Petrolhead Giles Richards lives out his childhood fantasies on a European grand tour of motor racing’s lost circuits.
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At first, I thought this journey had begun in the pub. Thinking about it, however, it could have begun long before that – in the 1970s, on the living-room floor, playing with toy cars in front of the Formula 1 on TV. As I re-enacted the action on screen – fast, noisy cars, whizzing round circuits at exotic locations, (this was 30 years ago, there were just three TV channels, no internet and no cheap air travel, so yes, Spain looked exotic) – a lifelong love of the sport was born. Or maybe it began at the first race I saw live, the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, or maybe, well maybe it would be simpler to go back to the pub …
Since Imola, I’ve been going, with my friend Richard, to several grands prix a year. It was during one of our regular meetings in the aforementioned pub that the idea came about. I had recently bought a copy of Autodrome – The Lost Race Circuits of Europe, a beautiful photo essay of once-mighty tracks that were no longer in use. We both knew a fair bit of racing history already, but the book revealed that we could go to see where the legends had been made -a prospect that seemed just as exciting as my first visit to Imola had been.