Dream Chaser – Monaco Historic Grand Prix

Ironic that my first real photo job back after the pandemic was to be in Monte Carlo. Well, what a blast it was. I met up with old and new friends. I Interviewed Ewen about his first time round the Monaco Circuit. Really enjoyed getting back into my craft, my muscles had almost forgotten what to do – but as soon as we started shooting, I almost forgot I had had a break! I love with all my heart that Leica M10P. I think it’s the best camera I have ever used.  Anyway, enjoy my story in this edition of Paddock Life which is on sale now.

Excitement all around the Embassy team as Ewen Sergison took to the Monaco Grand Prix Historic for the very first time. Piloting two cars; the no. 56 Maserati 6CM originally a works car, driven by Count Trassi. In 1936 Trassi won 4 races reserved for Voiturettes as curtain raisers for Formula International Grand Prix.  Sergison then races the no. 12 1973 Shadow, a car which Graham Hill launched his F1 team. Hill took part in 12 of the 14 races of the World Championship in 1973 including the Monaco Grand prix, where he was forced to retire and not actually race the car.

So, with both Ewen and the Shadow not having raced the Monaco circuit before the weekend was to be something of a thrill. I caught up with Ewen over the weekend and found out a little bit about the cars and how Ewen was feeling about being at Monaco for the first time,

Ewen, we are just here before practice, tell me about this car.

“This was the car that Graham Hill raced in 1973, it was the first time he went independent away from the works team. We got it in just after Xmas, it belongs to a customer, he loves owning it and invited me to drive it.”

Did you race at all last year and is it daunting to race after such a gap and at Monaco too?

“I raced quite a lot last year actually, the season seemed to be split in the middle -bar everything else we had the Historic Forma Three Series and Goodwood Speed Week in October – I drove the Maserati for that, it was a sort of a normal season.

How are the cars running this weekend?

“I drove the Maserati in October and got it back in a few weeks ago, so we know it’s running ok, and the Shadow should be perfect as it got damaged at Zandvoort so it’s had a complete rebuild.”

Did you want to be a formula one driver when you were growing up?

“Of course, I wanted to be a Formula One driver. My dad was a racing driver, and I was always going to be a racing driver. I idolised Senna and Graham Hill although he was before my time, but I always loved the best-looking car in the world – the Lotus 49, with gold leaf colours.    I think that was in 1968 a cigar shaped car, but then Graham Hill drove through all of them all.”

What’s your favourite car to race?

“Favourite car without a doubt to drive is that Maserati.”

Back to this Shadow, what’s its quirks, they’ve all got quirks?

“Well, we’ve only done 10 laps in it, so we don’t know, and Graham Hill never actually qualified in it here, so it never raced Monaco, and neither have I.”

It had suspension failure before the race.

“yes, it really upset him apparently because he was Mr Monaco, he won it 5 times. No one has ever raced this car here, he did the full season in it but then went to the Lola after that, but. I have only done the 10 laps at Blyton Park to test it and then brought it here.”

Ewen, this is a bit of a double thrill then, you did the practice yesterday how did it feel?

“Absolutely frightening – it’s not frightening in the sense that the things all over the road and its going to kill you, it’s just frightening how fast it is.”

Does that have a correlation with all the other drivers out there?

“No, I mean the car is a lot faster than I am and hopefully I can admit that. I’ve got so much more time, it’s just understanding how much equipment you’ve got, but really Monaco’s not the place to learn that – you’ve got to be somewhere like Silverstone -so once you found out where the edge is, you slide off here you find where the edge is, and you’ve got two inches before you hit the walls so it’s –

– I’m not expecting to be placed in it I’m happy to just keep up, I mean we’re not at the back so that’s got to be good yeh?”

Ewen, you have two races (qualy and the race) the weather looks good and its really sunny, is that tunnel going to affect you?

