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Carlos Ghys was born on April 6th 1954 in Lisala (Belgian Congo at the time). Lisala is situated in the North of the country at the Congo river and is the home town of the former President Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu was born here in a small municipal maternity clinic.
Together with his brother Luc (° Lisala, June 11th 1955), he spent the first six years of his life in the North of this beautiful country, their father being an agriculture engineer, working for the Belgian Government. Although very young, he remembers vividly the traveling between the homeland and Congo by boat or by plane. The so typical Diesel smell on the boat and the noise of the propellers of the Douglas DC 3, 6 and 7 aircraft are still present to his mind today. Here originates his interest in aviation.
This fascination for aircraft was strengthened by the fact that Carlos' uncle Guy Ghys was a Starfighter F104 G pilot in the famous 31st Tiger Squadron of the 10th Tactical Wing at Kleine-Brogel. On many occasions, when a Starfighter with its typical howling noise circled several times above Carlos' school in Sint-Niklaas (between Ghent and Antwerp), he knew this was his uncle and proudly told so to his class mates. As an early teenager, on the occasion of the Belgian National Day, his uncle took him to the end of the runway to witness the take off of 24 Starfighters. This was one of the most spectacular experiences of his life and it strengthened his will to become a jet pilot himself. Although after a rough aerobatic flight as a passenger in a SIAI Marchetti SF260 of the Belgian Air Force, Carlos' optimism was quickly tempered. Later, when he had to wear spectacles he was forced to give up this boyish dream. In September 1969, Captain Guy Ghys suffered a severe crash with his Starfighter. On the runway, at high speed, an hydraulic pressure loss made him decide to abort the take off procedure which resulted in a terrible accident that brought an end to his flying career. In an attempt to lower the speed, he used the drag chute which was ripped off due to the excessive speed. The only thing now that could stop the full loaded aircraft was the cable at the end of the runway but due to a construction failure the arresting hook broke… Captain Ghys bailed out while the jet perforated the airbase fence and crossed the public road in front of a tank-lorry! With the ejection seat still attached to his right foot, the poor pilot smashed into a swamp. With severely head wounds he was transported to a specialized hospital in Brussels where he remained in a coma for five days. He fully recovered but never flew again.
Two years later, Carlos decided to join the Army and started studying flight mechanics at the Royal Technical School of the Air force in Saffraanberg (St-Truiden). The nearby air base of Brustem was the home of the famous «Red Devils». From his classroom, Carlos often admired their aerobatic movements in the red Fouga Magisters. This period also coincided with the glorious years of the world famous stunt team «the Slivers». Captain Steve Nuyts and Flight Adjutant-chief Palmer De Vlieger were two stars of aerobatics at high speed! Doing 800 km/h at low level, these two pilots maneuvered their Starfighters with such an ability and self-control that they succeeded in crossing each other exactly on a well determined point and this in complete synchronization. In Carlos, they found their greatest fan and he started to correspond with his idols. He still has the cards, letters and photographs of that time and cherishes the team badge that was offered to him by the team leader. This unique show was only copied years later by two German Navy pilots called «the Vikings». Carlos was lucky to meet these air aces during an air show at Koksijde on the Belgian coast.
In 1974 he and his classmates decided for an officers' career and moved to the Royal Pupils' School at Lier in the middle of Belgium. Three out of four classmates succeeded in their choice for a pilot's career and years later, Carlos met them again several times during a visit to an air base. They became Starfighter-, Mirage- and F16-pilots.
Carlos started his officers' career in 1979 as a platoon commander in a tank regiment in Germany. He spent four years in the Second Regiment of the Guides at Altenrath near Cologne and was very impressed by the achievements of his Leopard 1 tank, a German designed and produced main battle tank that first entered service in 1965 and was used by several other European countries, Australia, Canada, Brazil and Chile. Carlos has fond memories of the companionship during NATO exercises, tank shooting exercises near Hamburg and the daily life in the barracks.
Also in 1979, on Dec 27th, Carlos married Marie-Jeanne whom he'd met six years earlier. On Dec 12th 1982, they became the proud parents of a son named Mathias. Worth mentioning is the fact that Marie-Jeanne was a laboratory worker in a Belgian hospital. To join her husband in Germany, she had to give up her job and tried to enter the Armed Forces as an Officer too. Although some years before, the first female students were already admitted at the Royal Military Academy in Brussels, Marie-Jeanne and Carlos were the first officers' couple in the Belgian Army and some generals could not familiarize with the idea. One even suggested to split and transfer them to respectively the Belgian coast and the most remote Belgian barracks in Germany… As a result and despite a vivid motivation, Marie-Jeanne left the Army and concentrated on her household and the education of her son.
