Stories in Isolation: The 82nd Hairpin

The final story in the trilogy is an eye-witness account of a significant event in the history of motorsports. While racing (and sports in general!) is not usually one of my interests, my dad’s impressive memory for detail brought the story to life, the ending of which stayed with me for some time.

As with the previous two stories, I have injected some creative flair. The events depicted, however, are genuine and historical details have been checked where possible. For more information, please see my introduction to the first story.

All three stories have been taken from a collection of creative nonfiction essays in which I share my lived experience with mental health difficulties: to find out more about this work-in-progress, please see my About Me post.

I would love to collaborate with more people to help them tell their stories! If you are interested, please feel free to contact me to arrange a chat.

It was a pleasure to listen to and creatively re-tell these narratives, and I hope they have provided a little escapism for you, just like they did for me. As always, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you for reading!


Image from Raceland (if you’re a fan of motorsports, check them out; they sell an array of collectable items). Photo editing and text by Lydia Ruth Martin.

My resolve, blindly marching after my smile, halts mid-step when Dad’s twinkling eyes, flanked by the wings of his Chesterfield, burst into view.

‘‘Ello me darlin’!’

Mel lunges for the power button (‘blame it on a technical fault-!’) and I slap her away, my resolve leaping back into my heart with a tiny ‘yes!’

‘I was in Monte Carlo watching the ’67 Grand Prix with ‘Arry fifty-three years ago, and now I can’t leave my house!’ Dad announces brightly. ‘How’re things with you?’

Before I finish inhaling, he continues: ‘the plan was to hitchhike there from Ventimiglia, watch the race on the 7th May and head back to Italy where it was marginally cheaper.’

Thirteen miles and five blisters later, we were cursing Saint Christopher for failing to stop a single car. Mumbling something about finding our bearings in Monte Carlo in the morning, I settled into a patch of wildflowers beneath a copse of Banyan trees and lit a cigarette.’

James flickers to life on our screens; Dad, pausing to wave, slops Merlot over his shoulder.  

I’m in Monaco, ryegrass stroking my aching temples as night wraps me in her arms like a father and mother soothing their child.

‘Hey ev-!’ drawls James, breaking off when Dad ploughs over him.

‘I woke to see night coldly marched away by dawn, ryegrass dripping tears of morning dew in her fading trail, and ‘Arry’s lilac clad backside, sticking out the foliage to my left.

“It’s a bloody miracle!” he called. “You won’t believe where we are!”

The world-famous Fairmont Hairpin curved just beyond the trees; an elongated ‘U’ of inky tarmac bordered by bales of straw. Behind it, an assortment of boats littered the Mediterranean Sea, colliding with the horizon in a sweeping curve of cerulean satin.

“This calls for a celebration!” declared ‘Arry, serving up tobacco and whiskey for breakfast.

Two bottles and a brief siesta later, Italian motor racing driver Lorenzo Bandini was in second place, New Zealand racer Denny Hulme having edged him out.

Bandini rounded the hairpin, showering us with straw for the 82nd time that day, and shot down to the section of track that runs parallel with the harbour.

The metallic explosion that followed sent shockwaves rippling through the treetops to our right: ‘Arry dropped the whiskey with a shriek.

Black smoke billowed into the sky, turning day into dusk, while the cheers of invisible onlookers descended into screams of horror. Bandini had clipped a chicane and overturned, skidding into the straw bales separating track from harbour.

We didn’t know the specifics at the time; the race continued in an acrid smog of confusion, and Hulme won. There wasn’t much to celebrate, though; Bandini died three days later in hospital, on the 10th May.’

Wine slops into Dad’s lap and he finishes with a ‘woops!’, nudging me out of the wildflowers and back into my kitchen.


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