Adelaide GP 1993 was my first GP-visit - Crazy world!

In 1993, we all were happy to see Alain back in F1 and winning the championship. In August 1993, an Alain Prost-Fanclub called "Association Internationale Des Amis d'Alain Prost A.I.D.A.A.P." was founded in France. They published many advertisements for the club, and because I can receive the French channel "TF1" here in Gersau, I saw one of the ads, and wrote an application form to A.I.D.A.A.P. straight away. Unexpected by all of us, Alain decided to retire from F1-racing end 1993. I could hardly believe that. About two weeks before Alain's last GP in Australia, I received a letter of the A.I.D.A.A.P. They wrote, that we all should visit Alain's last GP and cheering for him in Australia - they wrote, that it would be the last opportunity to see the Professor "live"... I thought: "What a crazy idea to go to Australia just for a F1-GP!"

Three days later, I knew, that I will try to be part of this crazy idea... The fact, that I would never have seen Alain live, was just terrible for me. Of course, the whole thing wasn't that easy it sounds. I doubted several times, if this all would work... First of all, the club and the travelling agency were in France. I had to book the flight over a French travel agency connected to the club. They also promised to organise the flight from Zürich to Paris and back for me. At the same time, Air France went on strike. This was a big additional problem. I never could be sure if the whole thing would work or not. Three days later I finally received the information from the club. "You need a valid passport and a visa" was one of the first sentences I read. Oh, the passport. I took a look at it. Of course, my passport was older than ten years and - no more valid! Normally, it takes quite a while to get a new passport. So, I sent the whole thing by express mail. At the same time, I phoned the Australian consulate in Switzerland regarding the visa. They told me, that they will send me the application forms to fill out and that I would have to send them back with the passport as soon as I will have them. They promised, that it only will take one day for them to send the visa back. Time was my biggest problem besides the strike of Air France, which still were going on - My French was another problem. The other day, I received the forms from the consulate with a lot of questions to answer.. One of the question was regarding the name and place of the hotel in Australia. So, another call to the French travelling agency. - But they didn't know. They told me one of the possible hotel-names to fill it in. I received the passports four days before the departure and the visa just one day before departure date! But I was happy, that everything worked... And really tired!

There were some other problems, for example, when arrived in Zürich airport, they didn't find my tickets, but it finally worked and I arrived in Paris/Charles-de-Gaulle airport, which is really a big airport, the biggest I have ever seen. You have to know, that whole Switzerland has less inhabitants than Paris! And I thought, it would be an airport like Zürich, which already is very big for me, but in Paris you have to drive with one of the many busses from one terminal to another! And my bad French! You have to know, that I didn't have the flight tickets to Adelaide at this time!! We should meet at Air France counter, but it was closed because of the strike. Thanks to my Williams/Prost-Jeans Jacket, I found some other people of the group... And one of them even spoke a little bit German, which was a nice surprise.

