The Grand Prix de l`age d`or is always an event that is not to miss. The 2018 edition was run by Peterauto, one of the big names in historic motorsport. I bumped into Patrick in the paddock, where he was happily signing his splendid book „27, Patrick Tambay, the Ferrari years“. Born in 1946, he is battling Parkinsons disease since several years but was in good shape and he greeted me with a firm handshake and was handsome and polite as ever. It was an absolute joy to talk to him -  here is what he had to say: TSS: Patrick, what is your first memory of motorsport in general, was it a family affair or how did you get in touch? PT: No, not at all. It was just pure accident. I was in Monaco in 1968 and it was the weekend of the Grand Prix. I was not allowed to go there, my parents didn`t want me to go, because I was with a friend on a moto bicyclette going there… Francois Cevert was there running in F3 and he impressed me so much, I was a fan of his and his helmet design! The helmet stood out and I was always looking for him to come by.  That was my first contact with motorsport. I didn`t say to myself: “That`s what I want to do!” But I was very interested in the whole equipment, the atmosphere and the helmets! TSS: Talking about your career as a driver. You were noticed internationally in 1976, when you drove for the Martini Team in F2 together with Rene Arnoux. PT: Yes, we had a very good car and I moved up quickly into F1 in `77 with first Surtees and then Ensign. John Surtees was in contact with me all winter and he offered me a drive for my home Grand Prix here in Dijon. But the car was misfiring badly. I don`t know if there was a problem with the fuel injection or whatever, but there was no chance to qualify for the race. I had no money so I could not go on with them, but that was no problem because I was already in contact with Mo Nunn and Teddy Yip from Ensign for the next races. The race in Zeltweg was decisive. It was raining and I was matching the pace of the Ferraris with my inferior car. After the race I got a call from Mauro Forghieri and I met with Enzo Ferrari to discuss with him the possibility to drive for them in 1978. Ensign also wanted me to sign a long term contract, but I didn`t sign. I had a contract with Marlboro and they were looking for a young driver to go to one of the big teams. On the tuesday after Zeltweg I flew to London for a meeting with John Hogan from Marlboro and Teddy Mayer from McLaren. Teddy had a briefcase which I liked very much… it was an American briefcase from Brooks Brothers, and he put it in front of me. He said, this is what we can offer if you would like to race our F1 car. I didn`t really knew what team to choose, Ferrari or McLaren, I just wanted to race a competitive F1 car and get the best equipment available. TSS: It was then a bit of a surprise that you ended up with McLaren and Villeneuve went to Ferrari, because he did his first race with McLaren. PT: Yes, it was a bit of a guess which team would be more competitive in 1978. We didn`t know about the Michelin tyres and Ferrari and who would be a better teammate for Carlos Reutemann at Ferrari, so McLaren was the safer option at that time. John Hogan said, we think that you would be the better teammate to James Hunt, so they offered me the McLaren deal and I said, ok I take it. After the meeting I went over to the states for a CanAm race and I told Gilles, that I signed the contract with McLaren and that he should be coming over to Europe and visit Ferrari because they were looking for a driver to replace Niki. TSS: The years with McLaren were of mixed success: `78 was ok, but in `79 the car was simply not performing… PT: Yes, `78 was ok,  because the car was still good, they ended `76 and `77 on a high, James Hunt was in top shape - `79 was terrible, it was the teams` first wing car and it didn`t work  at all. It was twisting like crazy. At that time I was already driving also in the CanAm series in the US. In early 1980, Teddy Mayer said to me, they wanted to know, if I was really a good driver and they wanted to make a shoot-out in Le Castellet with me and Prost. I told John Hogan, believe in me or not, but I will not do the shoot-out. So I went back to the states and did another season in CanAm and won the championship again. TSS: You came back into F1 for `81 with Theodore and half a season with Talbot-Ligier. PT: Right, I started with Ligier in midseason here in Dijon and finished it in Las Vegas. Do you remember what happened in the race in Las Vegas? TSS: Yes, you had a big crash and the car was wrecked! PT: Yes the car was more or less cut in half, and I could literally walk out of the car to the front. My legs were on the ground in plain air… Go to youtube and just type in „Las Vegas GP 1981“ and you can see the live-coverage! TSS: Can we talk about your time with the Ferrari team, when you got the call to replace Gilles. How were you welcomed, did you negotiate with Enzo directly? PT: I had a meeting with Enzo already at the end of `77 when I refused to drive for them. In `82 I went to Monza to meet him and also to Maranello. At that meeting it was just Forghieri the Commendatore and me.  