A Sportscar Christmas Carol
They Know It's Christmas
It's Christmastime; there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime
But say a prayer to pray for the other ones
Here's to you, raise a glass for ev'ryone
Here's to them, underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?
arrived in the dsc Inbox, as if by magic. A little bit of tongue-in-cheek
The FIASCC was dead.
As dead as an old sparkplug. This you must know, or nothing that
follows would be wonderful.
Stephane Ratel was sitting
in his London office on Christmas Eve, scratching out the new regs.
for the 2005 FIA GT Championship, while hunched over his tired and
worn out PowerMac. Ratel hated this time of year and the optimism
it generated in others. To him, this was merely a time to be sending
out demands for entry fees.
the door to the office flew open and in bounded his recently-discovered
relative, Jiro Kaji. “Merry Christmas, Stephane san,”
he exclaimed. “Merry Christmas? Bah! Bonbon!” was Ratel’s
curt reply. “Christmas a bonbon, Stephane san; surely you
don’t mean that? Christmas is a time for people to come together,
exchange gifts and discuss technical regulations. Anyway, come and
spend tomorrow with us at the JGTC party.” “You keep
Christmas in your way and let me keep it in mine,” said Ratel.
With that, young Jiro departed.
Two gentleman approached Ratel as he sat at his desk, having been
let in by his young clerk. At length, Ratel looked up and saw that
they were collectors from “Alms For The ALMS”. The first
gentleman spoke: “At this time of year, it is customary to
think of those championships that have not had the fullest of years
and who are in need of a bit of support and fattening. We are seeking
contributions for our American cousins who have entertained all
year, but still struggle to make ends meet. How much shall we put
you down for?” “Nothing,” said Ratel. “You
wish to remain anonymous?” said the collector. “I wish
to be left alone,” said Ratel. “But Sir, think of those
poor teams, shivering in their garages; how can they survive the
winter without our aid?” implored the second gentleman. “Is
there no Grand Am, no SPEED GT?” enquired Ratel. “Oh
yes,” replied the first gentleman, “but the teams would
rather go out of business than go there!” “Then they
had better do it, and decrease the grid-surplus,” said Ratel,
coldly. Seeing that they were wasting their time, the gentlemen
departed and headed off to the nearby offices of Bernard Ecclestone.
Having shut the office
at noon, Stephane Ratel ate a meagre five-course luncheon at Gordon
Ramsay’s café in Claridges, before heading for his
bijou London town-house in the darkest part of Olde Knightsbridge
Towne. The night was drawing in as he arrived home. Just as he was
about to enter his access-code into the security lock, the strangest
thing happened. A movement in the corner of his eye made him turn
with a start; driving down the road was John Mangoletsi in a Harrier
sportscar. Before he could react, there was a grinding sound, like
a gearbox falling apart, and the vision vanished.
Somewhat shaken by this,
Ratel went inside the house. “Bonbon!” he muttered,
but without much conviction. It couldn’t have been Mangoletsi,
he told himself, as he had vanished without trace some years before.
After a quick check around
the house, he flicked on his plasma TV and settled down to watch
the Christmas Family Fortunes special.
few moments later, a strange noise caught Ratel’s attention.
What was it? A car running on five cylinders? It sounded like it
was coming from the wine cellar, but was getting closer. The noise
grew louder and louder until, without the doors opening, the shape
of a BRM P-301 emerged. Out of the cockpit stepped John Mangoletsi.
are you doing here?” demanded Ratel, “I thought you
were…..,” “Dead?” suggested Mangoletsi.
Ratel nodded. “No, much worse than that,” continued
the visitor. “For my crimes while in charge of the FIASCC,
I am condemned to drive around the world in pieces of crap like
this, in perpetuity. I had the opportunity to make a wonderful and
entertaining series, but was too selfish. The same fate awaits you.
