Those Were The Days - Stories and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing
Those Were The Days - Stories and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing

The Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley Show

Bernie Ecclestone giving it the finger in El Grafico.

Bernie Ecclestone giving it the finger in El Grafico.

It seems that it is open session on the disgraced boss of the FIA, Max Mosley, so I thought I'd have a shot. I knew Max back in the late "60s when he was chancing his arm as a racing driver. I wasn't a bosom buddy or anything but he seemed a reasonable bloke. Friendly, polite and always ready to chat about his passion for motor racing. This was before he became a director of MARCH, a company which built and supplied cars to the racing fraternity. It was even before he became mates with Bernie Ecclestone. I must admit I've always admired Bernie. Someone you could trust. He always had a wicked sense of humour but usually meant no harm. It was always said that a hand shake with Bernie was more binding than a written contract with all its caveats and exclusions.

I was writing a column for an Argentine magazine called El Grafico and was asked to do pen portraits of some of the leading figures in motor racing. By this time Bernie was well on the way to being the supreme ruler of racing and Max was a director of March and beginning to flex his muscle as a constructor. So I decided to write about them. I told a story about playing cards on Bernie's yacht when it was anchored in Monaco for the Grand Prix. The guard from the gangway came into the cabin and said there was a man on the dock who claimed to have business with Ecclestone. Bernie told the guard to show the man in. A big man in a suit appeared in the doorway.

"Senor Ecclestone?" He enquired.

Bernie nodded towards me.

"Good evening, Senor Ecclestone", the man said. "I'm from Longines."

Bernie stood up and thrust out his hand.

"I'm Ecclestone" he said.

Another time we were flying down to Paul Ricard in Graham Hill's Aztec. Graham was driving one of Bernie's Brabhams in a race that weekend. I mentioned to Bernie that I'd always fancied an MG TD. No problem. He still had his second hand car business at Bexleyheath and was sure he could get me one at a reasonable price. I explained that I hadn't got a car and had to rely on borrowing from the various car companies to get around. Bernie had a solution for that. He would lend me a car until he could find me an MG. When I went to pick it up I was impressed. He loaned me an Audi 100, a very tasty car at that time.

The weeks went by and no MG turned up. I spoke to him a few times and he seemed happy with the situation. I was sitting in my office when a couple of heavyweights in anoraks walked in. They didn't mess about. Evidently Bernie wanted his car back. They also told me that I should be careful taking advantage of peoples generosity and that if they didn't get the keys instantly it would be the worst for me. They got them - instantly. After they left I rang Bernie and apologised. He laughed.

"I bet you s**t yourself" he said.

That afternoon the MG TD turned up driven by one of the heavies who thought it was all a hell of a joke.

Max Mosley in younger and happier days.

Max Mosley in younger and happier days.

I struggled a bit with the Mosley piece. I started off with a bit about his family and how, if his father's plans had been fulfilled, Max would have been scooting his tricycle around the hallways and corridors of Buckingham Palace and would probably have finished up as Gauleiter of Manchester. Max's father, as probably everybody now knows, was the leader of the Fascist Party in England and spend most weekends being obnoxious in Whitechapel. It probably wasn't very fair but it made him interesting. The couple of anecdotes I told about him, unfortunately, weren't. I told about the time when he was practising for the race at Hochenheim. He came into the pits with the throttle stuck, hit the back wheel of one of the other cars and was propelled into the air. I didn't see it myself but I was reliably informed that he flew down the pit lane at a height of about four feet before coming in for a crash landing. Fortunately nobody was hurt but it did provide a frisson of excitement for the day. A few weeks later I was standing with him at the Goodwood Awards ceremony when he asked me if I thought he should continue with a career as a driver. For the life of me I can't remember what I recommended.

It was a little after this that he got some friends together and formed March Engineering. (Mosley, Alan Rees, Grahan Coaker, Robin Herd). The company was launched at the Pagoda in Hyde Park. I remember, after everyone had left, sitting outside with Max and Alan Rees chatting about the present state of motor racing and even being propositioned by Alan about forming a sports car racing team with himself and Robin Widdows as drivers. It is the last time I can remember having a conversation with Max.

Fast forward a few years and I was staying at the Sheraton in Sao Paolo for the Brazilian Grand Prix. I was about to go to my room and as the lift doors opened I was confronted by Max and Bernie. I had no reason to believe that they could have read El Grafico. It was written in Spanish and the stories had appeared a month or so before.

"Liked the character assassination" Bernie said - smiling.

Max wasn't so happy.

"You know that stuff you wrote is libellous?" he snapped.

I smiled weakly and was glad when the doors opened at my floor and I could do a bunk. I never did hear from his solicitor but a few years later, when he was made President of the FIA, I wrote to him and congratulated him on the appointment.

"Now" I said, "We can get back to old fashioned racing and get rid of all the fripperies they have put on cars recently".

He wrote back to me.

"You don't know what you are talking about."

Fair point I suppose.

FEIJOADA COMPLETA

INGREDIENTS

1 tbs Worcester Sauce
1 tbs Rapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Bayleaf
2 tins kidney beans
1/2 lb. salt pork, boiled for 5 minutes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lbs. Salami
1/2 lb. smoked lean ham hocks
1 lbs. corned beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 ts salt
2 ts ground black pepper
1/2 fresh orange
3pts water
4 oranges, peeled, sliced

WHAT TO DO

Heat the oil in a large, heavy, deep pot and stir-fry the onion and garlic for 1 minute or until light golden brown. Add the beans, salt pork, Portuguese sausage, ham hocks, corned beef, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, halved-orange and water. Cover and simmer for 2 hours or until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding water if needed. Serve with sliced oranges and long grained rice. Serves 6

Posted 28/5/2008

Those Were The Days - Motor Racing Stories, Tales and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing