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

Bucket & Spade Time

Tony Rudlin and Innes Ireland

TR tries to convince a furious Innes Ireland that he should try to calm down.

There was a week between a couple of races and the Mayor of Mar del Plata invited anyone who was interested to take some time out in the fantastic Hotel Mar del Plata, casino, health Spa and shopping centre that dominated the beach front of his city. For some reason most of the visitors wanted to stay in Buenos Aires and sample the fantastic nightlife. Only a few, who had been in the Capitale before, fancied the couple of hundred miles drive in the Summer heat in a Ford Falcon. I managed to round up drivers Mike Beuttler, Innes Ireland and Piers Courage by convincing them that it would be cool and relaxing by the sea. We spent Monday sorting everything out in preparation for our move for the race at Cordoba in central Argentina the following weekend and set off south at about four o'clock in the evening with Mike driving.

Although the road was pretty empty there was a speed limit of, I think, 75 kph on most of the road. This was regulated by pillboxes every ten miles or so with soldiers and guns, and if the rumours were true, a need to use them. As we trundled on and darkness moved in we nodded off to sleep and Mike gradually built up speed on the false premise that so far we hadn't been stopped so it was unlikely that we would be stopped. He was doing about 120 when he was suddenly confronted by a couple of armed soldiers. He must have been dozing. Instead of slamming on the anchors, apologising for going over the speed limit, spreading a little folding happiness around and going on our way, Mike swerved, accelerated and disappeared up the road. I knew no good would come of it. A few miles further on the road was blocked by a couple of lorries and there were a dozen or so soldiers with guns and a spotlight to discourage us from proceeding further. Mike saw the light, literally, and stopped. The soldiers surrounded us screaming orders and shaking their weapons in an aggressive manner. We knew enough of what the military were capable of doing when roused. You could see it on the streets of Buenos Aires every day. So we hopped nimbly out of the Falcon and prostrated ourselves on the tarmac. A couple of the guards searched us. I was the only one with even a smattering of Spanish so I tried to say sorry and beg forgiveness. They weren't in a forgiving mood. Innes tried to get through to them by shouting but it wasn't doing much good and I was beginning to regret the decision to go to the seaside.

I was hauled to my feet and taken into the pillbox at the side of the road. There was a brutal looking Sergeant sitting at a table. He left me standing there for a couple of minutes before looking up and asking for my passport. I whipped it out of my pocket quicker than a Texas gunslinger could draw a pistol from his holster. The Sergeant hardly looked at it. He suddenly walked over to me and started asking questions. I tried to keep up. I had a horrible feeling that things were about to turn nasty and I was going to be on the nasty end. I noticed that a copy of El Grafico was lying on the desk, open at a page with a picture of Juan Manual Fangio. Pathetically I gave the Sergeant a sycophantic smile and said fawningly. "Juan Manual - muy amigo mio."

The soldier paused, almost as bemused by the switch in conversation as I was. He shrugged and twitched his shoulders but he lowered his voice in case he had missed something important. Quickly, like a beggar showing his sores, I turned to the page that I had written in the magazine about the Temporada. Still bemused, my captor looked where my trembling finger was pointing. Read the by-line, compared it with my passport and underwent a change of personality. I pressed home my slender advantage, explained who the other people in the Falcon were. Innes Ireland the great Lotus driver who should have been world champion, Mike Beuttler who would undoubtedly be world champion in the future and Piers Courage, one of the richest men in the world who would be world champion next year. He offered me coffee and told one of his men to bring the others in. Half an hour later we were waved off with a friendly warning not to go too fast or we would never make it to Mar del Plata - not all the troops were as easy going and friendly as they were.

We arrived at the hotel around midnight. The place was massive. It stretched in either direction for a couple of hundred yards and was throbbing with people. We booked in and were allocated two to a room. Me with Innes and Piers with Mike. The rooms were smallish but neat and furnished in a friendly way. The huge complex had been built, like most things in Argentina in recent years, by Juan Peron, egged on by his dynamic wife Evita, as a resort for the workers. And it was obvious that it was well received.

Innes looked around the room, went to the window and looked out - onto the main road. He didn't like what he saw and demanded another room. The Manager explained that it was the height of the holiday season and there weren't any spare rooms. Innes threatened to call his great friend the Mayor and ruin the Manager's career. The Manager took the threat seriously. That was the way things worked in Argentina at the time. He suddenly remembered a spare room a couple of floors up. He ordered two of his staff to pick up one of the beds and led us out of the room. It was a bit of a problem getting us all, plus the bed, into the crowded lift but it was managed somehow. On the upper floor we all spilled out of the lift and followed the bed to the end of the corridor where the manager threw open the door to a room and I shuffled in with Innes closely followed by the bed.

