Jody Scheckter, Guest Editor
As I say elsewhere in this issue, the urge to drive Formula 1 cars did not disappear the moment I retired from motor racing at the end of 1980. It was a gradual process as I became deeply involved in my business in America. As it turned out, I didn’t even go to a race for 10 years.
But recently I have sampled F1 as it is today and the experience really took me back. I was asked to drive a Red Bull at Top Gear Live at Kyalami during 2011, and I must say it was fantastic. The conditions were a mix of wet and dry, so I went out on treaded tyres and couldn’t feel the car at all. Then they put slicks on. Now, we weren’t taking times but I felt absolutely like I did when I was racing, as good as I’d ever felt. That was disturbing because now I wanted more of a go!
Then I did the 2012 Top Gear Live event in Durban, drove a Mercedes F1 car and spun at the end of the first lap. But anyway… You know, it gave me back the taste. I’d love to get into one of those Friday practice sessions at Grands Prix, where they sometimes run the young drivers. Give me a go! It’s got to be in a competitive scenario like that, otherwise you can’t get your head into it. If it’s just for fun you think, ‘What am I doing? I’ve got everything to lose’. You’ve got to take it to the limit, thinking nothing else counts, that damaging the car is immaterial. That’s what you do when you’re racing…
The Mercedes experience was good. They treated me as though I was a new driver and took me to the simulator beforehand. I got to work with data for the first time, which was fantastic because in my day we didn’t have any. That was very exciting for me, to be able to adjust everything on a computer. I’d be well suited to racing today, but then I always was too involved in the technical side.
With Red Bull, they just stuck me in. I didn’t even know there wasn’t a rev counter. There were some lights on the dashboard — I had no idea what they were for! I soon found out they were to tell me when to change gear and I wasn’t getting anywhere near the limit, thinking this thing’s not very fast. If you rev the car to only 12,000rpm, these cars are only just reaching their powerband. So I kept going and found out just what it could do…
I don’t think I’ve changed much since my racing days. Like everyone as they get older, I’m probably a bit more easygoing. When I was racing I always felt I couldn’t do more than one thing at a time — and I’m still like that today. Everything else is put to one side because I have to concentrate on the one thing I’m doing. When I was in F1 that attitude meant people thought I was being rude because I could only concentrate on the car, and I didn’t want to talk about anything else.
Now I find myself guest editing Motor Sport. ‘Back then’, I was famous for winning the ‘lemon’ prize three years in a row, which was awarded by the media to the most difficult person they had to deal with. There were some journalists I disliked terribly — but I was friends with some of them…
I hope you enjoy this special edition of Motor Sport, with my reflections on racing in the 1970s, my cars and the story of what happened next, when I walked away from racing.
Speaking of which, organic farming is my world these days and I’m pleased to announce plans for a special ‘gourmet and cars’ event that we’re running in association with Motor Sport. More details will follow, so keep an eye on future issues of the magazine and on the website (www.motorsportmagazine.com). But for now, save the date: May 18. This exclusive event, for limited numbers, will take place at the newlook Saracens rugby stadium in north-west London. You’ll have the chance to enjoy an eight-course banquet of all the best awardwinning produce from Laverstoke Park Farm, while eight of my racing cars, as seen in this issue, will be on display. I’ll be talking about the cars and showing some great archive film. It promises to be quite an occasion.