Drawing by Duane Unkefer
By Denise McCluggage
“I Go Pro” was written for and published by “Sports Cars Illustrated”, February, 1959 and is reprinted here with the permission of the author and artist.
SEVERAL CENTURIES AGO when the Sports Car Club of America was still interested in the furtherance of road racing, members were permitted to plunge into the rough “professional” world of racing abroad and then come home to race with other amateurs for fun instead of money. In those days only dollars had the power of complete corruption. A driver’s blistered palm could be crossed with lire, francs, marks, bolivars, pounds sterling, escudos or what-have-you (an ancient coin) and he was still an amateur as long as he didn’t take dollars-at least not take them anyplace where there was enough light for the green to show.
Deutschmarks were my downfall, four hundred and fifty of them, which scarcely has an exchange rate equal to a mess of pottage. In short, I sold my “amateur” standing for some $125.
I was in Europe for the summer to follow the races, write about some of them, get a racing ride when I could and enjoy the country-or should I say countries. I bought a car to facilitate my transport, and also because I happen to like cars. My choice was an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce Confortevole, a car somewhat smaller than its name. Translated into metal and English, it was a beautiful little electric-blue automobile with a 1290 cc engine. Read “coupe” for “Sprint”, “fast” for “Veloce” and “comfortable” for “Confortevole” (the latter meaning roll-up windows instead of the sliding ones on “racing” Veloces and all-steel body instead of lighter doors and trunk lid.)
My Alfa was, for the most part, a pleasure and a delight. It served me admirably as Point A to Point B transportation, as a bed in Rheims when hotel rooms ran short-and as a vehicle to carry me down that garden path to “professional” racing.
The Nurburgring was the lure. “There’s a Gran Turismo race before the Grand Prix of Germany. Why don’t you enter it,” someone suggested. “Yes, why don’t you?” someone else said. The second someone turned out to be me, so thus the decision was made. How easy it is to abandon the lofty principles learned at the knock-off hub of a Jaguar. How quickly fades the memory of that joyful day after the “Regional” when the Contest Board chairman signed your Temporary Permit. How easy it is to write “how much” to a race organizer. How foggy that line separating the old way, purity without pay, and the new, sullied with “soldi.”
At the Albergo Reale in Modena, Italy where I was living, I received a cable in reply from the Automobile Club von Deutschland that read, “WE ACCEPT WITH PLEASURE YOUR ENTRY GT 1300 DEUTSCHMARKS 450 EXPENSES WILL BE PAID STOP REGULATIONS MAILED STOP ATTENDING ENTRY FORM.” Since it was in English, I misunderstood it. “Wow,” I think I said. “How much is 1300 Deutschmarks? And 450 for expenses too. Wow,” I think I said again. It did not take me more than twenty readings of the telegram before the light bulb blinked on and I realized that “1300” just before “Deutschmarks” referred to the “GT” just before it. In short, it meant c.c.’s not DM’s.
But I really didn’t care. After all, I was going to race at the Ring! Why, I would do it for, if you’ll pardon the expression, nothing!
But to drive the Nurburgring, one must first drive TO it.
Now European maps are deceptive things. What is a mere pencil-length-minus-the-eraser away on a map is, well, somewhat further in actuality. There are many ups and downs in Europe, in more ways than one. I do not know if anyone has ever figured out how much territory Switzerland, for instance, would cover if it were ironed out as flat as Kansas, but I wager it would be one impressive expanse of real estate.
Anyway, I didn’t go through Switzerland. I went north out of Modena over the Brenner Pass into Innsbruck and thence to catch the Autobahn near Munich. A flatter route than through Switzerland, but far from flat.
But on to the Nurburgring. And Professionalism.
Part 2 and 3 of “I Go Pro” to follow.