You drove the same Tyrrell 007 that Hoshino had raced in ’76. Did you expect to make the same favourable impression?
The Tyrrell car was not impressive in terms of power. I had a lot of experience driving big, powerful machines with Nissan in sportscars — they were fun to drive. I had no idea about F1 machines and the Tyrrell, and I had no real comparison. The same for the tyres: I could not make any comment that the Japanese Dunlops were good or bad, but I liked their character.
How did the Fuji weekend go?
The staff were very good in preparing the car, but we had some trouble. I have no good driving memories except the race! The car set-up was not a big problem for us, but the Ford DFV did not work well up until raceday morning — the fuel line and electrics were not good. My staff kept going to the Tyrrell team to get some parts. Our qualifying result was no good — I was 22nd out of 23 cars. I was sorry for the fans who had come to see me and the Japanese drivers running strongly. I thought I would just do my best and finally my engine played fine music just before the race!
And you finished ninth…
I did not know about the accident on the first lap (between Ronnie Peterson and Gilles Villeneuve). I just drove as hard as possible. I was proud to finish ninth in among some great drivers. I dedicated my run to my staff, the people behind this project and the fans.