by Jay Dalton
Maybe it’s because I don’t find street circuits very interesting. Well, not now—not in today’s world of 2-second pit stops and micro aerodynamic adjustments. Maybe it’s because the Grand Prix cars of today are best suited for Spa or Monza or Silverstone, where all the drama is at high speed.
Street racing is always about fiddly little corners and the guard rail being so close and the cars so tightly packed that they are always touching and knocking the winglets off. The three inch mistake is costly.
It’s like watching someone dance a jig for 2 hours. Hey, it’s complicated and interesting to look at for about 5 minutes. After an hour…well it begins to look like a well-practiced trick. Oh. And no passing. If there are two passes it makes the highlight replays. Today the race means almost nothing.
In more innocent days I didn’t feel like this. I walked the track at Monaco when I was a kid. It’s around 10 PM, my family is staying in Monte Carlo. I’m about 14 years old and I announce to my parents “I’m walking the track !” Much to my delight I hear…”have fun.” So, mid-week on a late June evening about 30 days after the race, I’m picking out the corners by the dim glow of the ornate streetlamps. Watching carefully for small cars with amber-tinted headlamps.
When you look close there is still a lot of rubber left on the sloping curbs. Here…look here…this is where the cars just touch the chicane coming out of the tunnel! My nose is up against the glass of the little store at Tabac. This was years before the public swimming pool was built so the track swept along the entire harbor front…all the way to La Rascasse.
Eventually I climb the hill picking out the race lines through those gentle curves. Find that stinking manhole cover just after Casino. Everyone must adjust their line so you don’t put a tire on the liquid-slick steel. Look…check the rubber from the hard braking into Mirabeau. Oh my God I’m standing on the track at Monaco.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about—if the names don’t sound familiar, you may never understand why a midnight lap in my 14th year meant anything. But to me, it meant I would return to Europe many, many times. It would mean I would follow Grand Prix racing for years to come, and be part of the automotive industry for the rest of my life.
And along the way my greatest honor over time was to meet and interview some of those very brave guys who back then, left the marks on the street.
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