Even as we speak, your Renault Clio is being completed.” Ratel
recoiled in horror at the words. “Why have you come to me
tonight?” he demanded. “I don’t know, for these
things are decided by higher forces. I do know, however, that you
will be visited by three spirits over the next three nights. Expect
the first at one o’clock!” With that there was a dreadful
rattle as the car was fired up again and the visitor was gone.
Vowing never to have
the ’76 Chateau Lafitte for lunch again, Ratel retired to
his bed and fell asleep.
Half-awake, Ratel was
aware of a clock chiming. “What, ten o’clock already?”
he thought to himself; but no, the bell chimed but once and suddenly
there was a bright flash in the room. Followed by another; and another.
Putting his hand in front of his eyes, he enquired “Are you
the spirit whose coming was foretold?” he asked. “Aye,”
came the reply, “but you can call me Dave!” Ratel noticed
that the spirit was heavily laden with bags around his shoulders
and was carrying a camera with a huge lens.
“What do you want
with me?” said Ratel. “I’ve come to show you a
few piccies from your past,” said the spirit, and handed Ratel
a Sony memory stick. Even as he touched the stick, Ratel found that
he and Dave were in a completely different place. “I know
this place,” exclaimed Ratel, “It’s the Venturi
factory!” “Aye, and who’s that bloke over there?”
asked the spirit, nodding in the direction of the corner. Ratel
was astonished to see himself standing over a 500LM with a huge
smile on his face. “I look so happy!” he exclaimed.
“Come on, there’s more to see!” said Dave.
Ratel found himself on the grid at the 1993 Le Mans 24 hours. “I
remember this!” he shouted, “Oh, how wonderful it was
– the cars, the crowds, the atmosphere!” “Aye,
so what about the crowd at Valencia this year?” enquired the
spirit. Ratel fell silent.
The scene changed again
and Ratel now saw himself in a room full of happy people. “Why,
it’s Jurgen Barth!” he gasped, “I was apprenticed
with him! And there’s Patrick Peter. That was a great time.”
“Aye, but let’s skip forward a bit,” said Dave.
Now Ratel saw just he and Patrick, and the latter was speaking.
“We’ve grown apart, Stephane, and it’s time to
split – I’m going off to create the most successful
sportscar series ever, mark my words!” “Show me no more,
spirit, I wish to see no more!” said a chastened Ratel. “Righto!”
said Dave and suddenly Ratel found himself back in his own bed.
He promptly fell asleep again.
Bong! One o’clock.
eyes opened with a start. He looked around the room but could see
nothing. “Thank goodness,” said Ratel, “no spirit!”
But suddenly he was aware of a light through his curtains and could
hear the purr of a diesel engine. Looking out through the window,
he could see an old London Routemaster bus and the conductor was
beckoning him. Ratel nervously climbed aboard.
Graham,” said the second spirit, “and I’m going
to show you what sportscar racing is like around the world at the
present time.” With that, the driverless bus shot off at such
a pace that Ratel fell backwards. But almost instantly, the bus
“Where are we?”
the passenger enquired. “This is the JGTC party,” answered
the spirit. Inside could be heard laughter and music and Ratel rushed
to see more. He saw Jiro Kaji and moved closer to hear him speak.
“I asked Stephane to come, but he appears to be happy with
his own series!” said Jiro. The whole room fell about in tearful
found himself back on the bus and sitting on the grid of a racetrack.
“Where are we now?” he asked. “Sebring,”
said Graham (in a spare moment, while not attached to a mobile 'phone).
Ratel could see Audis and Saleens and Porsches and Lolas and Ferraris
and Corvettes. The surroundings were not glamorous, but all the
people working on the cars were happy. Graham pointed to a gentleman
in his office. “Who is that?” asked Ratel. “That
is Don Panoz and he is the chappie responsible for all the goodwill.”
“He seems to be doing a good job,” said Ratel, “the
teams are happy.” “Yes,” said Graham, “but
there used to be more of them here. There is another series in North
America now, did you know that?”
