My only Grand Prix



1989 Monaco Pierre-Henri Raphanel

How did you end up at Coloni for 1989?

I had money from La Cinq TV channel, as well as a manager for the first time. I chose to go to Coloni because Christian Vanderpleyn and Michael Costa were moving there from AGS. It was a small team but it looked a good opportunity.

Is it true that you almost didn’t drive for the team at Monaco?

My sponsor hadn’t paid and a bank loan had run out; Enrico Bertaggia was there waiting to get in the car. But on the morning of pre-qualifying, Enzo Coloni told me that I would be driving. He knew I’d won the Formula Three race at Monaco [in 1985] and had scored some good results on street circuits.

You hadn’t made it through pre-qualifying in the first two grands prix,so what was different this time?

Pre-qualifying was really tough — 13 cars going for four spots and just one hour on the track. Around Monaco the difference between my old Coloni [FC188B] and the other cars wasn’t so big. The Pirelli tyres were working well, too. I ended up third ahead of Martin Brundle’s Brabham.

What happened in qualifying proper?

In the first session I crashed in Casino Square and then, on Saturday, I had problems finding a clear lap. With 15 minutes to go, I still hadn’t qualified. Then I tried to follow Philippe Alliot in the Larrousse — and he lifted off on the straight and my car went up over the back of his.

How come that wasn’t the end of your weekend?

Somehow I got away with only a puncture and a broken front wing. The only problem was that because Coloni was such a small team we didn’t have two wings the same. I went out on my final set of qualifying tyres, and from the moment I got to Ste Devote on my quick lap, I knew I had too much front downforce.

So how did you end up 18th on the grid?

I had so much oversteer… but I drove as hard as I could. I was either going to kill myself or qualify for the race. I knew it was now or never. I produced a lap I could never repeat; if I tried it again I would crash every time.

The race didn’t go quite so well, did it?

I found out later that because Coloni was building a new car he only had old parts for the gearbox, which would never have lasted the race. I wish I had known that, because then I would have asked for a light fuel load and pushed really hard for the opening laps. I’m sure I could have got into the top 10. Without pushing, I was 15th when the gearbox broke after 19 laps.

Why did you decide to swap teams and join Rial for the second half of the season?

The new Coloni [C3] was good but we didn’t have the money to develop it, so I knew I was never going to pre-qualify. By going to Rial at least I would get three hours of running on Friday and Saturday, even if I was unlikely to qualify for the race.

Why did you not pursue F1 options for 1990? It wasn’t how I’d dreamt F1 would be when I was younger. At the end of the season I got the chance to race sportscars for Toyota in Japan. That was really the start of my career as a professional.