IN HINDSIGHT: ALAN JONES

Inside Sport - - EDITOR'S LETTER - – James Smith

AQUICK LES­SON for the young­sters among you. Long be­fore watch­ing rel­a­tively re­cent home-grown su­per­stars like Mark Web­ber and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo grow up be­fore our eyes, us Aussie sports fans wor­shipped an­other god of the grand prix scene. Alan Jones’s po­si­tion among the pan­theon of Aus­tralian F1 ranks is eas­ily de­fin­able: he’s the only Aus­tralian other than the mighty Sir Jack Brab­ham (three-time cham­pion) to have won a For­mula One world ti­tle. Jones achieved his vic­tory in 1980 and while dwarfed by Brab­ham’s brace, it re­mains one of the most fa­mous achieve­ments by a Down Un­der ath­lete on the in­ter­na­tional stage of all-time.

Rac­ing in the decades be­foreTwa er and Fake­book, he was rel­a­tively un­known be­fore his world cham­pi­onship win, but to­day, few names in in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­sport are as

In your new book there isn’t much that you get ro­man­tic or misty-eyed about ... Is that be­cause you were hard­ened over the years by the ruth­less, day-to-day strug­gle of pro­fes­sional mo­tor­sport?

No, I just think it’s be­cause I’ve never been one for pu ing up with bull­shit. I just tell it the way it is. I’m not a ro­man­ti­cist. I did a book in 1980 – aer I’d won the world cham­pi­onship. There’s been a lot of wa­ter un­der the bridge since then and I just think I have a few tales to tell.

These days you’re a For­mula One stew­ard at a few grands prix each sea­son. What ap­peal does that type of role hold for you?

It gives me an op­por­tu­nity to re­main cur­rent. I get to go and visit the teams and keep up with what’s go­ing on in the present-day For­mula One. I en­joy it. There’s about four or five stew­ards. They al­ways like to have an ex-rac­ing driver among the ranks who can add a bit of light from the driv­ers’ point of view.

Do you look at the mod­ern F1 and think to your­self: that’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent sport to the one I raced in?

Yes, and no; it’s a good ques­tion. At the end of the day you still line up on the grid, and you still take off when the lights go off. And you still race into that first cor­ner and you’re still rac­ing and over­tak­ing. But it’s a lot more po­lit­i­cal now; a lot more com­mer­cial. I don’t think I’d make a very good For­mula One driver in this day and age. I don’t mean in terms of the ac­tual driv­ing, just in terms of pu ing up with all the bull­shit.

Just on that, Bernie Ec­cle­stone men­tions in a for­ward in your book that “Alan Jones wouldn’t ex­ist to­day”. You sound like two blokes with a sim­i­lar ethos when it comes to the true spirit of F1 ...

I al­ways got on re­ally well with Bernie. He was very much head down, bum up and got the job done. He pre y much spoke his mind most of the time. I would like to think so did I. I mean, at the end of the day, if you go to a cir­cuit and you don’t like it, there’s no point pre­tend­ing you do like it just be­cause the revered as Alan Jones. When he speaks, they lis­ten. Jones’s no-non­sense style both on and off the track brought him ad­mir­ers and de­trac­tors, but he al­ways spoke as he saw it. He still does that to­day, as ev­i­denced by In­side Sport’s chat with the Sport Aus­tralia Hall of Famer over the fol­low­ing pages. If you’re hun­gry for more aer si ing through our in­ter­view, Jones has a new book out, AJ: How Alan Jones ClimbedToTheTop Of For­mula One.One It’s full of orig­i­nal in­sights, opin­ions and ob­ser­va­tions col­lected across a life­time in mo­tor­sport. He can also be seen at F1 tracks across the globe in his role as a race stew­ard, and on Chan­nel Ten dur­ing the net­work’s sea­sonal F1 cov­er­age.

man­u­fac­turer you’re driv­ing for hap­pens to own the track, or the so -drink man­u­fac­turer that spon­sors your car hap­pens to own it. If you don’t like it, say you don’t like it.

