LONDON: 21st September 2005 "Racing against these guys will be like nothing else in motorsport!"
Q&A with Rene Arnoux (France)
What attracted you to the Grand Prix Masters series?
Racing drivers are a strange breed -- we are born with the desire to drive quickly and just need an opportunity to get in a car and go. I had 11 great years driving the quickest cars in the world when I was in F1, but now I'm in my 50s and my F1 days are well and truly over! Grand Prix Masters, however, is the perfect opportunity for me to drive very fast cars and have a lot of fun. For Rene Arnoux it is definitely comeback time!
Your first F1 race in 1978 was at Kyalami -- the same venue for the inaugural Altech Grand Prix Masters South Africa event on 10th November. Are you looking forward to going back there again?
I cannot wait actually. As long as my first Grand Prix Masters race turns out better than my first F1 race at Kyalami! I was driving for the Martini team in 1978 and we had so many problems in practice that I didn't even make it to the start of the Grand Prix. It wasn't all bad news in South Africa, though, because one of my first F1 victories also took place there when I moved to Renault, so it would be good to have some of that good fortune this next time around.
The Grand Prix Masters driver line-up is nothing short of legendary. How do you think it will be racing against your former rivals again?
First and foremost it will be fun. Just seeing names like Alan Jones, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Nigel Mansell on the grid gets me excited, so to be racing against them again will be like nothing else in motorsport! There will be so many different styles and attitudes going into that first race but I will just try and soak up the atmosphere and enjoy it. I know already that a Grand Prix Masters race weekend will be nothing like the pressurised world of F1. Sure come the green light we will all be in it to win but there is no real pressure on any of us, so hopefully we can entertain and enjoy it at the same time.
How important do you think it is too provide entertainment to race fans?
I think that is where Grand Prix Masters will be very different to other forms of motorsport. When I was racing a F1 car in the '70s and '80s, for example, it was already very professional but it was completely different to F1 now. Today it is totally dominated by major car manufacturers and without the support of one of them you don't stand a chance. They are in it for commercial reasons and that puts huge pressure on the drivers and teams. In my mind a modern F1 driver's role is not as much a pleasure as an occupation. Just listen to a drivers' press conference where all they do is thank their suppliers, sponsors and so on. It is really boring for the fans and I think we'll be will be able to offer people more entertainment in the way the drivers act, talk and get on. Or don't get on as the case might be with some!
I was at the Goodwood Revival race meeting recently and so many people were coming up to me and talking about Grand Prix Masters and telling me how they had such good memories of my era in F1. If we can get some of that back then we will succeed.
The Grand Prix Masters cars are all equal and engineered to be very quick. What are your expectations of them as race cars?
I've been to the factory for a seat-fitting already and the car looks really good. It will be very strong and I expect them to be built very well. I think they might even have too much power considering the age of the drivers! But overall they have got the concept just right. The performance will be the same for every car and taking into account the driver's weight before the race starts means we will all have the same equipment, the same performance. At the end of the day it will be down to driving talent and fitness, which is how it should be. Compared to a modern F1 car they obviously won't be as quick but then they don't have all the technology of a modern F1 car either. I was lucky to drive Michael Schumacher's championship-winning Ferrari on a couple of occasions and the way F1 cars have evolved is just incredible. The only thing you have to do is steer, accelerate and brake, the rest is down to the computers.
The performance is unbelievable but in a Grand Prix Masters car there will be margin for error and the potential for costly mistakes is considerable! How do you think that first race in Kyalami will go? The track has changed a lot since I last raced there, I believe, so it is hard to know what to expect in terms of the race itself. What I do remember though about the race in South Africa were the incredible crowds. They were absolutely massive when F1 came to town and there was always a great colourful atmosphere. I gather they have already sold a lot of tickets for the inaugural race on 10th November and so I'm looking forward to putting on an excellent show alongside the greatest names in grand prix racing.
Rene Arnoux Date of birth: 4th July 1948 Place of birth: Pontcharra, France GP Starts: 149 GP Wins: 7 Poles Positions: 18 Points Scored: 181
1973 Formula Renault 1976 Formula 2 with Martini Team 1977 Formula 2 European Champion CAREER HISTORY: 1978 F1 Debut in Kyalami, South Africa with Surtees. 1978 Martini 1979 Joined Renault and finished 8th in the Drivers Championship. 1980 Renault, 6th in the Drivers Championship, with his first GP win in Sao Paulo. 1981 Renault, 9th in the Drivers Championship. 1982 Renault, 6th in the Drivers Championship. 1983 Moved to Ferrari, 3rd in the Drivers Championship. 1984 Ferrari, 6th in the Drivers Championship. 1985 Ferrari, 17th in the Drivers Championship, after inconsistent achievement Arnoux was released from his Ferrari contract. 1986 Raced for the Ligier team for four seasons and finally left Formula 1 at the end of 1989, with his last race in Adelaide, Australia. 1994 Finished 12th at Le Mans, racing in a Dodge Viper. 1995 Raced in a Ferrari 333SP at Le Mans. 1996+ Has concentrated on acting as a driving coach and trainer to Pedro Diniz and helping to manage Formula 3000.
DAMS EDITOR'S NOTES:
With maximum grip and minimum driver aids, the Grand Prix Masters will compete in modern high performance, single seater cars designed with only one goal in mind... to give a total racing experience for drivers and spectators. Driven by a desire to reignite the best of high performance racing, the Grand Prix Masters World Series will recapture the passion and spectacle, the thrill and excitement that 'pure speed' has always given millions of fans. Set in some of the most exotic locations around the world this is one series that is going to get serious!
The Altech Grand Prix Masters of South Africa will be the inaugural event for the 2006 series and takes place in Kyalami on 11th -- 13th November 2005. Tickets, information and news updates - www.gpmasters.com