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    Monaco Grand Prix 2000
So, Monaco.. well what can I say but tres fantastique!!!

Thurs 25 May

We met up with the other four team members (David-Herts, Francesca-Herts, Sheila-Cornwall and Mos-Bucks) at Luton airport and after a few interesting moments with baggage labelled "AMBULANCE" boarded the easyJet! We all took our own first aid kits as we had been told that the Monaco supplies were a little different. However, we did leave on time and landed at Nice which seemed very warm and humid after the cold, wet stuff we’d left behind. La Croix Rouge Monegasque (CRM) picked us up from the airport, along with all our baggage (it's amazing how much you need for six days on duty). We were taken to the Princess Stephanie Youth Hostel where we booked in and started some rather rusty French conversation. Then it was off to get some food at the Carabiniere (The Monaco police mess) and time for a wander to the local "English Bar", Flashman’s.

Fri 26 May

We spent the day touring the paddock area, along with many other enthusiasts getting a good look at all the historic cars, some dating back to 1924! We took loads of photos and then went back to meet the local CRM for a full briefing. This was in rather rapid French, but was wonderfully translated just for our benefit! The most daunting part of all of this was discovering that all these old cars run on methanol which burns with an invisible flame! We were very strongly warned not to approach if a driver was "writhing in pain" as they would still be burning; a very salutatory lesson to all those practising first aid, as any danger to you must be your top priority! However, thankfully this never happened and despite a number of bumps and scrapes on these beautiful cars there were no very serious injuries to the drivers.

Sat 27 May

For the practice we both had track side places with a good view between the Pool and Rascasse (Poste dix-neuf), and luckily we could also see the whole thing on the giant TV screen positioned towards the tunnel exit. However, it was rather an early start, 6:30am. We had our first casualty, a French-speaker which seriously tested both my French and Graham’s; but we got by somehow, I think? The commissaires (marshals) and pompiers (firemen) on this post were great fun and very friendly, although starting bizarre conversations about Penelope Pitstop and Wacky Races in French is not to be recommended when your vocab is seriously lacking!

Sun 28 May

I was back at Post 19 with Mos while Graham was part of the first aid post at grandstand K (tribune K), the biggest one! The second Historic Grand Prix (Le Deuxieme Grand Prix Historique) consisted of a total of seven races Formula Junior cars (1958-1963); Pre-1959 Sports cars (drum brakes); Pre-1934 Grand Prix cars (2 seater); Mercedes Celebrity Grand Prix; Pre-1961 Grand Prix cars (front engine); Pre-1952 Grand Prix cars (single seater); Pre-1966 Grand Prix cars (rear engine). We were privileged to see Stirling Moss drive in two races, finishing 7th in one (the other he had to retire from with mechanical problems).

There are about 25 posts each containing two first aiders, approximately ten marshals, three or four firemen, a nurse and one or two doctors. The posts are within about 100 yards of each other and communication is by radio and telephone (there is a special cable laid around the track just for them).

Mon/Tues/Wed 29/30/31 May

Finally, a few days off, enough time for some sightseeing and I managed to wash our uniforms for the Grand Prix (sad but necessary). Monaco is a wonderful place and the city Monte Carlo appears as if just out of a fairy tale. The weather was warm (24 deg C) and sunny but the temperature then started to climb and by the next four race days was heading into the early thirties! However, a few days off visiting the palace and the beach meant that we at least started a proper suntan (rather than just the bits that stick out of the uniforms) and we had a chance to relax. We also moved all our kit.. no mean feat (but once again with help from the CRM) over to the CRM headquarters, in Rue Henry Dunant, where we were to remain for the rest of our stay.

The briefing for the Grand Prix days was not as scary from the methanol point of view (these are modern cars after all) but it was very intimidating to discover just how many people would be packed into this really quite small place. The final of the Grand Prix sees Monaco treble its population to 120,000! To cope with this influx there are nearly 200 first aiders (les secouristes) which cover all the track posts, the grandstand first aid posts and a number of other positions in the surrounding area, particularly the nearby slope up to the palace.

Thurs 1 June

Graham and I spent our first GP day at a first aid post by the grandstand (tribune NOP) and had a great view once again (both of the track and the TV screen). This post was crewed by the Monegasque Red Cross who were wonderful hosts most of whom spoke at least a small amount of English, although we spoke French as much as we were able. There were a small number of casualties from the grandstand and in fact our English was needed on more than one occasion as some were from the UK! This gave the event a truly international feeling.

