Jade’s travel diaries on Badger continue with her first day at the track having a good mooch around in the rain. The the rest of her stories here and why not follow her on Twitter for up to the minute facts and comment from Montreal…
I rose early Thursday morning to make my way to the track for the Open House Day. Unfortunately the weather from Wednesday had lingered, and I arrived at Île Notre-Dame’s Jean Drapeau metro station to a blanket of cloud cover, chilly temperatures and faint drizzle. How British! The path to the circuit was flanked by lampposts decorated with banners listing the winners of every Canadian Grand Prix, from Jack Brabham in 1967 to Robert Kubica in 2008. With the weather being as it was, the bus around the circuit to the pits was a blessing, plus it was a nice touch to be able to do half of a track “walk”!
Already there was a substantial line leading to the autograph tent, so I chose to skip it for a while and meandered up and down the pitlane. The garages receiving the most attention were without a doubt Ferrari and McLaren, though Mercedes, Renault and Virgin Racing each pulled a good crowd, the latter scoring bonus points for taking down the first row of barriers so the public could get closer to their garages. Generally I spent my time wandering around, taking photos of the cars in various states of undress and trying to be in the right place at the right time. In that respect, I managed to add one autograph to my Brazilian flag thanks to the lovely Bruno Senna; I caught him right at the end of a little signing session outside the HRT pits, and on seeing my flag he made a point of turning back and signing it. I also spotted Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi, Luiz Razia and Ho-Pin Tung setting out on their track walks, and, on deciding to hand around by the autograph tent for a while, saw Felipe Massa in the flesh for the first time…albeit through a crowd of people and photographers!
With the weather gradually worsening, I lingered outside the Virgin Racing garages for a while before admitting defeat against the rain and heading for the bus back to the metro station. After taking a few minutes to dry out, I went on to Crescent Street; it being early on in the first day, the stalls were fairly quiet. There was, however, a Gilles Villeneuve exhibition set up in one of the buildings and featuring many items from the museum in Berthierville. Not only was it free to get in, but it was also a good opportunity to get out of the persistent light rain, and I ended up settling down to watch BBC highlights of significant races in Gilles’ career, including his first win in Canada 1978 to his wheel-banging duel with René Arnoux in France 1979. Elsewhere in the exhibition there were photos, framed race overalls, stories and the bodywork from Gilles’ Ferrari 126C2, as used in the 1982 South African GP. I must have spent at least an hour in there taking everything in, it was quite fascinating.
The walk back to the metro station in the afternoon was enhanced by the nineteen Ferraris queuing and later parking along Rue Peel as an extension of the exhibits and stalls on Crescent Street. It was quite a sight!
Okay, time for me to head to bed. Tomorrow will finally be time for some action on the track. Aside from the Formula One practice sessions, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the Historic Grand Prix cars take to the circuit; it’s one thing to see such cars static in museums and exhibitions, but it’ll be quite another to see them ontrack at racing speeds.