My life in cars
You might have heard of
DC, MBE, even if you’re not a ‘Twynosi’. The F1 driver and commentator does a pit walk
My family has a transport business, so I grew up around trucks and the truck yard. I had a motorbike for the field at a very young age and went karting at 11. Even before that, I remember sitting on my dad’s lap at kart races – he’d do the pedals and I’d do the steering. I turned 17 at the end of March and I passed my driving test the first week of April, but I didn’t have my own car until I was almost 18. We had a Mercedes 508D karting van: it had bunk beds in the back of it and karts in the very back.
When I eventually got a car, it was a Renault 5 Turbo – oh, I was big time – but I’d been driving a van for a year, so I deserved to step up. I was racing in Formula Ford and won both the championships, so it was a treat. I had a great time in that car; the seats reclined all the way back, which was handy as a teenage boy. It doubled up as somewhere you could, erm, well, you know what I mean...
Then I moved to England to drive for Paul Stewart
Racing, Jackie’s son’s team, so I borrowed my mum’s BMW 318i. I was meant to have it for a week, but managed to eke it out for three or four months. I didn’t actually buy a car for a while because I had a Ford contract with Jackie and had an RS2000 on rotation, then a Scorpio with the most godawful body kit on it. Then, briefly, an Escort Cosworth with the big rear wing – that was proper boy racer. That got stolen outside The Point in Milton Keynes when I was in the cinema.
When I became a test driver at Williams, I went to a Renault Laguna automatic, just as a means to get to the track and back, really. Then I actually paid for my first car. I was 23 and bought a 1971 Mercedes 280 SL, the same age as me, which I still have today. Our son will inherit the 280 when he’s old enough to drive, on the basis that under no circumstances can he sell it on.
Then I didn’t buy anything for a while. I was at McLaren so I had a run of Mercedes including a C63 AMG wagon. My wife is an Aston fan, so a few years back I bought her a DB9 convertible, which she still has. We also have a 1984 G-Class 280 short wheelbase with no roof on it. It looks amazing. It was white when I bought it, but I had Mercedes respray it in gunmetal silver and move the seats back, so it’s a proper five-seat restaurant car for the South of France. I keep it in Monaco where there’s a whole bunch of Brabus and AMG G-Wagens, but nothing looks as stripped and as cool.
I’m not like Jenson, who’s quite a buyer and seller of cars, but I have on order the Aston Valkyrie and the Mercedes Project One, both of which should come through in 2019 or 2020. The reason I can afford Adrian Newey’s Valkyrie is I was lucky enough to drive racing cars he designed, so it’s a tip of my hat to him. Project One: I’m still a Mercedes guy, and it’s such a unique proposition, I don’t think anyone will do something like it ever again. But the car I drive more than any is my little Smart Convertible – every ex GP driver in touch with their racing spirit should have one of those.