The three-time Le Mans winner on the pleasures of living in Monaco and his occasional two-wheeled treats
How do you relax away from racing?
“I’m not very good at relaxing. Now what I do is take one day off after every trip, pick up the kids from school, go running, have a coffee with friends and basically not answer telephone calls or emails. One of the most relaxing things I find is to go running, because it’s just me on my own.”
How far do you go?
“It depends, but half-marathon distance is the limit. Anything beyond that is why God invented the internal combustion engine.”
What’s your biggest indulgence?
“Watches and pens. I think it’s important when you’re signing a contract to do so with a nice pen. In terms of watches, through the years I’ve been sponsored by brands, including TAG-Heuer with whom I’m now contracted, and I’ve won some nice watches too. It’s that association with perfection that comes through engineering that I like. Those are basically my indulgences. Away from physical products, my indulgence is with my two kids. Not in terms of buying stuff for them, just simply spending time with them.”
What are the benefits of living in Monaco?
“Ask the Prime Minister! Monaco can be Disneyland for adults in terms of the standard of everyday life. It can be what you want it to be. If you want to go to a different country, walk 200 metres and you’re in France or drive 10-12kms and you’re in Italy. It’s full of very like-minded sports people and it has a little village atmosphere. It’s not for everybody, but it offers a nice and easy way of life. It works for us. And it’s a real leveller when you are sitting in a café because you never know who the person beside you might be…”
Are road cars important to you?
“Well, the family business is dealerships so they are a means to an end. I never really had attachments to cars when I was growing up, because invariably if it could be sold that day it was better than if it wasn’t. Subsequently, yes, I have enjoyed them a little bit more. But I look to the next car more than I do past cars. Racing cars are beginning to have more of an attachment than road cars because of the experience you have had in them. I don’t own any of my old cars, although someone is trying to sell me one of my old karts at the moment. And the money they want! It was a piece of crap when I owned it… It was in a bin at Three Sisters in Wigan when I left it, so I can’t see where the value is now.”
If you were to have £10,000 to spend on yourself what would you buy?
“I’d probably have a motorbike. With the prize money from Le Mans I made a decision to buy myself something with it because it doesn’t come around very often. After my first Le Mans win [in 1998] I bought the bike I’ve still got, a Suzuki GSXR, which was all of the prize money taken up – and I got a deal on it. It hasn’t done many miles. It’s worth nothing to anybody else, but for me it has a relationship to that first win at Le Mans and everything else that came from it. After the second win in 2008 I bought a KTM RC8, which was a beast, a really nice bike. I’m probably going to buy another with my winnings this year, so maybe it’ll be a Ducati this time…”