At the time of writing this column, there is good cheer aplenty in the air. I suppose itâ€™s because it is that time of the year when the sound of carols becomes the background music for everything, when presents abound and when the world magically turns to shades of red and green in the spirit of the season. And while the background score to this particular tale is nothing other than the sound of engines being revved to the limit, the presents come in many curious forms.
You see, this is the very period of time, when the many brave men and women who are a part of motorsport, manage to get a quick little breather. Itâ€™s that time when they have the chance to reflect on the year gone by. When they have that quiet moment to briefly enjoy a smile when thinking of the little victories theyâ€™ve had over the past season of racing. When they think back to the mistakes theyâ€™ve made, acknowledge the lessons theyâ€™ve learned and then quickly turn their eyes to the goals that are waiting to be achieved. Itâ€™s a time of contemplation and hope all at once.
And it is this same period of time that motorsport fans, even while suffering withdrawal symptoms as racing goes into its yearly break, get to partake in as well. After all itâ€™s when silly season is in full swing that news begins to surface. They find that racer theyâ€™ve been cheering on is set to announce his participation in this or that particular racing series. That their favourite motorsport marque has signed on this engine manufacturer, or that team principal, for the upcoming season of motorsport. And that a hallowed motorsport track that theyâ€™d been hoping would make a return to the calendar, is finally making a comeback after all. But sometimes, just sometimes, the news they receive is even bigger and better. This is one of those times.
Itâ€™s the sort of news to put a smile on the mug of every motorsport fan out there. Jaguar (!) is making its return to competitive motorsport in the winter of 2016. This at once brings to mind images of those lovely Silk Cut Jaguars going flat out through Indianapolis Corner at Le Mans in the 1980s. If you wind back a few years further, youâ€™ll see the Jaguar C-Type making its way down the start-finish straight at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Or perhaps even that lovely D-Type with the curious shark fin, that designer Malcolm Sayer believed would help the car achieve aerodynamic stability, as it tackles the very long Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. Oh, youâ€™ll see plenty of goosebump-inducing images right away. Exactly the sort of memories that only truly great motorsport events and really terrific motorsport marques can stir up.
And, indeed, there are more images that have been stirred up thanks to a recent press conference held in Maranello. A press conference where one Sergio Marchionne declared that it would be a very good idea if the Alfa Romeo brand made a return to competitive racing too, specifically to Formula 1. Itâ€™s impossible to disagree with him. Ah! The very thought of Alfa Romeo making an F1 comeback makes my vision switch to a grainy black and white. And then it is impossible to stop the pictures of Giuseppe â€˜Ninoâ€™ Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio floating through my mindâ€™s eye. Back when the Formula 1 world championship first started out, it was the little red Alfettas that dominated the sport, with Farina winning the first ever title and Fangio being crowned champion the following year. And, in this time of flux in Formula 1, with constant rule changes, and manufacturers threatening to quit every now and again, that shade of Alfa Romeo red with a little four-leaved clover badge on the side might just be a sign of luck and providence. Another manufact-urer in the sport, that too one with the sort of historic connect to motorsport that will tug at the heartstrings of motorsport fans aplenty. Another sign of the sportâ€™s survival. And another team for young Formula 1 hopefuls â€“ drivers, engineers, mechanics alike â€“ to turn to. I certainly hope it happens. But whether it will or wonâ€™tâ€¦ Well, the answer lies around the bend in the road.
And itâ€™s this very bend in the road that we come across every so often. The blank slate. The fresh page. Choose whatever metaphor you like, but it has a habit of cropping up rather regularly every three hundred-odd days. It gives us the option to discard the old and welcome the new. And with it come dreams, expectations and optimism. Perhaps also coloured with just a hint of fear and trepidation. Because the unknown can be daunting.
But every time Iâ€™m faced with this dread of what I cannot see lying around the corner, itâ€™s one of those original drivers of the Alfettas who help put a smile back on my face. You see, the 1955 edition of the Mille Miglia was an awe-inspiring race by every measure. And it was won in a rather terrific fashion by Sir Stirling Moss, with the indomitable Denis Jenkinson sitting beside him in the 722 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, rattling off a series of pacenotes at breakneck speed. But what most people miss is the man who came second, 32 minutes behind Moss and Jenks. It was Juan Manuel Fangio. Also in a Mercedes-Benz. Driving solo. El Maestro didnâ€™t really know what lay around each corner. And he didnâ€™t have anyone to tell him either. But he did just fineâ€¦
â€¦ And so will you all. Happy new year, folks. Embrace whatever it is that lies around that bend!