Rubens Barrichello at the French Grand Prix, 1993, holding Tamiya Top Force

The R/C cars of Barrichello, Andretti & Simoni

Rubens Barrichello at the French Grand Prix, 1993, holding Tamiya Top ForceF1 legend Rubens Barrichello, Indycar champion Michael Andretti and Touring Car ace Giampiero Simoni all used to mess around with R/C cars too, and here’s the photographic proof!

Get ready for a new series of never-before-seen photographs of racing drivers with R/C cars. All with enormous thanks to “R/C modeler to the stars”, Colin Spinner and his enviable experiences building R/C models for the legends of F1, rally and touring car racing.

After the positive response to my earlier article about Racing Drivers & R/C Cars, I knew this subject deserved some more attention here on R/C Toy Memories.

This is the first of several new articles I’ll be sharing where famous racing drivers can be seen driving, holding, or simply gawking-at R/C models.

This new material has come to me courtesy of former R/C magazine journalist and R/C industry figure (and the modeler behind most of the cars you will see) – Colin Spinner.

Colin has generously donated his time, memories and personal archive of photographs. I’ve then sat, staring at the amazing images, and attempted to compose some semi-coherent babble to accompany them.

As children, most of us grew up playing with toy racing cars in some form. Yet few of us would have dreamed of becoming real racing drivers. All of which makes seeing those same racing drivers you watched growing up, fawning over R/C toys, somewhat vindicating. So what if we never had the wits, talent or money to race an F1 car? We’re all just big kids at heart. And a lot of those top drivers shared precisely the same passion we did for the joys of car racing, at a more affordable scale. After all, childhood itself is probably life’s greatest joy.

These images (and the others I’ll be sharing in coming weeks) are also something of reward for everyone visiting this website. Your visits have driven the site’s popularity in 2014, and that visibility has afforded me the luck of being contacted by people with unique insights to share, such as Colin.

So without further ado…

A quick introduction

In a career stretching back to the early 1980s, Colin Spinner built R/C models for some of the world’s most famous racing drivers. These efforts were part of cross-promotional activities between real racing events and R/C model sales, and they took Colin around the world to many events and functions, even allowing him to form friendships with many drivers and other figures in the motorsport and entertainment industries during the 1980s, 1990s and into the 21st century.

So without further ado, these are some of the moments he captured…

Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello is a former Formula One driver, who is best remembered for his 11 Grand Prix wins and for entering Formula One when he was only 21 years old as something of an heir apparent to his Brazilian compatriot, Ayrton Senna. Rubens later went on to have one of the longest careers in the sport’s history, starting in a record 322 grands prix, and was a serious contender for the World Driver’s Championship title during at least four seasons.

This image reveals Rubens holding none other than his Tamiya Top Force, the 100th R/C car kit Tamiya ever made. This photo was taken at the 1993 French Grand Prix in Magny Cours where Rubens was driving for the Jordan team in his debut season, and the Top Force is detailed in “Sasol” Jordan livery – just like the F1 cars. Colin created the model to give to Rubens, and says “I drove there for a Canon promo involving Alain Prost and Damon Hill, so I took the model with me.”

Rubens Barrichello at the French Grand Prix, 1993, holding Tamiya Top Force

Michael Andretti (& Tim Allen!)

Michael Andretti was a successful Indycar driver who took out the Indycar Driver’s Championship in 1991. In 1993 he famously made a foray into Formula One, joining the McLaren team where his team mate was Ayrton Senna. The season was not a success, with Michael never getting to grips with the car and scoring just 7 points against Senna’s 73.

Michael ended up quitting Formula One before the season was even over, but these photos show him a little more relaxed and engaging in a promotional R/C car event held at the 1993 Monaco Grand Prix. TV comedian Tim Allen of “Home Improvement” sitcom fame was also on-hand to join in the fun. But apparently Michael came out the winner in their race, with his Tamiya R/C McLaren. The prize? Another McLaren model kit of course (and a trophy). Who said Michael never won an F1 race?

Michael Andretti at the Monaco Grand Prix, 1993

Michael Andretti and Tim Allen at the Monaco Grand Prix, 1993

Giampiero Simoni

Giampiero Simoni was an Italian Touring Car driver who was once World Karting Champion, and later competed in Formula 3000, before entering the British Touring Car Championship during the mid 1990s. He finished 5th in his debut season driving an Alfa Romeo 155 TS, winning one race for the Italian marque, while his team mate Gabriele Tarquini dominated the season and took out the title.

The dominance of the Alfa Romeo 155s inspired Tamiya to release a kit, and here Giampiero is shown holding the Tamiya model and even standing next to one of the real cars driven in the championship. The Tamiya Alfa Romeo 155 was the first model they released on their ‘TA-02’ chassis.

Giampiero Simoni holding Tamiya model, 1994

Giampiero Simoni holding Tamiya model, 1994

The livery on this model doesn’t actually match the real car Giampiero is standing beside in the image above, but it does match another of the actual cars driven. Below is the real car that sports the same livery as was commissioned for the model.

Colin adds: “I used to spend a lot of time sourcing visual info often direct from the teams and getting computer cut graphics done to replicate liveries. Early days for computer cuts back then, but surprisingly there were some really skillful friends – particularly Richard Delves whose artistic talent was extremely good.”

Giampiero Simoni's BTCC Alfa Romeo 155

This is just the first in a series of new posts about famous racing drivers. So stay tuned for many more great photos in coming weeks.


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