Monday, January 30, 2017


I’ve had some mail asking me to reprise a trip I described a few years ago, which was originally the media drive event for the 2006 Bentley Azure convertible.

Our trip began in the village of Moltrasio, best known as the location of George Clooney’s villa on the western shore of Lago di Como.

We had a short drive to Menaggio, and then a 20-minute ferry ride across Lake Como to Varenna.

Although this drive crosses the border between Italy and Switzerland and takes us high into the Swiss Alps, in reality it’s just a short two and half hour trip, covering just over 100km from Varenna to St. Moritz.

From Varenna it’s a pretty drive alongside the north-east section of Lake Como, past the beautifully quaint village of Verceia which hugs the eastern shore of Lago di Mezzola, with the SS36 tracking along the floor of valleys before reaching the historic town of Chiavenna.

In summertime you could be forgiven for thinking no-one lives there, because it’s only in winter that it comes alive with skiers, heading for Valchiavenna.

From Chiavenna the road begins to climb, and then you are faced with the Malojapass, which snakes its way to the higher elevations of the region known as the Engadine.

Once at the top the road sweeps past the Silsersee, and then the Silverplanersee, before the final ascent into St. Moritz.

Possibly one of Switzerland’s most famous ski resorts, it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re into skiing or snowboarding. Each year the snow falls to a depth of at least two metres, and the terrain offers everything from beginner slopes to black runs that will challenge even the most competent.

In summer St. Moritz is a pretty quiet town, but the ski shops and boutiques are open, however they’re usually selling off last year’s fashions and ski gear. There's no shortage of good restaurants in St. Moritz, but in summer you are pretty much relegated to the hotels. We lunched at the Hotel Corvatsch, which was excellent.
Hotel Corvatsch, St. Moritz

This is a great driving route, even though it’s an up-and-back drive, rather than a circuit.

However, the roads are excellent, including all the variations in altitude, and in summer there is surprisingly little traffic. 

Just don’t forget your passport!

Friday, January 27, 2017


This man needs no introductions to any reader of my Blog, but his background is enlightening.

Born in Suffolk in October 1930, the son of a fisherman, Bernie’s great passion was motorcycles and right after WW2 he set up a motorcycle parts business with a partner, Fred Compton.

He got into motor racing in 1949, competing in the F3 championship. In 1951 he acquired a Cooper Mk V, raced at Brands Hatch, winning occasionally, but then suffered an accident, which turned his attention away from competition, towards real estate.

He made a number of astute and lucrative real estate investments in and around London, but in 1957 returned to motor sport as a manager of drivers. He bought and sold racing cars, and among others managed German driver Jochen Rindt.

His big move into Formula One came in 1971, when Bernie was approached by Jack Brabham’s former partner Ron Tauranac. Ron was looking for a partner to replace Jack, and Bernie negotiated and acquired the whole Brabham operation for £100,000!

He is famous for his tough negotiating style, his determination and resolve.

But, my interest is in how he makes decisions, and the inspiration behind his meticulous sense of organization, presentation, and process management.

I first met Bernie, in 1985 when we were introduced by my mate Stirling Moss at the Australian F1 Grand Prix Ball in Adelaide.

But the main thing that impressed me that weekend was Bernie’s speed for decision-making, and action. On Saturday, the Formula One Management team discovered someone had forged copies of the ‘paper’ GP credentials.
When Bernie discovered this, the entire set of credentials for teams, media and officials were re-created and re-printed overnight! That was impressive.

In the following 30 years all my dealings with Bernie have been amicable and honorable. I’ve always been impressed with his zealous and meticulous attention to detail, social etiquette, and impeccable manners.

The first time I asked Bernie if he would provide me with a paddock pass for a Grand Prix, our mutual friend Alan Woollard (the man who has expertly managed all F1 air freight for more than 20 years) said to me: “Be sure to write a Thank You letter, Bernie appreciates good manners. And, by the way, he reads every letter sent to him.”

Consequently, over the years whenever he provides me with credentials I write a thank you note, and always receive a cordial reply. And, since 1986 I get a Xmas card every year too.

