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Imola, 1st May
When the first Grand Prix of San Marino was mooted for 1981 a lot of people scoffed and said it was absurd for the tiny Principality near the Adriatic coast to have a Grand Prix on the International Formula One calendar. You can hardly drive a Fiat Panda round the mountain-top town, let alone race Grand Prix cars round it, but the San Marino Automobile Federation had no intention of holding their Grand Prix in the ancient city, they planned to use the Imola Autodromo between their Principality and the town of Bologna, and to get the Automobile Club of Bologna to run it for them. This year saw the running of only the third Grand Prix of San Marino, but the whole affair has taken off so well that you would think it was the 30th. It is like the Austrian GP when it was held for the first time on the newly-built Osterreichring, it got off the ground immediately, and the San Marino race at Imola has done the same thing. It is all a matter of having the right ingredients, the right reasons for the event, the right circuit, the right atmosphere, the right organisation. The third Gran Premio San Marino was a superb event. Grand Prix racing is alive and well and lives in Italy.
Although we have had Formula One races already this year in Brazil and California they can never witness a total commitment by the teams as they are too far from the home base. The French GP at the featureless Paul Ricard circuit recently was a bit unreal and you felt that most people did not really believe they were back in Europe, but by the end of April when official practice began on the Imola Autodromo everyone had their feet firmly planted back in Europe and there was a very exciting atmosphere about the pits and paddock on Friday morning as engines were warmed-up, tyres fitted, adjusunents made to aerodynamic tweaks, refuelling and wheel changing equipment set up, spare engines unloaded and new designs of tyre assembled.