Rene Arnoux: 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.
Q. 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?
RA: 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.
Q. 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?
RA: 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.
Q. How important do you think it is too provide entertainment to race fans?
RA: 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.
Q. The Grand Prix Masters cars are all equal and engineered to be very quick. What are your expectations of them as race cars?
RA: 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!
Q. How do you think that first race in Kyalami will go?
RA: 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.
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