I’m delighted to have been invited to be the guest editor of Motor Sport this month – motor racing has been my life, and remains so to this day. I’m still racing my own Osca, because I still enjoy it – simple as that.
Racing has changed so much, hasn’t it? When I think back to the early ’50s, to my first few years in racing… as a way of life it was fantastic. Towns in France or Italy – Aix-les-Bains or San Remo or wherever – would put straw bales down, and you had a circuit! We’d practise on Friday and Saturday, race on Sunday, go to the party in the evening – you had to do that to get your prize money, but it was fun, anyway, and you’d meet the local girls, and then on the Monday you’d drive off to the next place.
It was a romantic period in motor racing history, but it’ll never come back, and that’s a shame, because for anyone starting out it was a wonderful indoctrination into the world’s greatest sport. I was so lucky that I had enough ability to make my living at it – otherwise I’d have had to work! And that, of course, was the problem after the Goodwood shunt, when
I was 32 years old. I mean, what do you do when you know nothing about anything?
Had I not had the crash I would certainly have gone on for another 15 years or so, but I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed the life of a Formula 1 driver today – I think I’d have found it boring. They’re not allowed to race anything else – F1 is F1, and that’s it. I used to race something somewhere pretty well every weekend, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I don’t think the quality of life of today’s drivers, for all the money they make, is anywhere near as good as mine was. You’ve got to look after your sponsors, and go all over the place doing PR – I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but it’s a tremendous burden to carry, relative to the few hours you get in the car. A Grand Prix used to last three hours, compared with around an hour and 20 minutes today. Mind you, I think the qualifying format is terrific – I wish we’d had that in my day. I love the excitement generated in the last few minutes.
Today, I’d say I find motorcycle racing exciting, and motor racing interesting. I watched the Hungarian GP, and then afterwards the MotoGP race from Donington. Now Hungary was pretty good, but compared with Donington… Those bike guys are something else! Valentino Rossi came off his bike, remounted, and still finished fifth! MotoGP is almost always hugely exciting, and they’re so lucky to have Rossi, who’s a character as well as being a genius.
I can’t remember a time when Motor Sport wasn’t in my house. The magazine has been around for so long, but it always looks fresh, and the quality of the writing is consistently high. I’ve always been one to say what I think – even if I’m by no means always right – and I admire that in others. Jenks was never one to pull his punches, and happily Motor Sport maintains that tradition today. I also love the fact that it deals with the past, as well as the present and future, because this sport has a fantastic heritage and sometimes that’s rather overlooked. Being part of this issue, in the month of my 80th birthday, means a great deal to me.