I asked Jacky to elaborate on that day – July 7, 1968 – at Rouen. The race, started at late afternoon, was run in damp, then torrential conditions, and took the life of Jo Schlesser. After Jim Clark, Mike Spence and Ludovico Scarfiotti, this was the fourth consecutive fatality on the seventh of the month.
“It was a terrible time,” said Ickx. “Chris suffered a lot – more than I did, because he’d known these drivers better than I had. I was new in F1. This was my first win, and at a wonderful circuit, but it was a tragic day. Schlesser was so happy at last to drive in a Grand Prix for the first time, but the end you know…
“At first the track was only damp – it got much wetter later. Ferrari started Chris on dry tyres – which were like today’s intermediates, I suppose – but the clouds reminded me of what I had seen many times at Spa, and I decided on wets. It was the right thing. The conditions were terrible.
“It was a sad evening, of course – and difficult for Chris in another way, too, because I had just arrived in the team, and I won, and he had been deserving a win for so long. It must have seemed unfair to him, in a way. Poor Chris… it was like that for him all those years…”
Andretti nodded. “Yeah, the guy was just totally unlucky. My first drive in a factory Ferrari was at Sebring in ’69, and Chris was my co-driver. We started from pole, and were leading with an hour to go, but then had to back off with overheating and finished second – to this guy here in his GT40!
“I also shared with Chris at the Monza 1000Kms. In practice I collected somebody, and came in with the bodywork all over the place. There was Enzo, standing in the pits – and that was the first time I met him! He never said a thing about it…
“I was never going to be around at the end because I had to catch a flight for a race in the States the next day, so I agreed with Chris that I would start, and do two stints. During the first the left-rear tyre came apart, which really did a job on the bodywork, and we lost quite a bit of time, but when I gave the car to Chris we were in the lead again.
“Before the race I said to him, ‘If we win, call me collect. If we don’t win, and you call me collect, I won’t accept the charges!’ He called me collect, told me the engine had blown, and I said, ‘Screw you!’”
The Ferrari careers of Andretti and Ickx criss-crossed to some degree. Jacky joined the team in 1968, left for a year and then returned in ’70, remaining there until the end of ’73, while Mario, then fundamentally committed to the USA, drove for Ferrari as and when his USAC (Indycar) schedule allowed: sports cars in 1969 and ’70, F1 and sports cars in ’71 and ’72.
It was, they agreed, a romantic time to be at Ferrari. “Absolutely,” said Andretti. “When I first fell in love with this sport, it was because of Ferrari – and Maserati, too. In the ’50s they were like a national treasure, so to drive for them was a really great thing for me. It was still ‘old school’ Ferrari back then.”
“It was romantic in a way, yes! And don’t forget the Parmesan…” Jacky Ickx
“Yes,” said Ickx, “it was… the Italian way of seeing racing. You know, I always say that you cannot compare drivers from different eras – it’s not the same world. If you compare 1970 with 2010… any F1 team back then was purely amateur compared with the most anonymous F3 team of today.
“What was F1 then? One truck, with three cars in it, a few mechanics… you cooked the pasta in the truck, you cut the prosciutto, you drank your glass of Lambrusco – and you sat wherever you could. You changed into your overalls in your hire car, the surface of the paddock was grass… and, you know, it was romantic in a way, yes! And don’t forget the Parmesan…”
Both men have only good memories of the one for whom they drove. “I met Ferrari,” said Ickx, “for the first time in 1967, when I was driving for Ken [Tyrrell] in F2. I had a good race at the Nürburgring, and at Enna Franco Lini, the team manager, came to see me. At the time they were dealing with the other Jackie, but it didn’t work out – the story was that he went to Maranello with his lawyer, and Enzo didn’t like the idea of dealing with a lawyer. Whether or not it’s true, I don’t know, but even then Jackie always had a very professional way of doing things.
“I signed to drive for Ferrari in 1968, but I still wanted to drive John Wyer’s GT40 in sports car races. At that time Ferrari had no sports car to offer me, so he agreed, but in ’69 I didn’t renew the deal, because again I wanted to drive Wyer’s car – and now Ferrari had a sports car in competition with it. People said it was because I had a big contract with Gulf, but it wasn’t true – yes, I had a Gulf contract, but it was just a piece of paper and there was very little money involved. But with it I could drive for Wyer – and also for Brabham in F1.