“No, when you watch it on TV, it always looks like blinding when you get in and blinding when you get out, but that’s because cameras don’t react as good as the human eye – but they also have some massive lights in the tunnel.”

What other historic Formula One cars do you race?

“I haven’t driven any other Formula One cars, it’s the first one I’ve driven, – driven anything but but just not Formula One.”

Blimey first time in a Formula One and first time for you in Monaco.

“It’s worlds apart from that and everything else then its Monaco too.”

So, let’s go back to the Maserati, owned by another client who isn’t here because of the pandemic sadly – but do you race mainly with other people’s cars?

“I have to really as I bought a farm.”

How was that Maserati this morning?

“Beautiful, it’s beautiful all the time – although we didn’t have any front brakes – “

Which you normally have?

“Yes, which was quite scary.”

And there was an oil spill which was quite scary…

“Yes, less oil than yesterday mind but also less brakes – so that sort of evened it out.”

“But I still managed to get pole in class and 4th on the grid so if we fix the brakes, I am pretty sure I can get a podium.”

(Well fast forward to race day and Ewen did indeed get a podium, 3rd place on the step and how happy was that team indeed.)

Now, you have a few different engine sizes in that race a few different classes, what’s it like as there’s not may places to overtake and you’re going to be lapping 2 of the cars, I think?

“It’s not really an issue with this grid as the cars are so small.”

Which does remind me, how the Bugattis and Maseratis of the Pre-War years were indeed small and simply perfect for this street circuit, perfect in very sense of size and speed, along with beauty and engineering, I do wonder how when designers started getting wider, did they actually think about the diamonds of the racing year such as Monaco.

“Apart from me really, all the class one cars and class two cars are pretty much the same in the classes – I’m the only one really in my class with a higher speed, I think there’s about 4 or 5 of them a lot faster than everyone else so anybody seems to be using the mirrors so everyone’s behaving so…”

It looked like everyone was behaving and really realising the fact that they are here and enjoying every moment – that beautiful cusp of racing versus gentleman driving.

“We’ll have to see what happens tomorrow – race day.”

How many times you raced in that Maserati?

“Raced 4 times before and now ticking off Monaco for the first time is quite special here.”

I heard you saw yourself on the screen and you waved, can you tell there are only residents in the grandstands and not a full public audience?

“Well, I’ve got nothing to relate it to”.

But I mean when you watched Monaco on TV, what do you feel when you race the circuit?

“I’ve still got the same emotions, really special, it’s mainly round Casino and then I tried to do something a bit more flamboyant”.

Did you?!

“Well, I do all the time, but there’s people there and I did something a bit more flamboyant make it look like its scarier than it actually is”.

You’ve been to Goodwood too many times Ewen!

“and the other thing as well, is I high fived the marshals in tunnel, yeh you’ve got plenty of time to wave.”

Only in the Maserati?

“yeh too busy screaming in the shadow – but on the slowing down lap I always make a point of waving to every marshal.”

Yes, I love that about Monaco and at Goodwood and often at other historic races, its always a delight for me to wave and clap with wide open hands so the drivers can see me cheer, I think that’s a kind of an unwritten rule.

“…When I was coming round entrance to tunnel on the slowing down lap just now, I leant right out and high fived a marshal,”

“I waved at you at Rascas did you see?”

No, I didn’t – I have since looked at my photos of Ewen and sure enough he waved at me!

What you most looking forward to in the race?

“Getting a podium, always seeing the checkered flag, respecting the team and all the work they do but, definitely got to go for that podium.”

Ewen got that podium in the Maserati and brought the Shadow home in the action packed Alesi / Werner Group F race – where not only was there offs up in the front of the grid but throughout the race ‘careless parking’ occurred, so to bring the Shadow home was quite a triumph.

I look forward to catching up with Ewen in Monaco and around the historic circuits next year when the lifted Covid restrictions will allow a full audience to enjoy a moment of flamboyance from the cockpit.