There were a number of Formula ‘1’ timed practice sessions, but the day culminated in a huge pile up of racing Clios right in front of us. This created a very scary fireball and totalled about eight of them for the rest of the event! We must admit that the Clio racing was definitely the most exciting of the day (yes even better than F1).

Fri 2 June

A horrendously early start in the morning, but luckily it was only for a half day! I was at Sortie Tunnel (tunnel exit) with Francesca and Graham was at Virage Massenet. It was also very hot and sticky.. with no shade and loads of sun! The tunnel is unbelievably loud and the ear defenders are not sexy! However, once again les commissaires, medicins (doctors), infirmieres (nurses) and pompiers were a great bunch speaking both Italian and French.. which got rather confusing some of the time! We then went to the British American Racing suite in the paddock area for lunch. Unfortunately, we were not allowed through the barriers, but they gave us a fantastic lunch, passed over the security fence, thanks! So after that we just had to spend the rest of the afternoon chilling out at a local bar over in France, which is easy walking from the CRM HQ.

Sat 3 June

Back to the first aid post at tribune NOP with David. Said hello to all our CRM friends there and met a few new CRM members. It was very sunny again and we had a bit more of a wander around looking at all the very expensive boats moored up. This was the timed practice and qualifying day for the F1 and so there was a much bigger crowd, though not quite as many as the GP, but nearly so. However, this did mean that all the rich and famous were around and we saw Naomi Campbell, Bernie Eccles and Richard Branson (who crossed the quay specifically to say hello to Graham and David as he noticed they were BRC!). Then at about 4pm there was the 3rd ‘F3000’ Grand Prix and I'm afraid I haven't a clue who won!

Sun 4 June

Today was the big event, the F1 finale: Grand Prix day! For that day we were both on track posts and Graham was positioned at the tunnel exit and I was at Virage Massenet. It is in fact a very busy day as what you don't see on the TV are all the other races, the finals for the Porches and Clios. As previously, the Clio drivers were very determined and took every available opportunity to pass in the most narrow of places. This made it a gripping and very terrifying race to watch, and it certainly appeared by the end that none of the cars were in possession of all their original fixtures and fittings.

As those of you who watched the F1 Grand Prix on TV know there were two false starts before the cars finally got underway. The second caused by a massive car jam at Casino Corner which neither of us were in a position to see. However, the five drivers running back to the pits for their second cars all had to pass Graham and David who managed to point Jenson Button in the right direction (he was about to go the wrong way!). Once the race was finally underway Michael Schumacher was out in front from the start; increasing his lead by seconds on each lap; he certainly knows how to drive! However, due to suspension failure he had to pull out and then it was David Coulthard’s opportunity to win in his home town (he now lives in Monaco along with a number of the other F1 drivers and we had previously spotted him in more than one local bar).

The amazing thing about this Grand Prix is that because Monaco is a bowl shaped place, surrounded by hills, the noise of the cars (especially the F1) is greatly amplified and very much makes you feel that you are completely surrounded. It was certainly the noisiest first aid event we’d ever been to despite the ear plugs but it was also the most spectacular place and no other Grand Prix track could possibly have the same atmosphere. The crowds of spectators are not simply in a grandstand around the track but stretch up into the heavens all around. For the final every available balcony, bridge and slope with a view is crowded with people. This layer of humanity also stretches down to the harbour which is now filled to capacity with boats. As David Coulthard reached the finish line a huge cheer went up from the crowd which echoed around the hills and was joined by blasts from the horns of the enormous flotilla in the harbour, it felt as if the very hills and streets were cheering!

After the finale we were all invited to a special Red Cross dinner and very much thanked for our help. A total of ten countries participated in providing first aid cover for this event: Monaco, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Andorra, Germany, Britain, Finland, Austria and Italy which were organised and co-ordinated by Remy, the director of the Croix Rouge Monegasque (Monaco Red Cross). This was a lovely opportunity to meet some of the other Red Cross members.

Mon 5 June

  • Our final full day in Monaco was not completely a day of rest, as the hundreds of stretchers, first aid kits and other items needed cleaning and stowing away until next year. This was achieved by a breakfast working party which finished with an aperitif or two (I think we should do more of this in the UK!), then we all said our final farewells. To say we had a fantastic time would be an understatement and we very much hope that we might get the opportunity to go again next year. Our only problem now is that we're still thinking in French… au revoir! 
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