Covering the Renault World Series for AUTOSPORT provides plenty of opportunity to meet people who have the talent to make a mark on the higher echelons of racing, but are just in need of an opportunity.
So it was quite a novelty in January to be granted time with someone whose career wasn't hanging in the balance, indeed one of the sport's all-time greats: Alain Prost.
The setting, the Circuit Alain Prost ice track at Val Thorens, was another departure from my regular, hectic, forays to modern European arenas. Arriving with an excited winter holiday crowd at Chambery, the drive to the highest ski resort on the continent was rewarded by a steady reel of breathtaking Alpine views.
Alain Prost © LAT
The purpose of my visit had been to gain an insight into the series' radical electric racer, which would be the subject of a magazine feature. While the Exagon Engineering developed electric buggy was astonishing for its groundbreaking performance, a ride in Prost's 350bhp mid-engined Dacia Duster remains the most vivid memory of the trip.
In the 20 years since rallycross racer Max Mamers helped found the Andros Trophy, the machinery has undergone a startlingly evolution from the original assortment of leftover Group B rally monsters to bespoke cars such as the Dacia.
Accessing a tiny makeshift passenger seat through the Duster's rollcage proved tricky. However, once secured alongside the Professor I was treated to a driving display completely at odds with the 55-year-old's reputation as a master of smoothness behind the wheel.
The sensations of Prost negotiating corners backwards while punching up through the gears of the sequential 'box was exhilarating. Both the timbre of exhaust and roar of the all-wheel drive studded tyres chewing up ice came as a huge contrast following a previous spell in the relatively sedate two-wheel drive electric racer.
After an erratic attempt at driving the buggy, my own ice-driving limitations were underlined by expensively spearing my hire car into a parked snowmobile on the exit ramp of the circuit's car park. But the overall experience still succeeded in showcasing the appeal of a series that has recently attracted Jacques Villeneuve to its list of famous converts.
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