Those Were The Days - Stories and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing
Those Were The Days - Stories and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing

Fire Down Below

Wilson & Emerson Fittipaldi.

Who's laughing now? Wilson & Emerson Fittipaldi.

The day after a Grand Prix is always deflating. The aftermath of so many people gathered together with high hopes - the majority of which have not been satisfied. This goes for the spectators as well as those involved. Once the race is over it is just as well to clear off. Either go home or on to the next venue - whichever is the easier. After the Argentine GP it used to be the Brazilian GP, so it was easy enough to catch a flight up the coast until things got underway again. Usually I would go up to Rio de Janeiro for a few days and, if my timing was right, catch the Carnival. But the Fittipaldi Brothers, Emerson and Wilson, had invited me to a party in Guaruja, a seaside resort just outside Sao Paolo, so I gave Rio a miss.

I wasn't sure about the party. I felt I was being invited under a misunderstanding. One evening in Buenos Aires, the conversation had turned to flying. Not flying, flying but model aircraft flying. When the conversation started I thought they were talking about the real thing and confessed that I was into flying and had a plane back in England. By the time I found out that the aircraft they were going on about were remote controlled, I didn't feel like saying that I had a real aircraft - Yah! Boo!

Guaruja can be a bit overcrowded on some of the beaches. The area where I was heading was a little away from the holiday resort. Long white beaches backed by towering trees and water that looks as if it has come straight for an Evian bottle. In among the trees butterflies, as big a dinner plates, swoop and fluttered. When I got out of the taxi at the address I had been given by Wilson I had to stop and take in the view. It was stunning. A maid answered the door and told me that the Fittipaldis hadn't arrived yet and weren't expected for a few hours. I got the impression that house wasn't theirs but before I could slope off the woman led me through to a small patio and gave me some lemonade and empanadas and said she would tell Senhor Fittipaldi I was there.

From where I was sitting I was able to see the sea although foliage restricted my view of the beach. I contemplated taking a walk but couldn't bring myself to move. I nodded through most of the afternoon. About eight o'clock Wilson turned up. Other than the maid, he was the first person I had spoken to since I arrived. He explained to me that the house was owned by a friend who was away somewhere, invited me to have something to eat and led me into the house. The interior was a bit of a disappointment. After the brilliant sunshine it all appeared dark and gloomy. Because of the air conditioning all the windows were closed and shuttered and the atmosphere stale.

A band arrived and set up at the side of the house where there was a large terrace with tables around an Olympic size pool. Suddenly the place woke up. Cars were arriving all the time and soon there was a mass of surging, dancing, cavorting bodies. It was a bit hard going at first. The only people I knew were the Fittipaldis, Wilson and Emerson, their wives Suzy and Marie Helena, Carlos Pace and his wife, Nelly, and Wilson's dad - also Wilson. By about 4 am the party had begun to dwindle down to a few small groups and couples who had no sense of time. The conversation was pretty ribald and finally turned to farting. Not a subject easily discussed in front of wives and girl friends but luckily those still awake had congregated in a distant group and from the spontaneous bursts of laughter were also discussing some delicate subject or other.

Emerson was waxing lyrical about being at a party and seeing a bloke do a trick with a match. Evidently he had pulled down his trousers, bent over and applied the lighted match as methane gas flowed from his fundamental orifice. We all pretended not to believe him. I don't think he realised that we were ribbing him. He was so adamant that he offered to prove it. Naturally everyone egged him on. The food eaten had built up a good reservoir of gas and soon Emerson was in a position to prove what he had said. He whipped off his trousers, lit a match, strained at the leash and was able to let off a rasper. He proved what he had set out to prove - and then some.

What Emerson hadn't understood, until that moment, was the technical side of the operation. If you want to develop this particular stunt as a party trick it is essential to get the elements right. Which means keeping on your underpants. The fabric forms a protection between the flame and your more intimate and tender parts. As the flame soared Emerson roared. He beat frantically at his barbecued bits and hopped around the room. Everyone fell about laughing and threw wine and water over him to cool him down. Emerson rushed off, followed by Marie Helena, and the rest of us just laid around having hysterics. I didn't see Emerson the next morning before I left. I was feeling a little ashamed that I had thought Emerson's pain was so hilarious. As I sat and ate a late breakfast with Wilson, I told him how I felt. He nodded, straight faced - then started to giggle and finally flopped around crying with laughter. I was glad Emerson had gone home and I didn't have to see him.

When he turned up at Interlagos at the weekend he was still walking like a geriatric jockey with piles, but nobody dared mention his ordeal or the pain he was obviously still suffering.

We never did get around to demonstrating our flying skills. Which was just as well. Last year I bought my grand daughter a remote control aeroplane for her birthday. Demonstrating how the controls work I flew it straight into the top of an oak tree. It's still there and every time I see it I think of Emerson. I'm glad its Summer and the leaves are on the trees.


Empanadas are a pre-Earl of Sandwich snack, passionately loved by all countries with an Iberian persuasion. Fairly easy to make, cooked nervously and eaten with relish. How you go about making the dough which contains the meat is up to you.


* 2 lbs minced beef
* 2 diced potatoes, well 'blanched' but not too soft
* 2 red onions, chopped
. 1 green pepper
* 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
* handful chopped olives
1 small chilli (optional)
* 4 diced hard-boiled eggs
* 1/2 pt beef stock
* 1 handful raisins or sultanas
* 2 tbs Virgin Olive oil


I think the professional way to acquire the dough is to saunter into the supermarket and buy a packet of prepared dough. All you have to do then is roll it out and cut out shapes about 6 ins round and you are in business.

Fry the garlic, chilli (optional) and onions until they are transparent, add the mince and cook on low heat. Mix in the beef stock, olives and raisins, bring to the boil then simmer until the juice is drastically reduced. Add the eggs and potatoes, carefully mix them in so that they don't break up too much

Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared dough. Wet the edges and fold into a semi circle. Press down the edges and brush milk on top. Place in a medium over and cook for 20 minutes or until the outside is a fantastic brown.

Great first course for meal or Barbecue. And if anyone tells you they are not Brazilian - sneer.

Posted 27/6/2008

Those Were The Days - Motor Racing Stories, Tales and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing