The Corrado Show was a regular feature of the World Rally Championship week. It was unmissable. Especially in Greece, 2004.
Marcus Grönholm’s Peugeot 307 WRC had been excluded from the previous event in Cyprus after impeller blades on the car’s water pump were found to be nine-mil smaller than on the homologated road car. Peugeot was adamant the pump was legal.
Nine days after Provera thought his 307 WRC had scored a maiden world championship win, he was forced to parcel the trophy up and send it across Paris to Citroën. It didn’t go down well.
Cue a packed Corrado Show at the ensuing Acropolis.
He arrived, looking dapper as ever – he was probably the only man who ever made a Marlboro red trouser and shirt ensemble look stylish. He took his place at his table and dropped a small reporter’s notepad before him. He’d studied as a lawyer, but worked as a journalist before moving into PR at Chrysler in 1962.
A few decades down the line, he had a story for us.
Having gone through the minutiae of the issue in question, the moment began to build. Peugeot wouldn’t protest, but Provera would have the last word.
“What’s the spirit in which are we now?” he asked the room. Nobody was about to offer and opinion.
“Are we depressed?
“Are we sad?
“Are we happy?
“No. We are disgusted.
“Will we give up?”
The pause was classic theater. The pad was picked up and dropped again.
The mic was placed on the table. The cigar was placed in the corner of his mouth. He stood. He turned. He walked away.
Silence. You could hear a pin drop.
Soon as he was gone, phones were out, editors called.
I’d broken the story on the precise details of where the water pump had failed in the days after the Cyprus exclusion. It was with some trepidation that I’d joined that Corrado Show.
Sensing some concern, Harri Rovanperä sat down next to me and asked how things were. I told him I was a touch concerned about Corrado’s reaction to my story.
Provera was a legend. I loved working with him
“Don’t worry,” the Finn grinned. “You know what he’s like. It will be fine.”
Right at that moment, Provera appeared before us both.
“You,” he said, pointing at me, “you must be a very rich man, David. You take a wage from the FIA and one from your editor…”
Shot fired. He walked away.
The smile had slipped from Harri’s face.
“Actually,” he said, “I think you might be a little bit in the s***!”
It’s true that from that day onwards, Provera wasn’t quite as warm as he’d always been before. He remained totally professional and courteous, but there was never quite the same bonhomie there once was.
For me, Provera was a legend. I loved working with him. He knew the sport and the industry from all angles. Like I said, he’d started his working life looking for stories, so he knew how to deliver them.
Like the time we were sitting in a post-event press conference in Australia, 2002. Grönholm and Peugeot had won both championships a rally earlier in New Zealand. But another win meant another moment for Provera.
Sitting in the conference room in Perth’s Sheraton Hotel, Provera announced that he’d been very happy to give the Peugeot board some of its budget back. He didn’t need it all this year.
He was absolute class. And always a fascinating interview as somebody who’d seen through Formula 1 and had a firm belief in the world of rallying.
When he announced his decision to stand down in early 2005, it was a truly sad moment for the sport. There would be one last Corrado Show and, predictably, it was standing room only in Karlstad’s Scandic Winn hotel.
And there, in the corner, was a Mitsubishi jacket.
No longer driving for Provera, Harri Rovanperä couldn’t let this moment pass. He came to listen in.
“I’d forgotten about that,” said Harri, when I reminded him on Sunday afternoon.
“He was good at talking.”
If we’re honest, there were very few better at talking.
During an event, when the stages were running, you knew better than to go near him. He would be watching split times and listening to radio messages, sitting at his table with team manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas nearby. There would be pad for the stage times and an ashtray for the cigar.
A stage win drew a satisfied smile. A rally win delivered a double-fisted bang on the table.
He lived for Peugeot. He loved Peugeot.
I never tired of his most famous line.
“We have a lion on the bonnet,” he said. “And we have a lion in our heart.”
The last time I saw him was at Richard Burns’ funeral later in 2005. Him and RB had been close. Richard never left Andorra without a box of Corrado’s favorite cigars and his passing hit Provera hard.
He put his arm around me that day in London and promised that we had to keep in touch. Bygones were very much bygones. Water pumps, a thing of the past. He delivered that message with utter sincerity and warmth.
The months became years and, of course, I never got around to seeing him again. And now it’s too late.
Few, if any, in the world championship could hold court like Provera.
He was the master. The best of the best. It was a privilege to have worked with him and to have tuned in for so many editions of the Corrado Show.