RJ: Going back, first, to Andrea Moda – sorry for bringing it up! – when you were left without a drive, were there any options or offers to stay in Formula 1?
AC: (laughs) It's okay, you can mention Andrea Moda, now, I'm over it! Honestly, no, no, there was not really.. the problem was the previous season, when I was with the Footwork Arrows team, you know, and we had a big big problem with the engine – in the beginning, we had the Porsche engine, we had a very bad season, we had a few times we had failures to qualify and we had good drivers, you know, Michele (Alboreto) won Grand Prix after all. But the car was bad, the engine was a disaster and you know..
RJ: Was Andrea Moda the only option left then for you?
AC: No, no, it wasn't quite like that. I had so many problems in 1991, I decided to leave Formula 1 then, or in a way, I did leave Formula 1 in 1991, not 1992, because also I had a big accident out of racing (Caffi was badly injured in a road accident) in my home town, when I broke my jaw, so I was forced out of racing for a time and I think then I finished with F1 at that time because I had problems with nearly everything, you know? So, I find Andrea Moda are interested, and at the beginning, I was impressed, there were a lot of good guys, they gave a good impression, he (Andrea Sassetti) had a lot of money and he wanted to invest in the team. I mean, you must remember, the first appointment was with Coloni. (Sassetti bought out Coloni) Enzo (Coloni) is a good guy, his cars are alright, it wasn't a fast car but er..
RJ: It was driveable, you felt comfortable?
AC: Yeah, yeah. At first, the testing was fine, the guys were good but then'.. I don't know (sighs) a lot of things happened; Andrea Sassetti, he was a crazy man and ended up ruining everything.
RJ: You were quite pleased, in hindsight, to get out when you did, when you saw how many problems Perry McCarthy and Roberto Moreno had?
AC: Well, in my mind, I had retired. The end came after Mexico. We did two races, South Africa and Mexico. South Africa was a disaster and Mexico.. we used the old car, and I knew the new car was coming for the next race. However, after Mexico, I said 'No, no more', because um..- you know, I was really, really lucky in my career to race with some very strong cars, even if they weren't big teams, but, you know, to come from a team like Footwork-Arrows, which was a well organised team, to this one, run by Andrea, I just lost my passion, motivation, everything to do with motor racing and just walked away. I remember, just after I left, I did a few races, in the Group C sportscars, the older prototype. That was good, I started to get more motivation, but at the end of the season, they decided, the federation decided to cancel it, the series, completely. I had a chance there, because I had a good car, a Mazda factory car and they were a good team, but when they cancelled the series, my motivation went. I left motor racing then and said to everyone 'I don't want to have anything more with motor racing now', so I went to do.. well, anything else, for over year and a half – close to two years, I stopped with the sport.
RJ: What made you decide to come back, because you've been in GT's for some while now?
AC: Well, the first season back was 1995. I stopped at the end of 1992 and 1993 and 1994 was really nothing, just going around, seeing things and people, but not doing anything with motor racing. '95.. I had an option.. – '94, at the end of 1994, Cappella, from Spain, with the Opel team Espana (Spanish Touring car team), called me to have a test in Vallelunga with Jordi Gene, and it was good. It was quite good because it had been some years since I drove a car, two years, and it was the first time I had driven a touring car, you know, really quite different type of car. I enjoyed it, and when I started racing, everyone wanted to help me in the team, and yes, okay, that helped me get more motivated and it kept coming up and coming up and I believe that in the two years I had been out of motor racing, I discovered and now understood that my world, my job, and a lot of my life was meant to be in motor racing. Anyway, the only reason that I had lost motivation, before, was because I was surrounded by the wrong people, that was the main problem. But now I started again, my second career, if you like, as a fresh start, back in 1995, and from then on, I was fine. I've gone on to race in GT's and other drives and it feels good.
RJ: You've been quite keen to be involved in Grand Prix Masters, even though, effectively, you're not quite old enough! In fact, you're the youngest here -
AC: (laughing) Yes, it's good!
RJ: Why have you been so keen to be so heavily involved, even though you're so busy with racing competitively right now?
AC: I think, well, anyway, it doesn't stop me racing, I'm leading the Italian GT championship at the moment, in a Ferrari, so I'm quite happy, I don't feel old, or feel like retiring yet, or even thinking about it, but in the beginning, when they (GPM) asked me to come here, I was very keen straight away. I think it is a great idea. Some people keep thinking it is about old men or something like that but not so. It needs good drivers to drive these kind of cars, the car is fantastic, very fast indeed, is not a shit car or anything like that-
RJ: Yes, Damon Hill said the other day, that he felt the car wasn't that different to the last few cars he drove in Formula 1'
AC: Exactly. Yes, the car is very, very close to being like a F3000 er.. GP2 car.. it's not a joke car in any case. And the people coming in and racing like Emerson (Fittipaldi) and Nigel (Mansell), it's really, really competitive, so I think it is a great idea, and the reason I like it and am involved, is because I can learn from guys like those, and it keeps alive a part of the history of Formula 1, so to be part of that, and with a proper team, the technicians and the people that are involved is great. But also'. umm.. I did five years of Formula 1 and never really got the results but because we all have the same car, we can achieve anything, so in fact, it's a good coup for me. I'm proud to be here, with the old guys, old friends, and it's important to me to try it out & test. And I think it's a great thing, a great thing. There's a feeling here that you don't get any more in Formula 1, so that's nice.
RJ: Finally, future plans. More GT's and GPM for next year or anything else?
AC: No, no. Well, I.. I signed a new contract this year with the GT team I'm with in the Italian series, they are competitive, they are serious, they have enough money and sponsorship to create a good programme of racing. The boss, of the Villorba Corse team, he's a good friend of mine, a good man – finally, I find a good person around to race with, and it's a good opportunity. We started this season with no idea about what would happen and we're now leading the championship. It's a good car and I'll stay with the team for next year. We are looking to have a programme, a better programme, more than just the Italian Championship, something more important, like 1000km, a programme like that, or the European Le Mans Series or FIA GT series with the same car. And, GPM, yes, yes, I hope so.
RJ: Thanks Alex. Will you be racing tomorrow? (Sunday)
AC: I think so. It depends. They have sorted the engines out, or are going to, on all the other cars, so if they're all okay, they'll sort my engine out and I'll race. Could be fun!
Alex did race the next day, and finished a superb 5th, despite having only two or three laps in the pouring rain as his sole time on the track before racing.
Interview conducted by Richard Jenkins at the GPM Event at Silverstone on the 12th August 2006. Huge thanks to Alex and his manager for allowing some quite substantial time and a suitable location for the interview, and also to Alex especially for being so open, chatty, and speaking excellent English.