Grove, Wantage: 5 September 2012
The Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trusts celebrated its 25th anniversary with a reunion at the Williams F1 team conference centre, that brought together over 100 current and former Formula 1 mechanics.
Founded by triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart in 1987, the Trust was initially set up to improve safety standards in the pit lane for mechanics.
However, 25 years later it has developed into a support network for those mechanics and their families should they fall on hardship during and after their careers.
“In my view, mechanics are the true professionals of the pit lane,” said Stewart. “Back when I was racing, there was very little in terms of support for mechanics.
“Tyrell was probably the only team which offered pensions and I thought that was wrong. So 25 years ago, I set up the Trust that could help those who don’t have a company pension or health insurance in times of hardship.
“I can’t believe it has been 25 years already, but I’m proud of how the Trust has been able to help so many mechanics.”
There are currently over 260 current and former mechanics on the register with many of them attending the reunion in September that was hosted by Patrick Head, one of the trustees, for the second successive time following the event in 2010.
“Williams have been so supportive of the Trust and I feel like we’re at home here,” said Stewart.
The event saw an informal catch up over coffee while browsing the Williams F1 car collection, a buffet lunch and a speech from Stewart.
A Q&A session, hosted by trustee and writer/broadcaster James Allen, followed where mechanics recalled the good times during their time working in the sport.
A number of former drivers, including Derek Warwick and John Watson, were in attendance to celebrate the occasion and catch up with old colleagues.
“I had such trust in my mechanics when I was racing,” said Warwick. “When my Lotus team-mate Martin Donnelly crashed during qualifying at Jerez in 1990, I decided the night before not to race.
“But when I got to the circuit I saw that they boys had been up all night getting my car ready. I asked them if it was safe to drive and they said yes. I drove and it was fine. I had complete trust in them.”
Watson added: “I’m so grateful my mechanics really looked after us. I was very fortunate that most of the incidents I got involved in were my fault rather than technical failures - and that reliability was down to the boys in the garage.
Trustees and ex-F1 drivers Martin Brundle and David Coulthard were unable to attend as they were travelling to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, however they sent a video message to congratulate the Trust on its 25th anniversary.
The Trust, which delivered cakes to each of the 12 Formula 1 teams at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July to celebrate its anniversary (see separate story), has received donations from a range of sources, including former drivers and mechanics as well as through auctions of memorabilia donated by the teams, but there is still more to be done.
“Thank you to all those who have contributed,” said Stewart. “Many have donated substantial sums while others support us through annual donations and I am very grateful.
“But as the Trust continues to grow, and more mechanics grow older, we will need to continue to boost the fund to continue to support the people who make Formula 1 possible.”