In 1983, Carlos was offered a job as a maintenance officer in a helicopter squadron. That year, he and his little family lived 6 months in a small apartment in Bourges in the middle of France to specialize in helicopter mechanics. From 1983 till 1995 he was assigned to the 18 Squadron Light Aviation at Merzbrück airfield, North of Aachen. As an air enthusiast, Carlos spent many hours on board of the Alouette 2 and witnessed the arrival of the new helicopter, the Agusta A109. He is very proud to say that during this period no loss of aircraft or pilot occurred due to technical failure and this was mostly the result of a fantastic technical crew and skilled pilots.
In 1990 and 1991, Carlos was part of the national helicopter demonstration team. This aerobatic team was composed of Alouette 2 helicopters of the squadron and together with a technical crew, they participated at several air shows in Belgium and England. One helicopter was painted by Carlos' own hands with the squadron's emblem (a bee holding goggles) and all aircraft were equipped with a specially made smoke devise. Carlos' role, compared to that of the pilots was not difficult at all. He just had to play...the clown. In fact, to fill up the gaps between two formations, the solo helicopter and the clown performed their little show in front of the grandstands. After some imaginary pulling and pushing between the clown and the helicopter, Carlos was picked up high in the air to the joy of all the young spectators. Hanging under the helicopter, subject to the wind, the noise and the centrifugal forces, this was big fun! One air show at Kleine Brogel in 1991, Carlos looked down to a crowd of over 100 000! He will never forget the formation flight from Germany to Saint-Mawgan in Western England. Several refueling stops, crossing the Channel, flying over beautiful landscapes and sometimes confronted with very difficult weather conditions… During all those events, Carlos met several times with the pilots of famous aerobatic teams like the «Red Arrows», the «Frecce Tricolore» and many solo display pilots. Even today, Carlos talks very proudly about his participation in this demo team and still can't believe that he was part of those happy few whom he admired so much when he was young. The formation leader, Flight Commander Willy Van Caelenberge, was Carlos' boss in the squadron and sometimes invited him for a navigation flight over Belgium. It was a great and instructive period and Carlos will be forever grateful for these wonderful moments…
In 1995, Carlos returned to Belgium and settled in Hamme, a small village 10 km South of Sint-Niklaas. In the Belgian Headquarters in Brussels, Carlos became the point of contact for all the Belgian Military Attachés abroad. This protocol job was very satisfying and enabled him to travel a lot and to meet with many international dignitaries at different select occasions and places.
From February till September 2000, Carlos worked as a European Community Monitor in Albania. Together with his Greek partner, he was stationed in Tirana and their «mobile team» covered almost one third of the country. In their white Range Rover Defender, they had to make daily visits in the country to interview local politics, Chiefs of Police and industrials about all aspects of daily life and politics in Albania. At the end of each day, these experiences were embodied in a detailed report and sent to Brussels together with those of the other teams all over the Balkan. This was a very tough period for Carlos didn't see his family for six months but on the other hand, crossed almost every road in central Albania and learned a lot about this fascinating country that suffered so much during Enver Hoxha's Communist and dictatorial regime. Carlos could write a book about his experiences in this beautiful land full of controversies and returned to Belgium as a complete different person.
The first three years of this new century, Carlos was a personnel manager in the General Direction of Information and Public Relations and in 2004, during the last year of his military career, he collaborated in a technical project which consisted in drawing the entire NATO pipe line network on the Belgian territory on the computer with the help of cadastral maps. In March 2005, after 34 years in the Army, Carlos went on retired pay and looks back on a very varied and fascinating life and still keeps contact with his many friends. Marie-Jeanne now works as a personnel manager in the Flemish Public Employment Service while Mathias has finished his studies as a civil engineer computer sciences at the University of Ghent.
Carlos' first contact with motor racing dates from April 1968. That year, he traveled with his friend Luc De Cock by bus to the Zolder circuit to see a F2 race. The duel between local hero Jacky Ickx and Chris Amon in their Dino Ferraris made such an impression on the two youngsters that it completely changed their lives. In the seventies, Luc De Cock became a racing driver himself with highlights in 1978 when he shared a VW Scirocco of the Belgian VW Club in the same team of Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman during the 24 Hrs race of Spa-Francorchamps and the Belgian Formula Super Vee Championship title in 1979. 1968 is also the year that Carlos started, together with his brother Luc, to collect everything concerning motor sport: books, magazines, posters, stickers, model cars, memorabilia. They also started an autograph collection and the first signatures were collected in 1969, after a F5000 race held at the Koksijde airfield in Belgium. Ulf Norinder, Trevor Taylor and Mike Hailwood were amongst the drivers there. Today, this collection has become unique with names like Malcolm Campbell, Richard Dixon, Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez, Von Trips, Colin Chapman, Enzo Ferrari, Fangio, Moss, Clark, Rindt, Siffert, Revson, Cevert, Peterson, Williamson, the Fittipaldis, Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve, Senna,....