The accommodation was for a single person. Innes stood and watched as the two men manhandled the bed into the room and jammed it into place beside the in situ bed. A very tight squeeze. I knew what was coming. He didn't like the room. The argument started again. Again. The men picked up the bed and we reversed the upward journey. Innes still wasn't having it. He picked up the phone but before it could give the operator the Mayor's telephone number the Manager suddenly remembered that he did have a room vacant. So we set off again, minus the bed. And finished up in the bridal suite. Just the one bed. But big! Innes looked at the Manager and he returned the glare with a cherubic smile. It was finally sorted out when the two porters arrived with the much travelled bed. I was so knackered at this point that I didn't even argue when Innes took the marriage bed.

Next morning there was a message waiting at reception from the Mayor. He wanted us to have lunch with him. We filled in the morning by seeing what the hotel had to offer. Everything was open and doing business, even the casinos. The beach was absolutely crowded with slender, super-tanned bodies. About one o'clock a limo turned up and whisked us away to the Mayor's office and we had dinner in the boardroom while the Mayor and his crew filled us in on the wonders of his domain. It was nearly six before we got away. As we left the Mayor gave us letters that we were to show wherever we went and the bill would be sent to his office. I liked the sound of that. We solved the problem of where we wanted to go by asking a couple of the local beauties where the best clubs were and then taking them along.

They took us to a huge club on the edge of town called the SS Enterprise. It was all decked out internally and externally as the famous Star Ship. The place was heaving and about 3am we decided to move on. The girls we had picked up earlier had already moved on - probably tired of the one sided conversation, ogling and heavy breathing. We still didn't feel like going to bed so we decided to try out one of the Hotel nightspots. At least Innes and I did, Piers and Mike were happy to call it a day. If there is one thing, other than beef, at which Argentina excels it is in its beautiful women. En masse! We were soon inducted into a nubile group, some of which spoke English. I found myself paired off with a beautiful Indo/Spanish girl, a Chino and proud of it, who danced like a Dervish on an electric pylon. Could the night get any better?

Innes came up and drew me to one side. He carefully explained that the girls we had fallen in love with were a couple of hookers and wanted paying for their favours. I nodded wisely and waited for Innes to tell me what he thought about that. Simple - he was all in favour. Besides - we had our letters from the Mayor. I wasn't so sure that the Mayor had foreseen the situation we were facing. Innes thought about it and then suggested we phoned the Mayor and cleared up this technicality. By now it was about 5.30 in the morning. I didn't think that was a good idea either but Innes wasn't the easiest bloke in the world to persuade not to do something he had set his mind on. I was right. The Mayor didn't take too kindly to being awaken at that hour and the short answer to Innes question was an emphatic 'No'. It didn't really matter. When we went back all the girls had sloped off.

We stayed on for a couple more days, lying on the beach, eating, chatting up women. The chatting was easy but they weren't that keen on taking the situation further. On the evening before we were to leave I met another ravishing brunette called Anna Elizabeth. I was in love. When I told her I was going back to BA the following morning she asked if she could cadge a lift. I agreed instantly. Innes, Mike and Piers had decided that they didn't fancy going back by car and had booked a flight. The car had been signed out to me so I was left to drive it back. Now I was reaping the bonus.

Half way to Buenos Aires Anna Elizabeth became ill. So ill that I had to stop at one of the army posts to get her some attention. And, of course, she needed an ambulance, which had to be paid for, and so did the doctor who treated her want his palm crossed with silver. Four hours later, shaky but mobile, Anna Elizabeth, eased herself into the passenger seat and said she was ready to go. One of the Doctors shook my hand and commiserated with me on the loss of the baby but assured me that there was no reason why we shouldn't try again after my wife had recovered from her ordeal.

When I dropped her off at her brother's house in Olivos she solemnly thanked me, kissed me on the forehead and left.

CHIMICHURI SAUCE / MARINATE

Next time you go to a barbecue and get the usual burnt offering of under-cooked chicken give a puzzled look around and ask if there is any Chimichuri Sauce. You will either get a blank look and you will know that what you have is as good as it gets or a bottle will be produced with a flourish and you will know that the piece you are about to ditch in the hedge is an oversight.

No Argentinian would offer food without a delicious supply of Chimichuri Sauce. If you are the host - don't forget the Sauce. A plus for Chimichuri is that it can be used as marinate if you are cooking fish or fowl. Marinate them for a couple of hours before cooking and you will have a dish to remember.

Ingredients :
2 tbsp Saffron
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup Olive Oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 large onion - chopped finely
4 cloves garlic crushed
2 tbsp chopped Parsley for garnish
1 tsp dried thyme
largish pinch cumin powder
Salt pepper and a little chilli to taste.

What to do: Crush the Saffron and combine it with the dried thyme, cumin powder, salt, pepper and chilli powder. Stir in the lemon and leave it to stand for 15 minutes or so. The longer you leave it the better it gets. Add the garlic, onion and olive oil. Leave it to stand for a few minutes then add the red wine vinegar.

Whisk thoroughly.

If you wish to use it as marinate, pour the mixture over the meat and let it stand for about 24 hours.

Drain off the fluid and keep. This will make an excellent sauce for the meat and put hairs on your chest.

Posted 29/12/2008

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