Such was the paranormal tingle I felt coursing through me as this ‘letter from God’ came in to my ‘pigeon hole’ a few years ago, I can still feel it now whenever I don my white gloves and caress the hallowed relic.
I think also to the time at Brands Hatch in 2003 when I met Mario Andretti. In my mind he remains the most versatile racing driver ever put on this earth and also one of its most charismatic.
I was too young to hold Gilles Villeneuve in genuine reverence when he died in 1982 and subsequently had any chance to see or meet the great French-Canadian. Therefore, Mario Andretti is my all-time hero, although he does share this accolade with legendary York City FC striking colossus – Keith Walwyn* but Mario is a gentleman and he won’t mind that.
I saw Mario race just the once at Le Mans, in 2000, when he raced a Panoz LMP. I remember almost lamping one particular colleague when he mocked the 60-year-old’s pace against those half his age. ‘Let’s see if you take Tertre Rouge flat when you are three-score years shall we, you fat ****?’ Said with a hint of ‘Begbie-style’ menace he shut up soon enough. It was 3am, I was tired and…… sorry kids. Don’t swear, Mario doesn’t like it.
Anyone who knows Mario Andretti does not need an explanation as to why he is my hero. Let us just say that the majority of the current generation of ‘sports heroes’ would do well to study the great man and learn how to be a true ‘star’.
*You can read about the legend that is Keith Walwyn, among many great topics in Simon Hood’s excellent ‘Bicyclekicks’ book which is on sale here – http://www.lulu.com/shop/simon-hood/bicycle-kicks/paperback/product-20375314.html