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F1 personalities heading to York

NEWS STORY
10/10/2012

No, it's not a typo, we didn't miss off the 'New' before 'York'. Whilst the celebrated American city that never sleeps has been getting a lot of attention in Formula One circles recently, due to the troubled plans to host a Grand Prix nearby, in the short term it looks more likely that senior figures from the sport will be heading to the city of York in northern England than racing alongside the Hudson river. They will be there to watch a play and whilst it isn't the kind of thing you would usually expect to attract personalities from F1, this one is a little bit different.

Regular readers will remember that back in May we reported that Susan Watkins, the biographer of F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone and wife of the sport's late medical supremo Sid Watkins, had written a stirring script for a play. Unfortunately, this isn't a stage version of her acclaimed book 'Bernie' but instead it focuses on the remarkable story of Archibald McIndoe, a plastic surgeon who had a unique way of rehabilitating severely burned and disfigured Battle of Britain pilots during the 1940s. The play is running at the York Theatre Royal and is called the 'Guinea Pig Club' taking its name from the affectionate title given to some of McIndoe's patients.

Whilst this subject may initially seem to have no connection with F1 in fact, that is far from the case. In 1958, following his crash during the Moroccan Grand Prix at Casablanca, Vanwall driver Stuart Lewis-Evans was flown to a UK hospital where he was treated by McIndoe. However, it came too late and Evans died six days later. Not all McIndoe's connections with F1 were so bleak as rally driver Peter Procter was treated and rehabilitated by him and surgical techniques he pioneered were also employed in treating Niki Lauda.

The Austrian driver is one of a host of F1 personalities who will be attending an F1-themed gala honouring Sid Watkins in York on 20th October. The event starts at 17.30 in the De Grey rooms adjacent to the York Theatre Royal, with the performance, also dedicated to Sid, starting two hours later. Tickets to both are available online from the York Theatre Royal and the play is well worth a look for anyone who has an interest in the tremendous work Sid carried out in F1.

"The play is as much about Sid as it is about maverick plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe who treated the savagely burned Battle of Britain pilots," Susan told Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt.

"The 20th gala opens with a big tribute to Sid and the play is dedicated to him - also he was involved in every aspect of the play and was central to its creation," Susan adds. The connection runs even deeper than that.

"McIndoe employed the concept of treating the whole person, "for what good is a face without a man, whole man, body and soul." He was so successful that his 649 warrior patients - enduring 20 to 70 operations and still disfigured, many blind, handless, limbless, felt that their lives were better for their experiences and for knowing McIndoe. When asked if they could live their lives over again, not be shot down and burned, they responded that they would not change anything, not one thing. Similarly, Sid said: "My sub-speciality as a neurosurgeon was the treatment of disability and dysfunction, I understand how lives can - with a sometimes unique philosophical approach - be transformed."

The celebration of Sid's life doesn't stop there as Susan reveals that "there will probably be a memorial service in January."

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