I should make it clear that I am a Dario Franchitti fan, he is my hero, my idol. His pictures, cut from Autosport, adorned my wall as a child and his memorabilia rests on my shelves as a married 25 year old.
For those unfamiliar with CART during the split, in 1998 Dario moved to Team Green for his second season of CART and he would race alongside series veteran Paul Tracy. He would remain with the team until his move to
Nascar at the end of 2007. The team ran the Reynard chassis, Honda engines and were sponsored by KOOL tobacco products. This car is my favourite from my years watching Indycar racing, I love both the Reynard chassis and KOOL livery. The Reynard was an unbelievable chassis during the late 90's and on most weekends, with Honda power, was the car to beat.
Dario had returned to Scotland after the end of season, as he normally does at some point. He was the guest of honour at Knockhill Circuit for their final Scottish Motorsport meeting of the season. He would be at the circuit mingling with fans and enjoying the racing. Not only that, he was bringing his 1999 Surfers Paradise winning Kool Reynard Honda to be displayed at the circuit during the lunch break.
As you will see from the pictures below, the car is in immaculate condition and it is, like most cars of the late 90's era, in my opinion, a thing of beauty, especially compared to the 2007-2011 Dallara.
One snippet from the circuit radio interview afterwards was a request for him to come back to do some race instructing at the circuit once he retires. Dario said he is still enjoying his racing and hopes that retirement will not be for a while yet.
Like most people, I have dreamt of meeting my hero and thought it might actually happen on Sunday.
As it turned out, it did, but not quite how I expected it to! My wife and I were wandering the very quiet paddock and I was taking pictures of the race cars parked up under awnings. I spot Dario in one of the Formula Ford garages talking away. I take a few pictures from a distance and as I am putting my camera away, notice him gesturing to the number 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Cap I have on, he nods ad smiles then continues his conversation. We do some more exploring and as we happen to wander past the garage again he jogs over to us out of nowhere and springs into conversation. We shake hands, he says “nice hat” and we proceed to chat for 2-3 minutes. He was relaxed, happy, chirpy and a pleasure to speak to.
I had just been approached by my hero, a 3 time Indy 500 winner, and he wanted to chat to me!
He apologised that he had to rush off to speak at the drivers meeting as it was about to start but he would see me back in 20 minutes in the paddock to get a few things signed. He shows up, I get things signed, I get a few pictures taken and my day is complete and it's only 10:30!
I wanted to leave you with this because Dario seems to get a raw deal from the US fans and is regarded by some as being, well, not the most approachable sometimes. During the car unveiling about 100 people gathered to watch. After the unveiling, Dario was available outside the garage to talk to. He took time to speak with, sign autographs for and take photographs with everybody who was waiting; adults, children, some drivers and even a marshal who asked him to sign his overalls. He smiled, interacted and looked relaxed; what a difference a few weeks away from the track can make to a driver's mood after a difficult and largely forgettable 2012 season.