MY GREAT­EST TEAM-MATE

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - Mark Blun­dell

The for­mer grand prix racer re­flects on driv­ing with Martin Brun­dle at Brab­ham and Ligier

Give a rac­ing driver the choice of an ideal team-mate to work along­side and many would choose some­one who won’t chal­lenge their po­si­tion in the team, and will flat­ter their own per­for­mances.

Even the best drivers aren’t im­mune – take Ayr­ton Senna, who ve­toed work­ing with Derek War­wick at Lo­tus in 1986 and in­stead drove along­side the in­ex­pe­ri­enced Johnny Dum­fries.

But while a team-mate can be a driver’s great­est ri­val, they can also be a great re­source to learn from, as Mark Blun­dell found while work­ing with Martin Brun­dle.

Per­haps his choice of Brun­dle should come as lit­tle sur­prise given the num­ber of times their ca­reers in­ter­twined. The ‘Brun­dell Broth­ers’ were found­ing part­ners in the 2MB man­age­ment agency be­fore Blun­dell took sole charge, and col­leagues on ITV’S Formula 1 cov­er­age dur­ing the late 1990s. Be­fore that they were F1 team-mates at Brab­ham and Ligier, where they were evenly matched and spurred one an­other on.

“I learned a lot from Martin be­cause we were at dif­fer­ent stages of our ca­reer,” re­flects Blun­dell, seven years Brun­dle’s ju­nior. “We were ob­vi­ously dif­fer­ent ages, but at the same time I could re­late to him and I un­der­stood ex­actly how he went about his busi­ness.”

Blun­dell had raced for Nis­san in Group C against Brun­dle in 1990, when Brun­dle was the stand­out driver in a tough year for Jaguar, so he knew what he was up against when they faced off at strug­gling Brab­ham the fol­low­ing sea­son. Blun­dell suf­fered the in­dig­nity of fail­ing to pre-qual­ify at Suzuka on en­gine-builder Yamaha’s home turf, and each man­aged one points score. Brun­dle’s fifth place in Ja­pan put him slightly ahead of Blun­dell’s sixth in Bel­gium.

“We had a very in­ter­est­ing re­la­tion­ship be­cause we were ex­tremely close and there was a mas­sive amount of re­spect be­tween us, but when it came to it on the cir­cuit it was very much dog eat dog,” says Blun­dell.

Since Brab­ham was in fi­nan­cial trou­ble, Brun­dle moved to Tom Walkin­shaw-man­aged Benet­ton in 1992, while Blun­dell spent the year in the back­ground test­ing for Mclaren, al­though he also won Le Mans with Peu­geot.

They were re­united at Ligier in 1993, and the JS39 was a much more com­pet­i­tive propo­si­tion than the Brab­ham had been. Ben­e­fit­ing from Re­nault V10 power meant they were points con­tenders when­ever the car was re­li­able.

Blun­dell scored two podi­ums (Kyalami and Hock­en­heim) to Brun­dle’s one (Imola), but fin­ished sev­enth four times and fin­ished three places be­hind him in the stand­ings.

“With me and him it was pretty level peg­ging most of the time,” says Blun­dell. “If you looked at the data we would do sim­i­lar lap times but go about it a very dif­fer­ent way, how we ap­plied the brake and the throt­tle and turned right and left.

“I learned a great deal about mak­ing a team work for you as op­posed to think­ing they work for you. There’s just as much work has to go on out­side the car as there is in­side the car.

“He prob­a­bly taught me more about the pol­i­tics of the sport than the ac­tual sport it­self. You only have to watch and un­der­stand, and from that you can learn a huge amount.”

JAMES NEW­BOLD

“With him it was pretty level most of the time”

Blun­dell’s re­la­tion­ship with Brun­dle (left) stretched be­yond F1 to TV and busi­ness

Blun­dell learned about the sport’s pol­i­tics from Brun­dle

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