Falling from Grace

It has been nearly 40 years since I can remember feeling so sideswiped. My recollection of the day at Silverstone remains vivid. I was at the race to witness a rare treat indeed: four Kiwi drivers on a Formula One grid.

I expected big things from Graham McRae. After watching him dazzle in New Zealand and Australia, there were real hopes of him putting on a good show behind the wheel of one of Sir Frank Williams’cars.

My thermos hadneven been opened when Jody Schekter spun on the first lap. The resulting pile-up claimed nearly half the field, including Chris Amon. While Howden Ganley, who finished ninth, and Denny Hulme, third-placed, went on to further sucess, McRae went missing. A broken throttle on the opening lap didnjust end his race but McRaewhole F1 career. He didneven say goodbye to Sir Frank; he just got out of the stricken car, grabbed his bag and left. They called him Cassius back then, and this was one of the knockouts.

Graham McRaeIt was getting into a young womancar that caused all the problems for young Andy Knight, the New Zealand Grand Prix winner and V8 SuperTourer driver. Knight says there was never any malicious intent, and has since apologised for causing stress and worry to the victim, who thankfully was unhurt. As it was, I was in the dark —along with Knightsponsors —about the February incident for nearly six months. Which explains my innocently ill-timed prediction that Knight and Alex Davison would be the teams to beat in the upcoming SuperTourer endurance series.

From what I can gather, Knight has been benched, and the race car is up for lease or sale. I hear the sponsors are annoyed at such information being omitted from team updates, and poor old Davison is in limbo waiting to find out the plight of the car. From a sports’point of view, he is the second driver in as many years to ruin a career due to stupidity on the booze; Earl Bamber would be a shoo-in to race a SuperTourer, but like Knight (who, it should be pointed out, has not been charged of any criminal wrongdoing), Bamber is now damaged goods for any sponsor after his drink-driving conviction.

As my dear Mabel also noted, I was also wrong about Fabian Coulthard and Shane vanGisbergenSuperTourer plans, because they have also gone south, after Mark Petch, boss of the New Zealand series, drew swords with V8 Supercar head, Tony Cochrane. So much for my quiet winter break.

Graham McRaeThere has been some positive news, too, with International Motorsport announcing a stellar pair of co-drivers: Matt Halliday and Wade Cunningham will join Ant Pedersen and Jonny Reid, respectively. I will admit to hoping that the two former A1GP stars would team up again, but seeing that Pederson is at least six inches taller than the former World Karting Champ, it might be a physical struggle.

Tim Edgelldebut is also sure to add some spice to the series, which may have started out with an eye to capitalising on international names, but the local stars could turn out to shine even more brightly —those, that is, who donfall from grace.

Righto, foot flat and eyes ahead. Cheerio!