Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Formula 1 star Watson gifts collection of race memorabilia to Dublin motor museum

By Claire McNeilly

Ex-Formula 1 star John Watson has donated his vast collection of memorabilia to a museum in Dublin.

The 71-year-old from Belfast visited the Royal Irish Automobile Club (RIAC) in person to hand over Press cuttings, programmes, photographs and other items from his early days, which provide a fascinating insight into Ulster motorsport.

Watson - who drove with superstar team-mates including Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost - contested 152 Grand Prix, won five, and was joint runner-up in the 1982 World Championship during an F1 career that spanned from 1973 to 1985.

He famously helped save the life of three-time world champion Lauda after being one of the first on the scene of the horrific crash and fireball that engulfed the Austrian's Ferrari during the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Watson had a fine Sports Car career after F1, but it all began for him at Dundrod, which hosted the fifth round of the FIA Sports Cars World Championship in 1955.

It was an unlikely event to inspire a nine-year-old Belfast boy, as the event took place immediately after the catastrophic June 1955 Le Mans crash where 90 spectators were killed, but Watson revealed he was smitten.

"My father Marshall was an active competitor in the 1950s. He brought me along to Dundrod and I was in the paddock among the greats of era - Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn, Fangio and others," he said.

"I had read about them in the comics and they were the heroes of the day.

"That was really where my dream of being a racing driver began."

Watson's Grand Prix wins in Austria (1976), Silverstone (1981), Spa and Detroit (1982) and Long Beach (1983) remain the most of any Irishman, with only Conlig man Eddie Irvine's four at Ferrari coming close.

He is a consistent supporter of Ulster and Irish motorsport.

Belfast Telegraph

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