Open season for back-seat drivers


FUNNY, isn't it, how the country hams spawned a generation of motor racing experts recently. All you have to do is merely mention Jordan or Ferarri and literally everyone - from the back-seat driver to the L-plate novice - can go, into a spiel about downward thrust, rear suspensions and the like.

And so, temptation to tune in to the most famous Grand Prix on the calendar proved to be pretty compelling yesterday, on the sort of afternoon that belongs in the depths of winter rather than the heights of summer.

The Monaco Grand Prix has a magic all of its own, though. As that doyen of motor racing commentators Murray Walker put it "drama playing on drama." So it proved, a case of if you blink - or take a break - you miss it. As RTE discovered.

Everyone has to earn a crust, of course, but poor RTE could be forgiven, if not forgotten, for cursing the need for ad breaks during their screening of the race from the streets of Monte Carlo.

Unlike their brethren over in the Beeb who don't have to worry their minds about such silly necessities, our national station has to pay its way - which explains why viewers on BBC could see, first hand, the latest drama when Jean Alesi (in first place) exited, at the very time RTE fans were being treated to some riveting advertisements.

In fairness to Peter Collins, RTE's man on the spot did try to paper over the cracks on the station's return to the meandering circuit. But the damage had been done. BBC had scooped them in what proved to be the last piece of drama in a drama-riddled race.

Perhaps there is a case to be put for more races like Monaco, streets so narrow - "where do you overtake?" Collins wondered at one stage - that one or two inches of movement either way can.. make a huge difference. It certainly beats the long stretches of roadway with one or two hair-pins thrown in for good measure that dominate the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, the driver with most skill doesn't always win... as poor Damon Hill found out, the victim of modern technology exploding under him when he appeared to be coasting home.

As that man of many words Walker described Hill's exit (which left Alesi in the lead, temporarily as it turned out): ". . . he's destined not to win the race, the Englishman's heart will be plunging to his feet."

Touche, Murray, touche!