In my last column here on the Motor Sport website I talked about stepping down from racing with United Autosports this season. At that point the reason was very hush-hush but, as you may have seen in the news recently, I’ve started a new sports management company with Theo Paphitis and Ian Childs.
MB Partners will represent a wide range of professional athletes, but of course my focus will still be on racing drivers. 2MB, the old business, will be absorbed by the new one. It’s great to be working with guys like Theo and Ian, who have both been immensely successful in business and know the sports world. That’s why we’re doing this, a shared passion for sport.
It’s a shame that I couldn’t carry on racing, but after a few very unlucky races and bad crashes for my team-mates Richard Meins and Roger Wills – who are recovering very well, by the way – I had to prioritise. United are challenging for the British GT Championship with Matt Bell and Mark Patterson so there’s no doubt the team can get the job done and I’ll support them all the way.
Mark Webber’s move to sports cars
Since my last column, it’s been confirmed that Mark Webber will be leaving Formula 1 at the end of the year for a factory Porsche drive in the World Endurance Championship. It’s never a decision a driver wants to have to make, especially when he knows he’s still got the speed to be in a Grand Prix car. Not only that, Mark’s walking away from a front-running team with Adrian Newey behind the drawing board.
I think he must be tired of the politics of F1. As good as driving for a world champion team can be, he hasn’t had an easy ride there and after this year’s Malaysian Grand Prix it’s become clear that he’ll never be given the upper hand, no matter what his contract says.
I can understand his dilemma. When I left F1 after the 1995 season I was pretty disillusioned. I had an agreement in place – with a team that’s still in F1 today – and thought I was all set for the next year, but then it was decided that I was surplus to requirements and I was out on my ear. I was fed up with all the politics so I went to America and raced for PacWest in CART. It was a big change, but it was an exciting time in my career and a new chapter for my family. I won three races in 1997 and I can look back on that time fondly.
But is it Formula 1? No, and even though CART was a great series it was always in the back of your mind that you’d come from racing the best drivers in the world, in the best cars and on the best circuits. Once you’ve been in that arena, you miss it.
Looking on the bright side, it’s not like Mark won’t be doing something worthwhile. Sports car racing’s on the up and up, and who better to jump back in with than Porsche? He’s got unfinished business after his ill-fated attempts at Le Mans with Mercedes and Porsche have more wins there than any other manufacturer. The company will expect to do well after a short period of time and he’ll be spearheading the driving side of the operation.
A successful season for Conway and Paffett
With the new business I hope to do great things for new clients, but my existing ones are doing very well for themselves at the moment. Mike Conway made his debut in the American Le Mans Series recently at Mosport, taking P2 class pole (fourth overall) and racing to fourth (third in class). After his IndyCar win at Detroit and a strong showing at Le Mans it’s turning out to be an interesting year for Mike.
Meanwhile, Gary Paffett’s having another strong season in the DTM, winning at the Lausitzring. Both guys have dealt well with everything thrown at them and it goes to show that drivers can still be successful in different types of racing.
Mark Blundell, in partnership with: