And That Reminds Me...

Why looking fondly on past racing glories doesn't ring Jacky Ickx's bell

One of the most wonderful aspects of this job is that just occasionally the most prosaic circumstances can suddenly turn into events you'll remember for the rest of your life.

Not long ago I was attending the launch of a new type of Volkswagen Passat in France when, during some interminable press conference, I happened to look around the room and saw a short, dapper man looking for all the world like Jacky Ickx.

The reason for this was that it was Jacky Ickx. I elected to give up my place next to the man in charge of electronic architecture to have dinner with a man who's fascinated me since I could walk.

Infuriatingly, and as Simon Taylor found when he lunched with the great man, he is excellent at talking about anything other than himself, particularly when it comes to racing. He has kept no memorabilia, gives the impression of not much liking the young Jacky Ickx and says that today it's almost as if it all happened to someone else.

Just once he seemed to dial back into the old times and appeared, very briefly, almost wistful. At the time he was describing lapping the old Spa at an average of over 163mph in a Ferrari 312PB. He also named the five drivers with whom he felt most proud to have shared cars. Three of them, Messrs Bell, Redman and Oliver, were Brits. The other two were Mass and Andretti.

But the only time he became truly animated was discussing his National Service. This he spent instructing people how to drive tanks. But being a very young Jacky Ickx he couldn't just do the job. "They caught me doing doughnuts," he ruefully recalled. And instead of recognising a sublime talent, they locked him up for a couple of nights. I'm sure I'm wrong, but he gave the impression of being more pleased with that than any one of his six Le Mans wins.