The Williams Formula One Conference Centre, Grove, UK was the venue for the 5th bi-annual reunion of the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust, at the end of last year. Almost 200 invited guests, including over 130 former grand prix mechanics who have served various teams along the Formula One pit lane over the past six decades gathered to mark the occasion. Also there to acknowledge their thanks were former drivers, Damon Hill, Martin Brundle and John Watson.
Sir Jackie Stewart, Chairman of the Trust, welcomed all, but paid particular tribute to the “unsung heroes of the pit-lane” as some had travelled from Europe, USA, and Australia for the event. In his address, Sir Jackie stated that, in 2002, the Trust started a register of former Grand Prix mechanics and sought out mechanics from as far back as the 1950s. There are now more than 230 former mechanics on the register. He also encouraged all former and current F1 mechanics to register with the Trust by contacting administrator Ann Wood at email@example.com.
I asked Sir Jackie why the Trust had been originally formed. “When Ken Tyrrell and I created the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust back in 1987, it was to make provision for some of the most skilled, trustworthy and dedicated people in our business. People whose names and faces were unknown to the public, but who supported drivers like me and owners like Ken, often well beyond the call of duty. To me, the Grand Prix Mechanics are the true professionals in our business.“
Over the years it has built up a fund of over £1m while supporting current and former Grand Prix mechanics, and their families, in times of need. Until the register was created, news about the Trust had tended to be spread by word of mouth. However, the Trustees recognized that many of the mechanics the Trust could help had moved on from Grand Prix racing before the Trust was created and were therefore unaware of its existence. It was apparent too, that some people thought the Trust was only able to help in the case of an accident in the pit lane.
Currently the Trust is actively engaged in advising and helping current and past mechanics. There is now a growing number of former F1 mechanics, who have reached retirement without a company pension, health insurance or similar. Often it is after they have left the security of their F1 team that in times of hardship, they or their families need help and assistance. Despite many changes in the mechanics’ world, the Trust remains as relevant today as it was when it was created. Safety in the pit lane may have improved, as has the level of employee benefits provided by team owners, but there is now a growing number of former Grand Prix mechanics who have reached retirement without the benefit of company pensions, life assurance and other benefits. The Trust provides help to former mechanics in this position—unable to support themselves when serious illness or hardship occurs in later life.
Sir Jackie continued, “It’s very rewarding that so many past drivers and motor racing personnel, as well as companies, have seen fit to support this very worthy cause. As a driver, my life was in the hands of these mechanics, and I have the absolute admiration for the work that they have carried out both in the past and that the present army of Grand Prix mechanics are doing today. To all of these people I offer my grateful thanks.”
Donations to the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust can be made online using a debit or credit card, by visiting www.gpmechanicstrust.com.
By Mike Jiggle