During the Super Vee seasons in the second half of the seventies, Carlos' brother Luc accompanied Luc De Cock to all his races and from that period dates their friendship with Dutchman Arie Luyendyk. They look back at a pleasant time together in the paddock where their transporters stood besides each other and where Arie's father Jaap (who was also a famous racing driver and mechanic in Holland) often created high spirits. Nobody at that time could have imagined that Arie would become a two times winner of the famous Indianapolis 500 miles race! Luc also has fond memories of Arie's mother Sjaan driving her home from a race in Hockenheim in 1978. She didn't stop feeding him with bananas all the long way back… Luc proudly claims that he is one of Arie's first fans and, 25 years later, met up with his idol again during the 2005 Festival of Speed at Goodwood.
Carlos and his brother Luc share the same passion for aviation and motor racing. Luc was born on the day that a terrible crash changed the face of motor racing: 11 June 1955. During the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Frenchman Pierre Levegh crashed into the public, killing more than 80 people. You could call it destiny… Although being a chemist, Luc also had this dream of flying and in 1979, passed the tests and started to travel the world as a flight steward for SABENA, Belgium's national carrier. He was qualified for the Boeing 737 on medium haul flights and the Boeing 707 & 747 and McDonnel Douglas DC10 for the long haul flights. After suffering a severe food poisoning in Japan followed by an extensive recovery period, he decided to switch to the Administration and Finance Department of SABENA in 1984. He stayed there until 1997, then switched to a brand new airline called «City Bird», specialized in trans-Atlantic flights. He had the time of his life there until the 9/11 attacks of 2001 brought an abrupt end to the adventure when the company went bankrupt. Then, long time friend Luc De Cock offered Luc a job as an Office Manager in his thriving company «Deldiche», specialized in the finest meat products & delicacies. Luc married Sabine in Las Vegas, 1986.
In 1971, a little big man, Mexican Pedro Rodriguez, won the Spa 1000 km race with Jackie Oliver driving the fabulous JWA Gulf-Porsche 917 at an average speed of 249 km/h! Luc was there and begged Pedro for a flower of his winners' wreath. Today, this carnation is still in Luc's possession. Luc immediately called his aunt in London and asked her to bring a deerstalker, like Pedro used to wear, on her next trip to Belgium. Two months later, on July 11th, the very day that Luc received this cap, tragedy struck very hard. Pedro died at the wheel of a shabby Ferrari 512M at the Norisring in Nürnberg, Germany, during an unimportant Interseries race. Luc was devastated and despite the loss of his favorite driver, he kept the memory of his hero alive. Each time he visited Mexico City, he paid tribute to Ricardo and Pedro at the local cemetery. Today Luc is the European representative of the Mexican Scuderia Hermanos Rodriguez and helped Mexican author Carlos Jalife in his research for the two brothers' huge and well illustrated biography. For sure one of the heaviest books related to motor sport and, according to Emerson Fittipaldi, a must have for every motor racing fan. Early 2007, Luc was a guest at Carlos Jalife's home in Mexico City where he met Conchita, Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez' sister. They had lunch together and got along very well, as if they'd known each other for many years. It was one of the most memorable days of Luc's life.
Carlos was luckier in his choice of an idol. Ever since Argentinean Carlos Alberto Reutemann made his race debut on European soil, he was closely followed by the Belgian Carlos. Carlos met «Lole» several times during the Seventies and has a huge photograph collection of press photographs, autographs and private pictures. During all these years, Carlos cut out all photographs of Reutemann from his piles of racing magazines and started to set up ten A3 sized photo albums covering Loles' racing career. Today, this collection counts more than 7300 pictures, stories and newspaper articles and weights more than 20 kg! Only a few photographs ever published are missing in this unique collection. And it still grows each time an article on today's Argentinean Senator appears in the media. Carlos hopes that one day, he can present this unique document to his idol.