So, we got our tickets and were waiting for the flight with Singapore Airlines to Adelaide. We saw some members of Team Larrousse checking in and even Gerard Larrousse himself. And Phillipe Alliot arrived. He was very, very nice, spoke with some people of our group (not with me, because my French is to bad). He told us about the first time he met Alain and the great driving style of Alain at this time already. He said, that he was really impressed by Alain, when he saw him driving his kart. Phillipe Alliot is a really sympathetic person! He posed for photos very friendly and gave signatures later on a Postcard of Singapore, where we had our first stop. We had about on hour time for a free visit to Singapore, which was nice. Singapore is very clean like Switzerland, but of course, the climate is very different from Switzerland. It was slightly raining, but at the same time very warm. We all were thankful for the free cold orange juice offered from Singapore. I found this free city tour a very good idea. After the short stop again some hours in the aeroplane. This time we flew via Melbourne to Adelaide. I counted seconds. It all happened so slowly. I had more than enough of sitting in aeroplanes. After the stop in Melbourne, there sat a woman in a Brabham-shirt some rows in front of me. She was a big Senna-fan as I found out very soon. She laughed at me, because I wore a Prost/Williams-jacket, but at the same time a Marlboro-pullover of Alain's McLaren-days. I joked around a little bit. Later, she laughed at Alain and said, that Senna is the best ever. I said: "No, Alain Prost is better by far and he has a lot more fans". She laughed again and said: "Well then, let's count them!" I was just joking the whole time, but I soon saw, that she wasn't joking at all, because she shouted out in the aeroplane: "Who else is a Senna-fan?!" About three people made a sign. I was just to shy to do the same, shouting in a more or less full Boeing 747: "Who is a Prost-fan in here?" - But I didn't have to do so, as the Prost-fans said "Prost!" and made a sign anyway. I just had to count them! And some moments later, the other fans from Paris arrived! I knew them already. The Senna fan thought, that there are some new Senna-fans, asked all of them, and they always said: "Prost!" I laughed and all the Prost-fans laughed as well. I didn't see the Senna-fan in the Brabham shirt after that. She searched another place in the aeroplane, I suppose...

We arrived in Adelaide, and I remember very well the posters along the road with Alain Prost on it - advertisement for the Australian GP! In Adelaide, we stayed at the "Airport hotel", which is near the airport... By the way: this could be the reason why it's called "Airport hotel" - Haha! When we arrived at the reception, the former F1-driver Yannick Dalmas just filled out a form. So, he stayed at the same hotel. A special bus took us to the centre of Adelaide, where the GP-circuit was. Although it was promised by our club, that we could go into the paddocks with our membership-cards, they didn't let us in. There was a stair up to the commentator cabins (just above the pits) and I saw, that only two people controlled the entrance, but there were two different stairs, but one was more or less "closed" with different things in front of the stair and the other one was controlled. Nobody was going up there anyway, because the commentators were already at their place. Suddenly, I saw, that someone was going up the second stair (the closed one) and that nobody was there to control at this stair. I went up the stair and some other club-members followed me. The others only spoke French. I saw a shield: "Entrance only for commentators/security staff". We went up there of course and arrived on a terrace, where we had a beautiful view into the paddocks and the backside of the pits, where Phillipe Alliot spoke to someone, Ron Dennis walked by, then we saw Frank Williams and - believe it or not - Alain himself! Only from above, only very small, but we all made a lot of photos, while the journalists arrived and asked Alain their questions. Two people from the security staff watched us since quite a long time and I wondered how long it would take until they would come to us... It didn't take more than a minute... They asked, how we came there, what we were doing there, and that we must go out. I looked at them as if I couldn't speak English, just German. And one of the other fans said: "Pardon, nous sommes de la France, on parle Français, pas d'Anglais. Avez-vous compris?" - The two officers went away absolutely helpless... but soon they were back with the paddock manager, who took us with him. - We showed him our member cards. He went into the pits and soon came back with a Frenchman from Renault, who managed to tell the paddock manager, that we are allowed to stay at the paddocks with the membership cards. The paddock manager finally gave his o.k. to that, but the other member were not interested to stand around in the paddocks, waiting for a driver. So, I decided, to follow the others, which was a big fault. All the drivers (Alain as well) just drove through the public in cars, which would not have been the case in the paddocks... Michael Schumacher was the only one I saw walk through all the fans. In the trainings, Ayrton Senna drove the fastest times, Alain was second, which was a slight disappointment for us, as Alain promised to drive as fast as he can and show us, that he is able to win his last race. One of the club members managed to organise some VIP-cards for us, so we had the possibility to meet Alain in a room next to the podium, just above the pits. It was such an unbelievable moment to meet Alain. He had to give a lot of signatures... Some other French driver visited the room as well. For example Eric Comas and Jean-Marc Gounon. Alain Prost than was interviewed by French TV and I had the possibility to decide, if I would prefer to be in TV together with Alain or if I would rather photograph Alain. I decided to take some pictures.