Now they found themselves
at Silverstone, watching similar cars racing. “Isn’t
this the LMES? Where is everyone?” asked Ratel, surveying
the empty grandstands, “and why is there no happy buzz around
the place that there was at Sebring?” “Why indeed,”
answered the spirit, “why indeed!”
Once more the scene changed
and now they were sitting alongside a cold, wet Donington Park.
Once again, the scene was of happy crews preparing their cars in
the basic surroundings. “You see,” said the spirit,
“they don’t need big GT cars to be happy and to entertain.
They’re doing a good job of it already with their Ferraris,
Lotus and Morgans!” “Yes, I see, spirit”.
Ratel suddenly noticed
that the spirit looked tired and that his uniform was tatty. “Do
you grow old, spirit?” he asked. “Yes, for I work for
Ken Livingstone. And I’ve had a heavy cold recently!”
was the reply. “Anyhow, matey, you’re getting off here!”
he continued. With that the bus was gone and Stephane Ratel found
himself alone at Redgate corner.
approaching cloud of mist and smoke made Ratel turn away in fear.
His curiosity, however, made him look and he could just see through
the smoke a sinister figure. “Are you the spirit of things
to come?” he asked. The figure made no reply, but instead
lit up a cigarette. Presently, the spirit produced a laptop, on
which Ratel could just make out a few letters; e..d..d..s..c. What
could this mean?
Before he had time to
ponder further, the screen burst into life and Ratel could see the
same Sebring that he had so recently visited. This time there were
no cars and no happy mechanics. Instead, tumbleweed blew down the
track and Don Panoz was sitting alone in his office, sobbing mightily.
“Oh, spirit! What has happened?” There was no reply.
The screen changed and
a vision of Donington Park was shown. No Morgans, Ferraris or Lotus
were in shot, but instead strange little tin cars were bumping into
each other and crashing, while big crowds cheered excitedly. The
word ‘TOCA’ was written enigmatically on each of these
tin cars - and Ratel felt strangely cold.
The screen changed again
and Ratel could see Jiro sitting in a big chair, smoking a big cigar
and laughing uncontrollably.
The screen went blank
and the sinister figure now pointed in the direction of Derby. The
town came closer until Ratel found himself standing outside a McDonalds.
The figure lit up another cigarette and pointed inside. Ratel dared
“Tell me spirit,”
he implored “are these the things that will be or might be?”
The spirit said nothing, but pointed again. Ratel became aware of
a uniform on a chair and noticed that the spirit was pointing straight
at it. “These things can be changed,” he wailed, “or
why would you show me all this?” Again the spirit just pointed
and Ratel picked up the uniform. With great trepidation, he looked
at the badge; “Hi, I’m Stephane. How can I help?”
With a howl, he dropped at the spirits feet and begged him to save
But suddenly, the spirit
was gone and Ratel found himself back in Knightsbridge. The bed
was his own, and the quilt was his own.
He suddenly felt alive
and rushed to turn on the TV. On the screen, Noel Edmunds was smarming
all over a small child; it was Christmas Day! “I haven’t
missed it!” exclaimed Ratel.
Throwing on a few clothes,
he rushed out into the street wishing all and sundry greetings of
the season. He went straight to see Jiro at his party. “Jiro,
can you forgive an old fool his ways?” he asked. His relative
was speechless. “Come and see me after the party and we’ll
join both our series to make a great one!” continued Ratel.
that he was off to the nearest phonebox. “Yes, this is Don
Panoz,” came the rather puzzled reply down the line. “You
don’t know me, but together we’re going to ensure that
the ALMS and the LMES join forces to create a series to rival F1!”
shouted Ratel excitedly down the line.
And he was as
good as his word. Stephane Ratel was the driving force behind ensuring
that sportscar racing rose to dominate world motorsport - and the
whole of mankind was the better for it! F1 died, and only ten rich
men cared….. but did sportscar racing then lurch into many
of the problems of the old F1?
But as a spokesperson
for the British GT Championship - which did not die - would say;
“God bless us, every one!”