Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


FORMULA 1 winter testing is big-time today, with guided tours for enthusiasts in March 2016 to the Spanish Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. In 1989 when I first attended one, things were decidedly less elaborate. There was a smattering (or is the proper collective noun a “shrewdness”?) of journalists and no spectators to speak of, or with.


Two traditional F1 winter testing venues in Spain. Jerez has been dropped for 2016. This and other maps from Google.

In early February 1989, the winter testing took place at the Circuito de Jerez in the south of Spain, in the midst of its sherry region. As was my custom at the time, I was able to combine work with early retirement, in this case involving carnival floats and a sherry glass that couldn’t stand on its own.


The Circuito de Jerez, near the city of Jerez de la Frontera.

The Jerez Circuito was only four years old in 1989. McLaren’s Ayrton Senna had won his first World Drivers Championship in 1988. Teammate (and rival) Alain Prost was close behind in the points, no one else even vaguely in the running. The 1989 season was to end in controversy, Prost taking the championship, Senna second, after they collided at the Suzuka chicane.


A collision of the two best drivers was to decide the 1989 Formula 1 championship.

Of course, none of us knew this in February 1989. In fact, my recollection of the Jerez F1 testing is not profound. Rather, what I did in the downtime, my early retirement, formed the lasting memories.


The traveller’s handbook for Spain, (Cook’s traveller’s handbooks), by Albert F. Calvert, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Isabel the Catholic, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Alfonso XII, Thos. Cook & Son, 1924.

My trusty Cook’s Handbook for Spain provided the impetus: “A national Carnival is spread over several days in February, when the entire populace makes holiday. Masks are de rigueur in the streets, balls are given in the theatres, and simplicity, temperance, and good taste characterise the entire proceedings.”

I remember all but the temperance part.


“Purveyor to the House of Lords.” Image from Cook’s Handbook for Spain.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes grown near Jerez de la Frontera in the Province of Cadiz. The ancient Phoenicians brought viniculture to Spain, and the Brits came to love sherry after Francis Drake sacked Cadiz in 1587.

In time, Brits moved to the region to start their own bodegas. I recall seeing a sign near the circuit advertising Osborne Deside 1772. By the way, sack is another name for what the English used to call such fortified Spanish wine, though I doubt any attribution to Drake’s action.


Falstaff: “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack.” Painting by Eduard von Grützner; quote from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2.

Armed with Falstaff’s advice, when things got slow in F1 testing I ambled southward 24 miles from Jerez to Cadiz. Cook’s calls this seaport city “the Spanish Venice, according to Byron the prettiest of all towns of Spain.”


Cadiz, the Provincial Capital, is only 24 miles from Jerez.

And darned if there wasn’t a festival in Cadiz, complete with parades of merrymakers on floats and crowds gleefully sharing non-thin potations with each other. There, according to my T&E Report, I spent 1264 pesetas ($11.63 U.S.) on “groceries.”

These provisions consisted of a local sausage roll, my bottle-for-sharing and a glass, its stem formed into a loop for a leather cord worn around the neck.

I searched high and low around here for the glass, and on the Internet for a photo, unsuccessfully. But the memory is sharp as can be. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2015

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