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Eoin Young: Monza memoriesMaurice Hamilton September 5, 2014
As ever, Eoin Young's timing was perfect. His passing at the age of 75 in New Zealand came as Monza was opening for business on Friday morning. Here is a place redolent of memories stretching back to his early days as Bruce McLaren's 'secretary' and moving through the decades that shaped Young's reputation as a giant of 'old school' motor sport journalism.
Everything he did was not so much the product of careful planning but more the result of the sharp-eyed opportunism and cheerful cheek that carried him through a wonderful life and made his columns such compulsive reading. Along the way, I had the pleasure and privilege of calling Eoin my mentor.
I knew all about Eoin S Young (or ESY as he was referred to in the days when Jackie Stewart was known as JYS). I'd read his books, charting his career as a founding director of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd and progressing to weekly diary columnist for 'Autocar', a role he would fulfil with a snappy brilliance as a freelance writer for 31 years.
When he offered to help me into motor sport writing in 1977, I was signing up (actually, it was a handshake rather than a contract) for the most wonderful ride straight to the top of the sport as his leg-man, transcriber, writer and mate. If Eoin didn't know someone in the sport, they weren't worth knowing. I had the best introduction imaginable.
The unspoken ethic was: 'Work hard; play hard'. Eoin embraced both with relish. His prodigious industry at the keyboard was fuelled by stories he would gather in the paddock and over long and liberally oiled lunches and dinners. These were more relaxed times, reflected through a style made unique by Young's ability to make his phrases devastatingly simple and, if necessary, hilariously withering. Sometimes, he became the story itself.
It was here at Monza in 1979 that Young noted a higher than usual outbreak of theft ranging from wallets to Ferraris belonging to F1 drivers. Eoin kept his scribbled notes in a black leather-bound pocket book given to him by Rolls Royce. Over lunch, he was regaling the assembled company with his findings when someone mentioned another petty theft worthy of inclusion. Young reached to his top pocket for pen and notebook - to find they had been nicked. That, of course, prompted his familiar belly laugh and merely added to the tale.
His advice was always practical and straight to the point - if sometimes dangerous. We were driving to the track on race morning in 1982. Our route took us along a narrow road, filled with cyclists - seemingly the third Italian sports passion after football and Ferrari - when we came to a closed level crossing. By the time the train had passed, our hire car was completely engulfed by men in Lycra. As we moved off and into a tight left-hander, I accidentally nudged a cyclist, sending him ass over apex - fortunately onto a grass bank, where he came to no psychical harm. The same could not be said for the back of his beloved bike. Being Italian, the man was so busy remonstrating, he didn't notice the buckled wheel.
"Shit! What do I do now?" I asked in panic.
"Engage first and let out the clutch. There's more of them than us," came the calm reply. I quickly followed this advice and can still see the image of the irate little man shaking his fist in our rear view mirror as his fellow cyclists helpfully pointed out the damage.
"That was close," said Young. "I didn't want to have to get you from either the police station or the mortuary after the race."
The thing about Eoin and his deadpan Kiwi delivery was that you could never be sure if he was joking. As ever, his gift was in the telling, be it spoken or written. He will be fondly remembered for both. RIP ESY.
Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1.