It’s impossible not to notice how the organization of the paddock areas, officials’ suites and team hospitality areas has evolved after the past 30 years.

From a ramshackle collection of facilities, motorhomes, tents and garages, the whole ‘back-end’ is extremely well laid-out, efficient and beautifully-presented.

I asked Bernie what was the driving force, and he replied: “My problem is, I have a tidy mind." When I asked him about the evolution of the tight security levels for the credentials, I asked if that first experience in Adelaide was behind it.

He said: “Absolutely, but that wasn’t the first time it had been tried. However, I have to say your Aussie crims are pretty sharp. The changes have been really necessary for security.

When I commented that critics say the whole atmosphere is too sterile, Bernie replied that that was how he liked it. Clean, well laid out and well organized.

I have asked him about the competitive state of the sport, to which he replied:

“We have become too clinical with the Technical and Sporting Regulations.  We must relax these.”

Most interesting for me is Bernie’s work ethic and his sense of organization, and I asked what was the greatest influence? Bernie told me it stemmed from his great, great grandfather.

The Oxford dictionary describes a ‘peripatetic’ person as someone who travels widely, and works in different places for a short time. That sums up Bernie Ecclestone very accurately.

He works incredible hours, especially as he turns 87 in October, and is constantly ‘on the go’.

Bernie has his critics, and some of the things they complain about may be justified, but I am unabashedly a supporter. As I said, in my personal dealings he has been straightforward, gracious and easy to work with.

Formula One will miss his strong, guiding hand, his insight, instincts and most importantly his resolve. His determination to get things done is what drives him.

However, who knows? He has so much energy, he may yet surprise us all with some new ideas.

It’s a pleasure to know him.


It's October 1985, one month after Jaguar's historic win at the James Hardie 1000 on the famous Mount Panorma circuit at Bathurst and I'm in Adelaide for the inaugural Australian Formula One Grand Prix on the Adelaide street circuit.

My pal Stirling Moss and I are mooching around the paddock visiting friends and checking out the scene. I have stopped off to see my good friend Alan Jones, who is racing for the Beatrice F1 team run by Carl Haas.

This photo was retrieved from my photo album to remember two of my dearest friends who recently passed away. And they were two irrepressible personalities.

Next to Alan Jones is the late Ruggero Rotondo, then the CEO at Alfa Romeo Australia; and waiting to interview Alan Jones is Ken Sparkes, working with Sydney's Channel 9 - the network broadcaster of the F1 Grand Prix.

I met Ken when I first started in radio, back in 1966, and we were firm friends till the end.

Sadly, Ken passed away last year during an overseas trip. In his long media career he was a disc jockey, television compere, and motor sport fanatic. Working at the Grand Prix were all his dreams rolled into one.

The memories and the friends I have enjoyed throughout my life will never be forgotten.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Mark Webber is known throughout the motorsport world as @AussieGrit, a fine twitter reflection of his life and career.
But it changes today.

The one-time kid from Queanbeyan is now @AussieGritAO after becoming an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours.

The award is a tribute to a motorsport career that earned him a World Sports Car Championship and took him to the brink of the Formula One world title in 2010, as well as his significant charity work including the Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge.

Most of all, the AO is a refection of his life as a role model and his dinkum Aussie approach to his career and everyone he has touched along the way.

Mark Webber is honest, open and genuine, a very rare combination in the selfish world of motorsport, who maximised every opportunity he was given - or mostly created himself - from the time he gave up on rugby league and turned his laser focus on racing.

The Webber approach is reflected in his response to the AO, speaking to News Limited from his long-term race base in Britain:
“I didn’t expect it at all. I didn’t think there would be anything coming along,” Webber says.
“It’s a bit of a surprise. But I think it’s an absolute honour to be recognised at that level.
“It’s been a long-term run over here. I left a long time ago, and it’s been nice to fly the flag.
“You don’t look back too much . . . but I hope I represented Australia as best I could.”

Webber retired from racing at the end of last year but has stayed just as busy with new business opportunities, including ambassadorial roles with his former backers Porsche and Red Bull. He will be home to visit the Bathurst 12-Hour race next weekend with Porsche, and also for the Australian Grand Prix in March.