The race itself was not very exciting for us Prost-fans. One of the club members slept during the race, which was quite an amusing story. You have to imagine, that we flew for a whole day, so we had no sleep at all during one night. Well, and the club member sat there and fell asleep exactly during the warmup lap (which is very loud, by the way). We waked her up at the moment of the start, but one driver had a problem, so there was a short break and a second warmup lap. And the club member fell asleep again during the warmup lap. We waked her up at the moment of the start, but this time, another driver had a problem. So, again no start, again some minutes time and the third warmup lap. And - do I have to write it again? - the club member fell asleep again during the warmup lap!! Haha! I thought by myself, that she surely didn't understand, what happened, because she saw three warmup laps! Haha! And, as I wrote before, she slept during the whole race more or less, crazy isn't it?

So, it wasn't such an exciting race: Alain started second, was second after the first corner and hold the second place during the whole race. I mean, the second place is a very good result, just the race itself wasn't that interesting. The only exciting moment was, when Damon Hill and Alain fought for the second place, which resulted in a spin of Damon, but we were not sure, which Williams driver it was for a moment... So, we were happy, that it wasn't Alain and Damon finished third anyway... After the race, all the fans ran to see the ceremony on the podium. A very special podium: It was the last win of Ayrton Senna, the last time on a podium even. The last podium as well for Alain, of course. The last race of Senna on McLaren. The last race of Alain Prost. Perhaps I should also mention, that it was the last race as well for Riccardo Patrese, which means, that it really was an end of an era. Alain wrote in the letter to his fans, who visited Adelaide:

"Each history has an end and you take part of the end of my history. Thank you for the journey and your support during this week-end. It happened that I was thinking about you during the race and to all people who have helped me during my career. - I feel less alone... Thank you, Alain Prost." Click here for the original manuscript in French!

With a lot of nice memories, we went to the airport on Monday after the race. We remembered the nice Australian people. It was a wonderful atmosphere, not only at the race track. The whole city of Adelaide was something very special. In every window, there was a F1-item. In every store, you had the possibility to buy F1-stuff. We met Alain Prost and we were happy. But, when we checked in, we saw, that the dream was not over: Next to us, Johnny Herbert checked in as well. Keke Rosberg was there with his wife and signed me a paper with "KR" (If you ever have seen one of Keke's signatures, you know, what I mean - I was quite disappointed, haha). - Martin Brundle and Riccardo Patrese were there as well. I just had to follow the flashes of the cameras and I saw the next famous person. It was great. After some hours flight, again a stop in Singapore. By the way: Singapore airport was the most beautiful airport and the easiest to survey as well. Which does not mean, that it was small... Singapore is just clean and beautiful, not to forget to fully-automatic water-tap at the airport toilets. I have never seen that before... (I searched quite a long time, how I could get water, haha).

And thanks to Yoshiko, a Japanese girl, who I have met the first time in Singapore airlines, when I counted the Prost-fans, I saw Alain again in an airport store in Singapore. The big surprise was later, when I saw, that Alain took the same flight to Paris as we did. That was just great. He waited for the flight together with all of us in the same room, speaking with his friend Jean-Louis Moncet from TF1. The flight back to Paris seemed endless to me. I was happy, when I finally was back in Switzerland, reading the Headlines of a French Newspaper: "GOOD-BYE ALAIN!" - And I was remembering the whole journey. Just as I do now, as I'm writing it down again for you, the Prost-fans and other visitors of I tried to write a short story only. If you would know, what else happened during the two weeks before the journey, during the flight, during the time I was in Adelaide and on my way back to Switzerland, you would certainly agree, that this is a very, very short story with only the most important, only the strongest memories. I hope, I could give you some impressions of this crazy, this tiring, this unbelievable GP-visit... The visit to the last F1-battle between Alain and Senna... The last race of an era... And we stand there under the podium with a French flag. On the flag, two words: "MERCI ALAIN!"

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To! © by Oskar Schuler, Switzerland