When you were rac­ing, was it hard not to dis­con­nect your­self from the sit­u­a­tion and think: wow, here I am, rac­ing F1?

No, and prob­a­bly be­cause I’d spent so much time try­ing to get into bloody F1, that when you get there, you sort of half-think you de­serve it any­way. And then I prey much used to sort-of try and di­vorce my­self from the pol­i­tics and all the other stuff. I very much tried to just con­cen­trate on the driv­ing and the lo­gis­tics of what had to be done to win a grand prix.

Ge ing self-an­a­lyt­i­cal for a mo­ment, what were your main strengths as an F1 driver? What in par­tic­u­lar set you apart?

Brute force and ig­no­rance, prob­a­bly. Again, I was able to sep­a­rate my­self from a lot of stuff that was go­ing on around me. I think that very Aus­tralian aitude of just head down, arse up and go for it helped, too.

You men­tion hav­ing to try and strip down to your fight­ing weight in the lead-up to some sea­sons. Were you ever doubt­ful as a young­ster – weight vari­ances aside – that your skele­tal struc­ture might work against you when it came to ac­tu­ally fi ing into an F1 car?

I think I was prey border­line, to be hon­est with you. You know, I used to have a slice of toast with peanut buer and a cup of tea for break­fast, no lunch and a light meal for din­ner. Prey much a jockey’s aitude. Mind you, that re­ally hasn’t changed all that much to this day. Mod­ern For­mula One driv­ers are 60-odd ki­los or some­thing. They starve them­selves to the point they’re al­most faint­ing, which I reckon is ab­so­lutely bloody ridicu­lous. At the end of the day, if they made the cars a bit wider, and the cock­pits a bit big­ger, it would give guys who were per­haps of a bit big­ger stature – and very ta­lented driv­ers – an op­por­tu­nity. But at the mo­ment, you could be the most ta­lented driver in the bloody world but if you’re phys­i­cally a lile bit too big, you can’t get in.

You men­tion in the book you felt you were rel­a­tively un­known in Aus­tralia un­til you won the world cham­pi­onship. Did that sur­prise you even back then? Even be­fore the days of

“If you go to a cir­cuit and you don’t like it, there’s no point pre­tend­ing you do like it just be­cause the man­u­fac­turer you’ re driv­ing for hap­pens to own the track .”

“I think we should be very proud of what Mark Web­ber has achieved. He was paid a lot of money to be a For­mula One driver. That’ s more than a lot of other peo­ple can say .”

so­cial me­dia and wall-to-wall TV cov­er­age?

It didn’t re­ally sur­prise me be­cause the For­mula Ones weren’t tele­cast ... In those days if you won a cham­pi­onship, you got a Gloweave shirt and a pair of socks! So it wasn’t ex­actly one of your ma­jor sports. It was only re­ally en­thu­si­asts who fol­lowed it. And prob­a­bly back then, the only in­ter­na­tional For­mula One driver known to Aus­tralia would have been Jack Brab­ham. So it wasn’t un­til it be­gan be­ing tele­cast and I started win­ning some grands prix that the av­er­age Aus­tralian thought, ‘Shit, who is this bloke? I’d be€er have a bit of a look.’

You are o en frus­trated that Aussie fans don’t love F1 the way they love Bathurst. Is that an in­su­lar Aus­tralian thing?

It’s just that Aus­tralians have been bought up with a tour­ing car men­tal­ity. Open-wheel­ers as such aren’t given the spot­light or the TV time or what­ever they used to be given. I mean, in the old Tas­man Se­ries days Jimmy Clark, Gra­ham Hill and all those in­ter­na­tional blokes used to come down to Aus­tralia and race open-wheel­ers ... We don’t have that now. There’s not a de­cent open-wheeler cat­e­gory in this coun­try. So if you want to watch mo­tor­sport on TV here, it’s ba­si­cally all Su­per­cars.

What would be your main tac­tic be as far as more-ef­fec­tively pro­mot­ing open-wheel­ers to Aussie au­di­ences then?

