In the hot seat

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Martin Brundle was ‘young and stupid’ when he beat Stirling Moss, aged just 21. He’s learned a lot since: keep your phone calls short and don’t annoy Dale Earnhardt

You famously came up against Dale Earnhardt In ROC. Did you ever consider having a stab at NASCAR? Bobby Shaw, Marple

I never got as far as talking to teams, but it did enter my head in some of my darker days in Formula One in 1988 and 1990. Then in mid-1991 I got the Benetton drive for ’92, so it went away then. In IROC I had a scary experience with Earnhardt — he frightened me too much — and Rusty Wallace binned me because I was about to win the championship. But I actually hooked up and got on very well with Darrell Waltrip, so I might have done something in NASCAR with him.

In the early 1990s, Tom Walkinshaw mooted a ChampCar squad. Were you ever in the frame to drive for it? Richard Kevan, Kendal

I seem to remember some discussion about it, but it never really developed. I didn’t fancy the superspeedways, to be honest. I’d done three months with my legs stuck up in the air in plaster [after the 1984 Dallas GP]. Then when Piquet had his Indy shunt, it confirmed to me that I didn’t want to do it.

Hand on heart, were you really ever the same driver after your Dallas GP shunt in 1984? Al Ledstock. California

Physically, no. It severely affected my ability to get fit. I couldn’t jog, and exercises like rowing machines inflamed my ankles. But the accident didn’t scare me at all. Actually, it was a relatively small accident, I was just unlucky. It did set me back because up until then I was on a roll. I’d got into F1 and was flying, finishing fifth in my first race. It totally destroyed that momentum. Then Tyrrell got banned anyway. Then I had two relatively lacklustre seasons, and I think it’s fair to say I was not yet back to full fitness. My right foot was broken as well which I didn’t publicise that much, but my feet didn’t always do what they were told. Having said all that, I was at my absolute peak between 1988 and ’95 — so the answer is that, yes, I probably did recover.

How much did you enjoy the IMSA street races like Miami? David Fisher. Cheltenham

I loved them. The one I remember best was a mega race in Del Mar, California. The cars boasted disgusting amounts of downforce and the streets were all bumpy. It was great racing and I really enjoyed my time over there. In 1981 did 24 races: I went to America about 14 times and did the World Sports Car Championship, plus I was Williams’ tester. It was such a contrast to do IMSA and WSSC in the same year.

You’ve driven a D-type Jaguar and Aston Project car at Goodwood. Any chance of seeing you out in any more ‘old crocks anytime soon? Howarth Strathmore, Leeds

I enjoyed the Goodwood Revival, but I’m just going to wait until I am ready to drive a bit more calmly. That Aston I drove was beautiful. I put it on pole by quite a margin and I remember being absolutely flat chat through Fordwater, thinking, ‘What on earth am I doing in this beautiful car, risking it and me?’ When I read through my new book, a couple of things hit me — one being that I shouldn’t be alive. I need to remember how many lucky escapes I’ve already had.

Which was more demanding: Le Mans or Daytona? Mike Bateson, Newcastle

Physically, Daytona by a mile. The night-time there is longer and you do about 12 or 13 hours in the dark, plus the banking is very demanding. Before the Mulsanne Straight had chicanes put in, Daytona was twice as hard as Le Mans. Mentally, they are about the same.

You clearly enjoyed driving the Jaguar F1 car in the recent London parade. Would you consider taking part in the proposed Grand Prix Masters series? Carol Brown, Birmingham

If I had a bit more time, yes. But for me it’s the right idea, wrong cars. The cars should be more like the BMW M1 Procars from the early 1980s: noisy, and which allow you to lean on the guy next to you, not a high-powered single-seater. I raced recently and I’m in pretty good nick, but when I thrashed a 2000 Ferrari around Donington for 10 laps I was panting. Some of these older drivers won’t have a chance.

How good was Stefan Bellof? Graham Emery. Hemel Hempstead

He was incredibly fast — but too brave. He could have won grands prix, but I don’t know if he had the discipline to be world champion. Someone like Michael Schumacher is much more structured and disciplined than Stefan ever was.

Do you look back on your GP career as a success or a failure? Kevin Ambrose, Telford, Shropshire

By and large, I feel it was a success. But I take pain every day of my life for not having a win, that I did not make it happen. On my day, I matched Senna, Häkkinen and Schumacher, I just couldn’t do it often enough. That’s the long and short of it. Anyway, ironically it was all an apprenticeship for my broadcasting career, it seems…

Are you really still in love with F1 – and if so, why? Simon Nelson-Smith, Belsize Park

Yes, totally. The cars still astound me when I’m standing on the inside of a corner. F1 is in for a fairly big bang in the near future, but I still enjoy it. I can’t wait to go to the next race; when I missed one this season, I ended up watching the whole thing on my laptop via all the websites. I couldn’t leave it alone — even when I had a weekend off.

Which was worse: Zakspeed 871 or Brabham BT60? Catherine Sparks. Preston

The Zakspeed, when I drove for ‘Wacky Zacky’ in 1987. When I did The Worst Car I Ever Drove for Motor Sport a few years ago, I chose the turbo Jaguar from 1990 which was pretty diabolical, but the Zakspeed is right up there.

What was it like teaming up with Stirling Moss to drive BTCC Audis? Did you feel bad about beating him? Martin Lynch, Richmond

At the time I felt great about beating him, but I was very young and stupid. I should have talked to him more and listened more intently. An opportunity missed. Of course I was going to beat him, I was 21 and he was 51. That was the point: I had missed the point completely.

Has Barrichello replaced you as Schuey’s toughest team-mate? Thomas Robson, Carlisle

Eddie Irvine might argue with that. But I think Barrichello has caught Michael’s attention more in qualifying than I did, and sometimes in races, so yes.

First race. Aged 17 Pole position. Toyota Celica. Is that all correct? Paddington Buttifant. London

First British touring car race, yes. Prior to that I’d done supersaloon racing to get signatures on my licence. My first BTCC round was on a Good Friday at Oulton Park.

Were the Silk Cut/Castrol Jaguar drivers scared of Tom Walkinshaw? Thula Lundie. Fife

Er… I think they were cautious of him I always got on fine with Tom and found him dead easy to work with. As with most team bosses, if you were going to darken his office door or ring him, it was advisable to have something to say and to get your point across quickly, because he was busy. If you phoned Ken Tyrrell and paused for two seconds, he’d put the phone down!

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