René Arnoux

RJ: You’ve been very busy since you left Formula 1 in 1989. Just to cover a few things that you’ve done since then. First of all, your involvement with Pedro Diniz as a coach. How did that come about? Were you interested in coaching anyway?

RA: Well, no, not specifically. I worked with Pedro for a long time anyway, in Formula 3000, and Formula 1, and after he stopped, I didn’t do any more coaching drivers, well not full-time. It was really down to Pedro, he asked me. I mean, I do like to advise and coach drivers, but it involves a lot of time and technical knowledge, and I didn’t have lots of time to do that more. But no, Pedro was a pleasure to work with and hopefully he learnt a lot from me!

RJ: What made you decide to come back to racing, because you didn’t do an awful lot of racing after you left F1 in 1989, but recently you’ve been doing Supertourisme, GT and now GPM?

RA: Well, the others I liked to try for fun really. I like to stay involved, I guess. With the Grand Prix Masters, I was asked to do it, and it was – well, it is, a very good argument they had, they have dedicated people, a lot of money to spend on the cars, a lot of time for the drivers, a lot of people helping me out, and the organisation is fantastic, it gives good entertainment for the crowds and there are so many strengths. The car is very good, it compares well with the Formula 1 cars I drove recently (Rene has tested both a modern Ferrari and a Renault F1 car in the last few years), and the engineers work very, very hard too. It’s fantastic. I was very happy to start again and to see again and race against Fittipaldi, Mansell, Patrese etc. and it was really exciting. A lot of people were at the first race, and then we go to Doha, in Qatar, the same, and now here at Silverstone, and then it continues in South Africa, I hope, lots of support, and next year, I think it will just get better and better and it is just fantastic for the people behind the GPM to organise everything, you know? It’s a lot like Formula 1, where you have a lot of people who work very hard to help you out, to do anything for you, excellent staff, and you don’t always get that in other events, and also, sometimes, not even when I was in Formula 1!. Also, it is really great to meet lots of people and sign autographs, so I’m very happy to be involved.

RJ: Do you wish that you had done more driving after F1 and more so recently? As you said, you’ve driven the Formula 1 cars and done other racing, but both for GPM and for yourself, would you like to be racing more?

RA: Well, no, I’ve other things to do as well. I’m just thankful for the GPM for asking me to be involved. The drivers are getting better and better, and it’s not like Formula 1, when you test and test and test, and it’s not pressured. In testing when I was in Formula 1, you have to justify everything and the pressure, for me, it was impossible, sometimes, and not fun. But to have some time here, racing against all the drivers, it’s more fun. It’s the same car for everybody, so there are no excuses or you don’t feel annoyed because someone has an advantage, for example, and if you win, you win on merit. But it is not really necessary to test the car more. The drivers.. in Formula 1, sometimes those who test more have an advantage. Here, that isn’t the case, it doesn’t really make a lot of difference if these drivers race or test or not. So, now, I’m just able to enjoy myself doing this and I’m quite happy with that.

RJ: Finally, let’s focus on other things that you do away from the track. You run quite a few kart tracks, along with other businesses. Tell us a little more about your role and are you going to keep developing them, opening more tracks?

RA: My kart tracks? Well, I run them for the private people and I like the enjoyment they get out of it, and also it is useful for the factories to run their cars and to work with the people, and it is a real joy to run and to work with them. Sometimes, when I see a young guy who does very well, and I see something… I like, then I try to help the guy – or a girl! One of the girls racing now at the tracks is very good. Well, I like to help them get into a good kart, not a normal kart, I try to give them more power, more grip and and see how they do, with these new conditions, and try to help them along as much as I can.

RJ: Yes, because, the youngsters in your country need as much help as possible now in motor racing, don’t they? When you were in Formula 1, and coming up the ranks before Formula 1, there was good sponsorship and lots of drivers.

RA: Well, yes it is quite difficult now, and quite different. There seems no drive for them to show their worth and you know, I try to help, and others try to help, to put them in a good seat. I mean we have a lot of good young French drivers in sportscars, touring cars, other series, because there is seats available, and we hope they learn from that, do well against their competitors, because it is difficult sometimes to show the people that matter that these drivers are worthy, and nowadays, sometimes this is the best way to do it. But, I’m still hopeful we will have some more French drivers in Formula 1 soon.

Interview conducted by Richard Jenkins on the 13th August 2006 at the GPM event at Silverstone. Thanks to Rene for his time, friendliness and again, excellent English.