Although separated by the Atlantic Ocean, Carlos has an Argentinean friend with whom he keeps in contact by the internet. Kein Rodriguez lives in Buenos Aires and is a very talented graphic designer and illustrator. Both friends share the same passions and met each other when Carlos and Marie-Jeanne visited Argentina in 2003. Due to Kein's efforts, Carlos and his wife could pay a private visit to another Argentinean hero, Froilan «Pépé» Gonzales, who offered Ferrari its first GP victory in 1951 and won the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours race. Both were deeply impressed by the charming «Pampa Bull» who invited them in his office, surrounded by souvenirs and trophies from his glorious past. Both friends also drove the long way South to Balcarce and visited the wonderful Fangio museum and the local cemetery to pay tribute to one of the greatest racing drivers ever. Carlos was offered a very nice painting by Kein depicting «Lole» in the beautiful Ferrari T3 and hopes that he can show Kein around in Belgium very soon.
Carlos and Luc are very proud of their sister Kristien (°Aug 26th 1962). She is married to Philippe and lives some 100 km from Sint-Niklaas, in the French speaking part of Belgium. Philippe works as a technical draughtsman for the still existing SABENA Technics Company at Brussels' National Airport and restores old timers as a hobby. While one Ford B is still under construction, Kristien and Philippe often take part in several historic rallies with their 1932 Ford B Roadster, accompanied by their son Felix (°Dec 12th 1995) in the so called «mother-in-law back seat»…
Already as a child, Carlos was good at drawing. At school, he was busy drawing sketches in classmates' poetry albums. He was encouraged to go to an academy of arts but was soon tired to draw still life's and vases! His first automotive painting was a copy of a racing scene on a SCALEXTRIC slot racing box. Unfortunately, this beautiful painting of John Surtees at the wheel of a 1966 Cooper-Maserati F1 is lost, so that a small painting of Pedro Rodriguez in his BRM during the Dutch GP of 1968 is the first drawing that has been preserved. In the seventies, Carlos admired the art of Michael Turner, one of today's best known and highly regarded Motor Sport and Aviation artists. For more than 40 years, Turner's paintings have chronicled the history of international motor racing. In the 1950's, his drawings decorated the legendary Steering Wheel Club in London and graced numerous enthusiast magazine and book covers. In the 60's and 70's his work appeared on the official posters for such prestigious races as the Grand Prix of Monaco, Sebring, LeMans, Nürburgring and many other Grand Prix and World Championship sports car events. In the early beginning, Carlos copied his painting of Niki Lauda during the Spanish GP of 1974. That painting was an almost identical copy but didn't match with Carlos' photorealistic and detailed way of painting. Due to his time consuming job in the army, Carlos stopped painting until 1990, when Luc reminded him of a promise to make him a Rodriguez painting. And so a painting of Pedro Rodriguez dueling with Jo Siffert, coming out of the La Source hairpin at Spa-Francorchamps in 1971, was delivered. This painting also represents the characteristics that Carlos handles in all of his paintings: the strive for perfection. He took up his love for painting and 1991 became a record year with four aquarelles. Another beautiful work is that of Ayrton Senna, painted in 1992.
In the autumn of 1992, Carlos went to an exhibition of Michael Turner and his son Graham in London. There, he had the chance to admire the masters' work of art in the flesh and to meet and talk to his favorite painter. Michael Turner praised Carlos' work and stamped it as very difficult, because of the use of water color, which does not forgive any mistake. Carlos also exposed his paintings at several exhibitions. Even Jacky Ickx admired his paintings. Ickx was fascinated by the portraits and was specially touched by the eyes of François Cevert: «Ce sont vraiment les yeux de François!» («These are really François' eyes!»). Through his paintings, Carlos wants to pay tribute to those who enthralled so many racing fans all over the world and who often lost their lives while practicing their passion.
