Interview: Mark Blundell
Mark Blundell is a three-time Formula 1 podium finisher having started 61 Grands Prix during seasons with Brabham, Ligier, Tyrrell and McLaren. He had also been test driver for Williams. He is a Le Mans 24 Hours winner in 1992 with Peugeot, and a three-time winner in CART Indycars. He was part of ITV’s F1 commentary team, at the same time forming a management company, 2MB Sports Managament, with long-time friend, rival and teammate Martin Brundle. Brundle left to concentrate on his TV work, while 2MB expanded to include British footballers. In racing, he currently looks after DTM champion Gary Paffett, and Indycar winner Mike Conway. After a seven-year hiatus, Blundell himself has returned to racing, sharing a car (again) with Brundle in the Daytona 24 Hours in 2011 finishing fourth overall. With the racing bug back, in 2012 he will be racing the new McLaren MP4-12C in the Blancplain Endurance Series for United Autosports.
Have you ever searched yourself on Youtube? (If so, what’s the best clip?)
Yes a few times ’96 Rio Indy crash, reminds me how lucky I am to be typing this… And then I laugh at Frentzen giving me the finger in ’95 but my floor was broken on the McLaren and it handled like a pig! (He was not to know).
What was your most satisfying race, whether you won or not?
1995 Japan GP. I was a McLaren driver and had a big accident on qualifying day, so had to start the back of the grid and came from last to seventh. I would have scored a point if allowed but that’s another story!
What was the first racecar you bought with your own money?
Never used my own money, but my dad’s money was for ’84 Lola FF1600. I recently tried to buy it back but couldn’t agree price with the guy, ah well!
Who was your fiercest rival and why?
Probably Alex Zanardi in Indycar, Bertrand Gachot in FF1600, and Martin Brundle in F1 as mates and team mates!
Which car you’ve driven is your favourite?
The FW14B Williams as test driver. That was an awesome car with blown underwing and then other two sports cars, ’92 Peugeot that I won Le Mans in and the 2003 Bentley. That was an F1 car with a body!
What is the greatest racing car ever built?
Well my personal favourite in the FF2000 ’96 Reynard. What a car that was, it did everything you asked of it and more, and I still reckon Adrian Reynard was a mega design talent…
Which racing car would you most like to own?
My first car, the Lola FF1600 and last Grand Prix car 95 F1 McLaren, plus the ’03 Bentley – now that is the most beautiful car ever on the track at Le Mans.
Was racing better then or now?
Well I think my FF1600 days were the best, and still feel the toughest and best crop of drivers as most of them got to F1. It was fun and more fun and then we all got professional and paid and grew up. Then it was pressure!
Who is the greatest driver of all time?
Senna… Need I say more?
What was your closest shave or “holy shit” moment ?
The ’96 Rio Indy car crash with brake failure at 198 mph, 122G impact… Check youtube, and no it’s not speeded up film!
(ed-note: This clip is terrifying in slow motion. Then take a deep breath when you see it at full-speed. In Mark’s own words “I was trying to hit Maurico to scrub off speed after the brakes went. But I missed him by inches… I remember every moment of that in slow motion. The crash certainly wasn’t!”)
What is your favourite racing livery or logo?
JPS Lotus. Schoolboy memory… stood out and with class, rich colours and striking!
Which driver, dead or alive would you most like to have dinner with?
Ronnie Peterson, one of the most underrated drivers ever… Great talent and skill.
Who was the best driver you saw, who didn’t make it to the big time?
Dave Coyne in FF1600, huge ability and car control but no application or dedication and a huge loss to British motorsport.
What was your biggest disappointment in racing?
Being verbally agreed to race for Sauber for ’96 season and then after getting heads of terms being told that the new owner wanted a grand prix winner, big let down and I turned my back on F1. (And went to Indycar)
What was the first race you saw in person, and how old were you?
Probably as a kid about eight years old and I think F3 or Atlantic race at Snetterton. I didn’t understand what it was, or that one day I would be part of it.
Is there an event you would still like to race in?
Le mans the greatest test of endurance for race driver and racecar there is.
(ed-note: Here is Mark’s awesome and brutal 1990 qualifying lap in the Nissan, again in his own words: “That car in qualifying was a bloody 1100hp grenade. It really was all-or-nothing. We would either get pole, or have the biggest explosion.” He got pole.)
What’s been the best post-race party?
Mexico ’89 – I think it was ’89 or maybe ’90 – Group C, World Sports Car Championship. It was the Magic Circus nightclub in a circus tent and 3000 people with me and Johnny Dumfries in cages 25 feet up dancing and spraying champagne on a very upset Mexican crowd. We stayed up there for a while!
Would you call yourself a fan of race history?
No not really, I’m not a big person on looking back, I like to look ahead, every year the rat pack boys meet and we tell the same stories and that’s about as much as I look back.
The “Rat Pack”
What do you think of the historic motor racing scene?
It’s strong and vibrant, but I have yet to get hooked. I’m not sure on racing old cars at faster speeds than when they were built for back in the day!
Was there ever a race you were in and suddenly realised you were racing against a legend or hero? A ‘How did I get here’ moment?
No never thought like that but I was proud to share podium with Senna and Prost, and also when I met Fangio weeks before he passed away…
But really, I always thought how did I get here, without worrying about who I met!
Special thanks to Mark Blundell. As busy a boy that he is, he wrote his own answers. Let that be a lesson to you young up-and-coming racing drivers! Check out his website at www.markblundell.com
Edited by Andy Hallbery. Follow me on twitter @Hallbean