19 February 2019

A dedicated fan. Fascinating F1 Facts: 82

After British Telecom was privatised in 1985 things went well until the recession on 1990, when the company decided that it needed to make considerable cuts in its staff numbers. It was decided to lay off 5,000 managers and to put together financial packages to encourage them to retire early. One of those approached and asked to leave was John Grainger, a Yorkshireman who happened to be a huge racing fan. His passion had begun when he saw races at Rufforth, an old airfield in the country, a few miles to the west of York. In the mid-Seventies he started travelling to Formula 1 races, beginning with the British GP but then going further afield, his first foreign race being Monza in 1977. In 1978 he took a holiday in the autumn and went to Watkins Glen and Montreal and in the course of the 10 years that followed he probably went to around 40 Grands Prix.

When British Telecom asked him to retire, he looked at the numbers proposed as compensation and decided that it was a decent deal. And so he took the money, left his job and planned to complete a whole season of Formula 1 in 1991. He booked most of his flights and hotels with the same travel agency, which organised travel to all 16 events. It was going to be a great adventure and as a Williams fan, there was plenty of excitement as Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese were competitive with the McLarens of Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger. The Ferraris of Alain Prost and Jean Alesi didn't win anything but Nelson Piquet won in Canada for Benetton and then, as the end of the year, Michael Schumacher arrived on the scene and showed signs that he was a star in the making. It was also the year of the first Jordan, the gorgeous 191 in 7-Up colours.

Grainger travelled to the circuits using public transport and reckoned that the overall experience for a race fan was best in Spain, although he enjoyed most of the venues - to a lesser or greater extent. He found the travelling to be a lot harder than he thought it would be but enjoyed being able to visit a few cities, spending a week in Sydney between the Japanese and Australian GPs at the end of the year. Along the way he got to know a number of Formula 1 people and was fortunate for the last two races because the US television network ESPN agreed to help him out and took him on as an assistant, which gave him a paddock pass. At the end of the year when he looked back on the experience, he reckoned that it had surpassed his expectations. The whole experience cost him £22,000, which is with inflation would be around £46,000 today.


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