In 1992, Carlos met Walt E. Monaco at the N ürburgring. Walt Monaco, a cousin of Frank Sinatra, arrived in Europe during World War II and participated in the Ardennes Offensive (16 December 1944 - 25 January 1945) and the famous Battle of Remagen (March 1945) . As a war veteran, he was awarded the Purple heart (a United States military decoration, awarded in the name of the president to those who have been wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military). After the war, Walter Monaco stayed in Germany and got interested in motor racing. He became very close friends with Mike Hawthorn (1958 F1 World Champion) and Peter Collins. After both died in car crashes, Walter shared friendship with Sir Stirling Moss, one of the world‘s most famous racing drivers and followed him to many races all over Europe. In fact, Walt became the godfather of Stirling‘s son Elliot. Walt participated in several races himself as the 1956 Mille Miglia and the 1956 Nürburgring 1000 km. Moss says of him: "never quick, but always had razor-sharp creases in his racing overalls ". Walt used to say, "I may not be the fastest driver but, goddam, I‘m gonna be the smartest ". When still in Germany, Carlos visited Walt Monaco several times in his apartment. Walt was a fantastic cook and each time both enjoyed a delicious meal and a good bottle of wine. Carlos became fascinated by the uncountless stories and anecdotes about Walt‘s rich experience in the motor racing scene and his meetings with the rich and famous of this world. At the age of 70, Walt founded a religious fund, which has now been elevated to "The Trinity Foundation". All proceeds are used for the honouring of the INFANT of Prague and Saint JUDE THADDEUS and to the education and support of worthy candidates for the priesthood. To date, This foundation has donated and placed twenty-five statues of the INFANT of Prague and Saint JUDE THADDEUS in churches throughout the world: Africa, the Philippiens, Sri-Lanka, India, the US, Germany, Belgium and Venezuela. Each year on Memorial Day, Carlos and Walt assist at the ceremonies at the American cemeteries in Neuville-en-Condroz and Henri-Chapelle (Belgium). In May 2009, at the age of 88, Walt Monaco returned to his country and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
He was very surprised and proud to receive a commission from Vic Elford, who asked to make a painting of him and Pedro dueling in their Porsches 917. This resulted in Carlos' latest work «Porsche 917 - The Ultimate Race Car» which shows «Quick Vic» in the Martini Racing Long Tail Porsche leading the similar Gulf liveried machine of Pedro Rodriguez into Tertre Rouge corner during the 1971 24 Hours race of Le Mans. This version of the 917 was the ultimate car for the fast sections of Le Mans with a top speed approaching 250 mph.
Sometimes, life takes mysterious ways… Carlos remembers vividly the late sixties when he started to take interest in motor racing. Names like Seppi, Pedro, Rolf Stommelen, Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens appeared in the first racing magazines he bought and were real racing heroes at that time and consequently so far away for a beginning racing fan. Many of those great drivers were killed in action or sadly passed away over the years. Now, almost 40 years later, Vic and Kurt, who teamed up driving the works Porsches 917 at Le Mans and who won the Nürburgring 1000 km race of 1970 became friends with Carlos. They keep close contact through the internet and met on several occasions during one or another Historic Racing event. During the four decennia as a motor racing fan, Carlos met almost every famous name of the racing scene and looks back at numerous great moments. He was never confronted with any unpleasant experience. One person however rises out above the others: German Kurt Ahrens. One day in 2006, shortly after he'd met Kurt at the Nürburgring, Carlos asked him a favor. On the occasion of his 25th birthday, the mother of Sven, a young racing fan and friend of Carlos, had planned a surprise party for her son. So she called Carlos and asked him for some advice for a special present. Knowing that Sven was a beginning autograph collector, Carlos immediately sent a photograph to Kurt with the request for an autograph and to add a good luck wish. Kurt agreed on one condition. He wanted to hand over the photograph personally as a surprise guest! And so he did! That morning, Kurt and his wife Reni, set out in the middle of a snow storm to head to Belgium, a 500 km journey. After a short visit to the Zolder circuit, Kurt, Reni, Marie-Jeanne and Carlos paid a visit to Guy Golsteyn and his wife Danni at their home in Veerle-Laakdal. Guy is a very talented model builder and Kurt was impressed by the hundreds of scale models and especially touched by a 1/18th model of his 1969 Porsche 917LH, that Guy had hastily prepared for the occasion. In the evening, the three couples drove to Svens' birthday party where Kurt overloaded a speechless Sven with some additional presents. Since that remarkable weekend, Kurt, Carlos and their wives meet several times a year to spend a weekend in each others' company. Kurt takes good care of his fans, signs autographs, poses for photographs and always takes the time for a chat as Carlos has witnessed more than once. No wonder he's a much solicited man to act as a guest or speaker on many events. Kurt's son Alf is a successful racing driver himself and Kurt keeps Carlos informed by phone each time he's on a race track. When on holiday or abroad, Kurt and Carlos always exchange postcards. One day, Carlos received a card also signed by Kurts' friend and famous racing driver Hans Herrmann. In return, Carlos surprised Kurt with a card from Goodwood's Festival of Speed, signed by Sir Stirling Moss and his fellow Porsche 917 drivers Elford, Bell, Attwood, Oliver, Redman and engineer Norbert Singer. Kurt is indeed a great person and Carlos sometimes can't believe this is happening to him… Of course, he's very proud to be called «friend» by one of his earliest racing heroes…