RJ: You’re obviously one of the more experienced racers post-F1 here this weekend. Looking back, you’ve done quite a lot…
CD: Yeah, I’ve had a good career, I’ve stayed involved, stayed in the sport, I’ve not been out of the cockpit like some other people. I stayed on driving, then I went to Japan, and after that, I did a lot of worldwide racing, racing in Japan, racing in touring car, the United States, wonderful stuff.. nearly everything.
RJ: Was it important for you to just keep on racing after F1?
CD: Well, I had to earn my living!
RJ: Well, you know, some drivers like to get out of the sport, some do other things within the sport…
CD: No.. I thoroughly love motor racing. Luckily, I’ve found a passion in my life where I can still be a part of it, earn a few bob, and everything else in life doesn’t have to stop with it, and still have fun in my career, which, you know, once I stopped racing (in Formula 1).. I never stopped.. I never quit, I just ended up without a drive, and I didn’t want to do silly things like cry and snub offers.. I mean I was asked to do commentary, which I still do, but it (motor racing) was still my environment, and I didn’t ever actually have to consider a life away from the sport.
RJ: You had a relatively brief spell in America. Would you have liked a longer career over there, or did you feel more at home in Europe?
CD: I loved America. I loved it, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there in the Champ Car, Indy Car World Series, or whatever it was called, it was totally different, but I was competitive in a very competitive series, and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had such a good time. But, you know, looking at my career, it always came out right. When I ended up without a drive in Indycar, I then got the chance to drive for the Alfa Romeo works team in international touring cars, so.. so, it was perfect, you know? You can’t really say I missed something in one series, because there could have been something else there, when I had all this here and now. When I look back, I would say I ended up with great teams, great cars, and I was happy.
RJ: Correct me if I’m wrong, but last year, you had a one-off in the F3000 Italia Championship. What was the reason behind that drive?
CD: Yeah, what I did was the following – when the talk was of all this (GPM) starting, I lacked a little racecraft experience – of this type of car, I mean – I was reasonably fit, because you know I still drive and I still like to keep fit, but I didn’t you know.. I wanted to test, not these cars, but something to similar speed and so I contacted Enzo Coloni, and he, as you know, is pals with me, and he’s such a lovely man; we arranged it , and we went for it. We did one race in the end, at Misano.
RJ: Well, it’s obviously helped! (Danner was on pole position for the race the next day)
CD: Yeah, because it’s got me back into racing shape.
RJ: You also do a lot of work in the sport away from driving, like commentary and administration. Do you find that you’re actually busier now, with all the commitments you’ve got, than back when you were racing in Formula 1 or as an up and coming racer?
CD: I used to do administration, I don’t any more. Yeah, yes, I’m terribly busier, but, I’m a lot better organised. You know, I’ve got a hell of a lot happening, but I’ve got my own little system going, it’s very small, but it works well… I do work an awful lot and I spend a lot of time around the world doing things but it’s efficient. Whereas, racing, when I was younger, I was not particularly efficient, I never really arranged stuff properly!
RJ: Finally, you’ve made some comments about the type of drivers who should be involved in GPM, like Alan Jones and Patrick (Tambay). Do you think that the GPM has the right balance now and do you think there should be more drivers in the series?
CD: I.. I.. when I was kind of in a funny way, I was having a hilarious argument with Jonesy. We actually spoke about that, because it was very funny how it all came out. I wanted him to continue and I’m really sorry for him the way it has all turned out, that he can’t be able to do it and with Patrick.. Patrick is such a wonderful person and he knows damn well, he’s 20 kilos overweight.. maybe more!! (winks and laughs), but you know.. this is not Formula 1, we can happily have a laugh about it, and you know, whenever I have not done well and not got somewhere in this series, when I go into the kitty litter, they all laugh about me.. it’s a very, very relaxed atmosphere, and yes, it’s got exactly the right drivers involved, and yes, I do hope, eventually, when it’s been going a while others will join in, when they’re old enough, drivers like Johnny Herbert, he’s just one of those interested..
RJ: They’ve been talking about Moreno, Boesel etc..
CD: Yeah, they’re all welcome.
RJ: Grids of 26 or more?
CD: Yeah, as long as it is possible, the more the merrier! The drivers are so closely matched, so motivated, that any more drivers can only be a good thing.
Interview conducted by Richard Jenkins on the 12th August 2006 at the Grand Prix Masters Event at Silverstone. Thanks to Christian for his time and fluency in English and also, apologies to Christian for removing some of his more “exotic” language from the interview text!