“This was my place of work. It’s where we create things.
“To jump back in a machine that I spent only a year driving and to feel completely at home again after a 20-year gap is something quite bizarre and illuminating, because it means those memories and experiences are not forgotten.
“It’s like riding a bicycle, that old chestnut: you just get in there and it all becomes automatic. Even the mechanics, their routines, they just remember what they used to do and what routines they had and they automatically slot straight back in after a 20-year gap – and that’s something to behold.
“The time hadn’t really passed. I was trying to remind myself of what was different and I could barely nd anything. Obviously when I look at myself in the mirror, it’s easy to see the difference, but in the cockpit, my mind is the same mind. I kept saying to myself: ‘Now Damon, you’re 20 years older, just take it easy.’ But you can’t, because your default mode is to push hard and go to the limit. The limitation simply becomes physical: you just haven’t got the stamina and the strength any more to push the thing to the limit for any length of time.
“Towards the end I was starting to get neck ache, and that’s when I was driving in the wet on a cold track on wet tyres. I started to think: ‘Wow, these cars were pulling quite a lot of G-load and you were pretty well adapted.’ A muscle doesn’t take long to build up, but, even so, your heart is pumping. In a grand prix, your heart would be pumping pretty hard for an hourand-a-half to two hours and you’re sweating a lot. I just wouldn’t be able to do that any more.
“I haven’t raced since I did a VW charity race years ago at Brands Hatch, in a VW Scirocco. I got beaten by Johnny Herbert, Julian Bailey and Martin Donnelly, so I decided then that it was denitely a good idea to retire!
“I drove a GP2 car at Paul Ricard when the series was launched in 2005 and I also drove the GP Masters car. Up until about ve or six