In the spirit of the season, veteran motorsports writer Al Pearce deserves substantial recognition for a charitable project that has taken him around the world over the past 13 months.

It's commonplace to hear of the generosity of NASCAR drivers, most of whom have established foundations or adopted causes that benefit from their collective largesse. But Pearce is a writer who literally has gone the extra mile in supporting two causes initiated by Kyle and Pattie Petty: the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Kyle Petty Charity Ride.

At his own expense, Pearce, who lcovers NASCAR racing for AutoWeek, travelled approximately 67,000 miles to obtain the signatures of 20 Formula One world driving champions on a racing helmet he plans to auction in support of the two charities.

Trips to London and Brazil in December, to get the signatures of Lewis Hamilton and Nelson Piquet completed the roster of living F1 champions. The helmet now features 20 names, including the 19 living champions plus Phil Hill, who died on 28 August 2008. Hill is the only American-born driver to win the F1 championship.

Pearce met each driver face-to-face, with the exception of Sir Jack Brabham, who lives in Australia. FedEx delivered the helmet to Brabham and back to Pearce after it was signed.

"All proceeds from this helmet will go directly to the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Kyle Petty Charity Ride," said Pearce, who will begin marketing the helmet in January. "From what some F1 people in Europe tell me, this is a one-of-a-kind item and will be quite valuable. They're stunned that every living World Driving Champion would agree to meet me (being a total stranger) and sign this item. It took countless e-mails, calls and letters to set up the precise dates, times and places for these brief meetings."

All told, Pearce visited eight countries in pursuit of the 20 signatures. His most productive trip, in terms of signatures collected, took place in December 2007, when he got the autographs of Damon Hill, John Surtees and Jackie Stewart on the same day, at the Grosvenor House in London.

"My travels covered 13 months, took me into eight countries, required five East Coast-to-Europe flights, one flight to Canada, two East Coast-to-California trips and the recent journey to Brazil," Pearce said. "There were 50 takeoffs and landings on six airlines. I also used private and rental cars, cabs, local, regional and international trains, a ferry (twice across the English Channel), city and international buses, and subways."

Despite the enormous expenses he accumulated, Pearce won't take a dime of reimbursement for this labour of love.

The full list of names, with the date and location the signature was secured, is as follows.

1. Phil HillNov. 12, 2007Hill's home, Santa Monica, Calif.
2. Jacques Villeneuve Nov. 16, 2007Pit road, Homestead, Fla.
3. Emerson Fittipaldi Nov. 18, 2007Fittipaldi's home, Miami
4. Mario Andretti Nov. 28, 2007Andretti's office, Nazareth, Pa.
5. Damon Hill Dec. 2, 2007Grosvenor House, London
6. John Surtees Dec. 2, 2007Grosvenor House, London
7. Jackie Stewart Dec. 2, 2007Grosvenor House, London
8. Alain Prost Jan. 30, 2008Prost's home, Paris
9. Fernando Alonso Jan. 30, 2008Renault world headquarters, Paris
10. Jody Scheckter Jan. 31, 2008Laverstoke Park Farm, Overton, England
11. Nigel Mansell Feb. 6, 2008Walker Racing hauler, Sebring, Fla.
12. Michael SchumacherApril 9, 2008Westin Harbour Castle hotel, Toronto
13. Niki Lauda April 21, 2008Fly Niki Airlines headquarters, Vienna, Austria
14. Kimi Raikkonen May 21, 2008Ferrari transporter, Monte Carlo
15. Keke Rosberg May 22, 2008Red Bull hospitality, Monte Carlo
16. Mika Hakkinen May 23, 2008Le Meridian Beach Plaza hotel, Monte Carlo
17. Jack Brabham June 29, 2008Brabham's home (via FedEx), Queensland, Australia
18. Alan Jones Aug. 15, 2008Toyota expo tent, Laguna Seca, Calif.
19. Lewis Hamilton Dec. 7, 2008Grosvenor House, London
20. Nelson Piquet Dec. 18, 2008AutoTrac Inc. headquarters, Brasilia, Brazil

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



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