By Dave Hutchison
After the hall darkened, the F1 engines roared to life in the sleepy little Pennsylvania theater as images of racing mostly from the other side pond flashed across the screen! Dave Hobbs, Leigh Diffy, and Steve Matchett ran down the isles to a rock star entrance as the sold out house cheered them on. David opened by saying "Who knew? Sellersville, Pennsylvania?" An image of the recent Ferrari win at the season opener in Australia with Vettel jumping in the air captured the energy that everyone had after the season opener.
I first heard about the Inside F1 talk at the Sellersville Theater in late February from our former Shop Manager, Rick Brodeur. He and I have been F1 fans for years, so Rick planned to buy tickets just as they were released to the general public. He scored front row seats! I thought there might be few folks there as we F1 fans are maybe 2 to 3 out of a hundred NASCAR followers? The thought even crossed my mind that "What if they didnít sell enough tickets would we see these three guys who call the F1 races for NBC?" Wow! Was I surprised as we had to wait to get inside on Tuesday March 28th as we gathered to get a peek behind the curtain of F1. Some came in from Raleigh, NC and Connecticut! Sellersville... Who knew?
Our very own racing legend Mario Andretti, drove down from Nazarath to join in the fun as he was introduced to a standing ovation. All 330 F1 fans were euphoric from the anticipation of a competitive racing season now that Ferrari has shown some real strength. A vintage advert of a dapper looking Mr. Hobbs at LimeRock in Hagger trousers was shown. After a laugh or two at Davidís expense looking dapper at LimeRock in Hagger trousers, they all got down to business at hand. Mario spoke about Michael's venture in F1 and how the outcome might have been different if a little patience was exercised, the beauty of anticipation of a new racecar and sometimes the disappointment that was realized and his conversations with Michael Schumacher on how all four corners of a good car whisper to you in the rain! He was not a fan of the movie Rush and has been disappointed to see the fall of McLaren without Ron Dennis in recent years.
Leigh Diffy talked about how they call a race and introduced their Stat-Man, Sean Kelly who we all thought was just the bloke selling cups at the theater entrance. Sean walked us through his world of data collection and interpretation while illustrating his talents of race projection with a track map.
Leigh went on to recognize the empire built by the benevolent dictator Bernie Ecclestone (who gave him his first job calling F1) and that era has now ended. All agreed that many changes are ahead not just in race car specifications but the entire business of F1 might become more open for all to see? Time will tell. Given Steve Matchettís background at Ferrari he added that he would like to see F1 go back to a proper V12 that shoots 3 foot flames. They sure sounded great! Time will tell.
An overall sense of optimism was offered about the changes ahead as more Americans are now backing and participating in F1. Mario spoke highly of the American based Team Hass, as he believes they have all the ingredients in place to meet with success this year. David, Leigh, Steve and Mario spoke for a little over two hours and took questions from the audience. Best of all they promised to return next year and maybe do two shows! Itís only a mile from the shop! We will be there!