Rear Mirror View

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A few years ago at Goodwood I found myself at lunch in the same sponsor’s box as Alan Jones; being rather above his fighting weight, he apparently hadn’t squeezed into his FW07 for the advertised run up the hill, and was grumpy and still in his overalls as he sat down.

I am sure no one in the box knew who he was, as I sat opposite him, and — courtesy always works — asked if he minded talking about the old days. “What else is there to talk about?”, he replied. Over a two-hour lunch, during which we both became increasingly relaxed, we chatted through his career. What stood out was Alan’s utter respect for Gilles — perhaps that of the honest journeyman for the true artisan — and his recollection of the 1979 Canadian GP.

His story was that Gilles jumped him at the start, and after a few laps the Ferrari’s tyres were going off, so he took him into the hairpin. I can remember the next few sentences as if it was yesterday: “I turned the rear-view mirrors down and then put in six or seven fastest laps. When I turned the mirrors up again that crazy little lunatic was still sat there”. Alan won by exactly one second. “I’d been following him, mate, for 10 laps. I knew how shit that car was.”

Simon Arbuthnot, London SE3