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· Beppe Giannini
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1,698 Posts
As you say, Russell !

My father was posted in London in '59, and that's where I got my first - and, come to think of it - only Scalextric set - I remember buying the first type of track at a sale in Hamleys

Back in Italy, a few years later Scalextric took off big : there was an European Championship, and my younger (and much abler) brother first won the Rome event, got a paid trip to Milan for two, won there as well and got a trip to London for the finals ! Except that I was tied up with exams, so my sister went along to my great rage. And they met Jim Clark and went to a West End theater.
BTW, like Old Enzo, I saw the writing on the wall and I've never competitively driven a slot car since

A few years more ('66 ?), and commercial tracks made their appearance : it was a huge thing, there were no less than 5 really big establishments in Rome alone.
At the time, I was building model rockets and had met an absolute genius for electronics - I convinced him, and very soon we were rewinding our first motors.
He built a rev meter, and my English helped in being the first in Italy to get Champion magnets.
A few months ago, I was reminded of our debut : we were too unknown to attract top drivers, our rookie raced in the afternoon for the amateur event, won it thus becoming a pro, raced in the evening and won the main race too !

For our works cars we developed a 104,000 rpm D 16, with high speed ball bearings from dentist drills - and we paid for that with rewound D 26s that sold quite well - our Prancing Rat sticker is now my avatar, and I've found out it's a collectible !

We added dynamic balancing (with record player pick-ups driving the stroboscope) and quickly took over the Rome scene - Milan was another story, because they did not race on Blue Kings, and anyway most races ended in brawls !

At that time, Autosprint - which still is Italy's top autosport magazine - devoted two full tabloid pages to slots, written by their Rome correspondent - and I became his ghost writer (if you are vaguely acquainted with Italian politics, you can see that conflict of interest is a well established tradition here !)

But that's when things started to diverge, my priorities becoming :
- vainly trying to be noticed by the correspondent's gorgeous sister/secretary (this was ages before technogeeks became interesting)
- designing a Formula Junior - which ended suddenly when the car, running fourth to the Tecnos, sheared a driveshaft donut on a fast turn at Vallelunga and flew all the way across the track (Autosprint's header : Maglione lives to tell it) - this was the year Ford-Novamotors had a huge increase in power thanks to the vertical half-Webers, I had said that they should be changed, but of course the money wasn't there
- glancing at the last exams before graduating as an engineer

Also, Rome's weather meant that Ferrari and Abarth would come to Vallelunga for the spring tests - that's how I got to know Mauro Forghieri and had what my memory has concocted into half a job offer from Ferrari - well, he did tell me (to fend me off, in retrospect) that they were paying young engineers 80 $ a month !

Not unsurprisingly, my parents passed up the opportunity of supporting me indefinitely in exchange for perpetual fame, so I went to work for Procter & Gamble in Brussels - I did two (terminally underfunded) Formula Fords, and was in charge of suspension tuning for Alfa Romeo Benelux's GTA Juniors - the tuning mainly consisting in two wood wedges inserted into the front coil springs, so that the car would pass ground clearance, and then ejected in the first curve

Although I kept visiting the Ferrari team when they came to Zandvoort and Spa, the death of Ignazio Giunti (whom I had known well) at Buenos Aires turned me off - besides, this was the time of the Sexual Revolution, and Brussels was teeming with thousands of independent girls I could work my latin charm on...

That is how I hardly noticed the end of commercial slot racing - and how things remained until two years ago, when I had my Xlot revelation

And - you had to know I would fall into my usual spiel - Thomas is right : the best is yet to come !!

Beppe
 
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