British Formula Vauxhall, 1995
I was new to Formula Vauxhall and won the opening race. Looking back, I have no idea how. Martin O’Connell then won five in a row, so my Paul Stewart Racing team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya and I knew that we had to change the way we were going about things to beat him. We were rookies taking on a guy with two years’ experience in the category, so we decided to talk more and help each other.
There was a definite knack to driving a Formula Vauxhall and whatever we did found us some speed. We built the momentum from there, winning almost all the rest of the races, all the more impressive as it wasn’t only O’Connell we had to beat but Darren Manning and Peter Dumbreck as well. I scored five wins to take the title while Juan Pablo won three times to rank third, just behind O’Connell. The year became better still for me when I won the McLaren Autosport BRDC award.
People ask whether Juan Pablo has changed since then. Yes — his English is better now. Otherwise, no. He had a different attitude to me: he wasn’t upset if he shunted, as the budget was there for that. We both knew whichever of us won the title had a drive lined up with Paul Stewart Racing in Formula 3 for 1996. Luckily, that was me.