Once McCarthy had learned what he was walking into, you’d be forgiven for assuming he might have thought twice. Not a chance – the Brit hadn’t worked two year’s worth of 16-hour days swinging metres above the boiling North Sea just to not join the F1 circus. You can’t say he wasn’t warned though.
So poorly organised was this new outfit, they hadn’t even managed to get on track for pre-qualifying in the first two races of the season. This is where McCarthy came in.
“They had actually fired Alex Caffi and Enrico Bertaggia, because they happened to speak out against the team,” he says laughing. “So they needed two more idiots to come in.
“I was told ‘Look, this is a small team, it’s going to be against the odds, but they just basically need somebody who’s going to do whatever it takes.’ Which is why my name came up.
“I went to see Duffy. I think he was convinced because I was looking at him like a piece of steak, I wanted the drive that badly!”
“It was long, slim and black. All you had do was put brass handles on the sides and that would save time”
And so, after a decade of trying, McCarthy was in the grand prix drivers’ club. He was doing it for free and had to pay all his own expenses, but didn’t care.
After borrowing £800 to get an economy ticket to Brazil, the Essex-native began to prepare for pre-qualifying, the torturous session which decided which of the backmarkers would actually make it through to qualifying-proper and a place on the grid.
On arrival, McCarthy wasn’t exactly reassured.
“Everybody looked so tired, there weren’t many of them and the place was really untidy,” he says. “They were trying to get the cars built but seemed completely disorganised.
“I did the cockpit escape test – after looking around that car, I did realise it was going to be a lot easier to get out in the garage than when it was buried inside a wall, because even then it didn’t look great.
“It was long, slim and black. All you had do was put brass handles on the sides and that would save time. I knew I up was against it.”
200mph caskets wasn’t all that was on McCarthy’s mind though.
Whilst AM’s other new driver Roberto Moreno failed to prequalify, managing two laps and setting a time a whopping 23sec off Nigel Mansell’s pole, McCarthy had had his Superlicence revoked for a lack of F3000 experience and didn’t even mak it into the car.
After managing to persuade all the team bosses to vote for it to be reinstated – “Flavio Briatore looked at me like a biology student who’s just dissected a frog, utter disgust” – he had it back in time for the next race in Barcelona.