Well I think Su­per­cars them­selves are prob­a­bly go­ing a li€le way to­wards that. They’re go­ing to start up a cat­e­gory, V8-pow­ered open-wheel­ers, to be the cur­tain-raiser or sup­port cat­e­gory to the Su­per­car rac­ing, which is fan­tas­tic.

You had some great years for Pe­ter Jack­son Rac­ing in par­tic­u­lar across the mid-1990s. What did you find were the great­est chal­lenges in switch­ing be­tween F1 and tour­ing cars?

Prob­a­bly pu€ing up with the bo­gans here in Aus­tralia ... Nah se­ri­ously, you can’t com­pare the rac­ing. One’s a so­phis­ti­cated thing which has been de­signed specif­i­cally do to a job, and the other one was a thing that was MOD­I­FIED to do a job. It’s a very hard bug to get rid of; I love mo­tor-rac­ing. If I wanted to con­tinue mo­tor­sport, I had to ba­si­cally go tour­ing car rac­ing, oth­er­wise it was just For­mula Fords. And I didn’t re­ally want to do that.

You thought Aus­tralian F1 of­fi­cials were some­times a lot more strict and anal than those

in other coun­tries when it came to rac­ing and equip­ment reg­u­la­tions. Why do you think this was?

Prob­a­bly be­cause they didn’t get the chance to ex­er­cise their pow­ers all that o en. A lot of the mar­shals – English, Ital­ians, Ger­mans – were prob­a­bly do­ing it ev­ery sin­gle week­end ... un­like the mar­shals here in Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­larly in those days, less so now. For ex­am­ple, there might only be one Su­per­cars race in Queens­land, so this is their op­por­tu­nity to be the week­end war­rior ... their op­por­tu­nity to flex their mus­cles: I’ll show you who’s boss-type-of-thing. Oh look, don’t get me wrong; they’re not all dick­heads. You know, there were some very nice mar­shals as well.

How would you sum up MarkWeb­ber’s F1 ca­reer? Did you play much of a men­tor­ing role for him?

I think we should be very proud of what he’s achieved. At the end of the day he was paid a lot of money to be a For­mula One driver.That’s more than a lot of other peo­ple can say, par­tic­u­larly Aus­tralians. What did he win – six grands prix or some­thing? He led the cham­pi­onship at one stage, he won Monaco ... He was and still is a very good am­bas­sador for the sport and for Aus­tralia.

And what are your over­all thoughts about Aus­tralia’s cur­rent po­ten­tial Alan Jones, Daniel Ric­cia­rdo?

Yep. Lovely kid, lovely fam­ily. If you meet his mum and dad you can sort-of un­der­stand why he’s such a nice kid. He’s al­ways smil­ing. Once again, he’s a very good am­bas­sador for us ... un­like those id­iot ten­nis play­ers. He’s very down to Earth. He’s just a good kid.

What are you up to these days?

As liŒle as pos­si­ble! I’m still do­ing Chan­nel Ten, still do­ing the odd stew­ard­ing meet for For­mula One. I’m in­volved with a com­pany called Age­less, which is a vi­ta­min sup­ple­ment, and which we’re hop­ing to go pub­lic with in Septem­ber. So that’s been very ex­cit­ing. Various bits and pieces ...

Do you ever get to drive fast these days?

Yeah, I do driver days for Lexus; I’m an am­bas­sador for them.They have a su­per­car called an LFA. It’s re­ally quick; it’s a V10: nought to 100 in 3.6 sec­onds. I take peo­ple for hot laps in that, which I thor­oughly en­joy.

So that sat­is­fies any crav­ings you might have for the good ol’ days ...

It’s got to, there’s noth­ing else!

Jones with the prize fromtheBri­tishGP in1980. ­€‚Tear­ing aroundLongBeach.

It was a tight squeeze tora­ceinF1–andJones still asks why the cars can'tbe­wider.

to Jones­find­s­away to stay­con­nected the­fol­lowingof mod­ernF1. Mark Web­ber: a good am­bas­sador for the sport and the na­tion, Jones says.

Jones thinks he could mix it with Vet­tel, Hamil­ton and the rest of to­day's driv­ers ... on the track.  ­€ Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, nice kid.

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