (with delivery mileage!) and I went to Grenoble with Mick for Chamrousse Hill Climb.
I had competed there in previous years and knew the course, but that year the venue was changed to La Morte, so it had to be learned again.
Jean Louis Marnat was helpful here as he had a Simca 1000 rental car. His contract with JP Richard in Paris, the Austin dealers, provided for this.
I am ashamed to say we returned the rental (key under the Hertz office door) with bald tyres, an empty tank and only about 20km on the odometer!
I think I made second in class behind Hanrioud in the works Alpine 110 and got a paperweight for my pains. The five speed box did help in this respect but we had not resolved the fuel surge problem and decided to buy a Weber DCOE carburetor, when we got home.
Last updated 3rd June, 2016