Webber looked way too tall for motorsport when he began karting, a problem that dogged him right through to Formula One when he always looked like he could do with a good feed, and he was talented but not an obvious future star in his early racing days.

He moved to England with little more than talent, dreams, a few unshakeable sponsors and his long-term partner Ann Neal, then got to work in the same way that Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones had done before him. He also had his family, led by his father and chief cheerleader Alan.

“You really do just focus on your career and performance, and carry yourself as best you can, and learn from the folk came before,” Webber says.

Webber never had enough money but was a winner in Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula 3000 as he moved up the junior ranks. He sidetracked into sports cars to continue his progress and earn some money from Mercedes-Benz, but it nearly ended in disaster with two 250k/h backflips at Le Mans in 1999.

The crashes were not his fault and he was initially blamed by Benz. Yet, even though he was badly shaken by a near-death experience in the first crash, he strapped himself back into the car and continued.

That’s Mark Webber.

It was the same in 2008 when he broke his leg in a mountain-bike crash in the Tassie Challenge, but made an early return to F1, despite extreme pain and a tough recovery.

Webber made a fairytale entry to F1 when he was sixth in his home race with the tiny Minardi team of fellow Aussie Paul Stoddart in 2002. Few people knew he had made an all-or-nothing gamble with only enough sponsorship for three races.

A year later he was back, and being paid at the Australian Grand Prix with Jaguar, which promised much yet delivered as little as his later time with Williams F1.

Webber’s breakthrough came when he joined Red Bull Racing - born from the ashes of the Jaguar Formula One team - and he became a regular top-10 runner, and then race winner after his landmark success with pole position and victory in the German grand prix of 2009.
Mark Webber wins Monaco GP for the second time, in 2012

But Webber’s time at Red Bull coincided with the arrival of wonderboy Sebastian Vettel, who shaded the Aussie - and triggered some fiery on and off-track clashes - on the way to four world championships.

Vettel was the hand-picked protege of Red Bull’s racing boss and Webber’s size and weight meant he was handicapped by as much a 0.3 seconds a lap, a massive margin in F1, against his jockey-sized team mate.

He eventually walked away from F1 on his own terms, unlike too many drivers who backslide through the field, with nine wins and 42 podiums from 215 starts.
He moved straight into the top drive in sports cars with Porsche, and took another string of victories and the 2015 world title, although he never managed a victory at Le Mans.

Through it all, Webber has remained doggedly committed and fiercely patriotic, challenging himself in recent times by learning to fly a helicopter. And marrying Ann.

His retirement is looking just as busy as his racing days and he travels a lot, including visiting many major sporting events - most recently the Monte Carlo Rally - as a superfan and to support other Aussies from Leyton Hewitt through to current speedway racing stars.

“I’m still extremely busy. I’m based out of the UK but I’m still true blue and remind people of that whenever I can,” Webber says. “It’s very easy to stop in the car and do nothing, but I think it’s good to keep testing myself.”


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Proving yet again the resilience of the collector car market as a safe haven during periods of volatile financial activity, a classic British beauty has brought in almost USD$1.5 million.

When Barrett-Jackson kicked off its 46th year in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 22, the auction broke more than 40 vehicle auction sales records.

The top-selling car, a 1964 Aston Martin DB 5 sold for USD$1,485,000!

During the automotive lifestyle event, 1,719 vehicles were consigned, the most at one auction in the company’s history, with vehicle sales totaling approximately $100 million, at a 99.5-percent sell-through rate.

Over 1,800 pieces of automobilia sold for more than $2.5 million bringing the total sales to more than $102 million. Approximately 320,000 people attended the auction.

NOTE: According to the Aston Martin build sheet, this 1964 DB5 was delivered new to Societe Nouvelle du Garage Mirabeau, the Aston Martin dealer in Paris on March 19, 1964, just six days after it was constructed by the factory at Newport Pagnell.

This rare factory left-hand-drive example with matching-numbers engine is finished in its original color scheme of black with black leather interior and chrome wire wheels. 

According to the auction description this LHD DB5 presents much as it did when it first left the Aston Martin works more than 50 years ago.