Enzo did most of the talking himself, in perfect French! Enzo said to me:” You already made a mistake in `77 not to sign for us, so don`t do the same mistake again!” So, it was a no brainer this time and I happily signed of course. TSS: The car was of course great in `82 and you had a very successful time with Ferrari. Btw I was in Hockenheim for your first victory! PT: Oh, so that was when you got your hang to motor-racing? You were a kid then… TSS: I was young, but not a kid anymore - I was a kid when I saw you in F2 in 1976 in Hockenheim! PT: we were going to Hockenheim with great expectations, but Didier had his accident there on Saturday, but fortunately I was able to win my first GP on Sunday!82 and 83 was a good time to go to Hockenheim. I always liked the Ring with the long straights through the woods and coming back into the stadium, which was almost like a different race track for the driver. I liked the fast tracks like Spa and Zeltweg very much. Looking back, losing the two races in Hockenheim and Zeltweg in `83 cost me the world championship. TSS: Did you ever had the chance to drive for Lotus? PT: No, I never wanted to and I never got an offer! TSS: But Lotus had a Renault turbo engine at that time. PT: Yes, but after Prost was fired, I was with the works team in 84 and 85. He had a way to do things and  I had my way. I was not unhappy that he was not with the team anymore. But he ended up being more successful than me, so it could have been not that wrong… TSS: In your last year in F1, you could race in the first Hungarian GP at the Hungaroring. How do you remember that weekend? PT: Oh, that was interesting because we were going to the eastern part of Europe for the first time. The F1 community felt very very privileged because we were the first group of motorsport from outside coming to the other side of the wall. It was very exciting for us, for the country as well and very exciting for the ladies! TSS: We were talking about helmet designs: your helmet, it was typical seventies style with only two colors, white and blue. Who did the design? PT: I did it! I choose the colors I liked and wanted to keep it simple with white stripes going round on a blue ground. TSS: When your son Adrien started in motor-racing, did you push his career or what were your feelings as a father? PT: I always said that I would not push I only want to stand by and give advice. That’s what I did when he was about to join Audi for DTM. He had shoot-outs and driver evaluations in spain where he finally was picked by Dr. Ulrich also because of his technical understandings. He had two or three good years with Audi in DTM and is doing the Blancpain GT series for Mercedes now. TSS: Patrick, thank you very much for your time, it was a pleasure to talk to you!
The Commendatore did all the talking - in perfect French! TAmbay
Ferrari
Legend Teddy Mayer put a briefcase in front of me. I liked very much what I saw inside…! All Speed and cars Tambay Lets talk, Patrick
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All Speed and cars
The Grand Prix de l`age d`or is always an event that is not to miss. The 2018 edition was run by Peterauto, one of the big names in historic motorsport. I bumped into Patrick in the paddock, where he was happily signing his splendid book „27, Patrick Tambay, the Ferrari years“. Born in 1946, he is battling Parkinsons disease since several years but was in good shape and he greeted me with a firm handshake and was handsome and polite as ever. It was an absolute joy to talk to -  here is what he had to say: TSS: Patrick, what is your first memory of motorsport in general, was it a family affair or how did you get in touch? PT: No, not at all. It was just pure accident . I was in Monaco in 1968 and it was the weekend of the Grand Prix. I was not allowed to go there, my parents didn`t want me to go, because I was with a friend on a moto bicyclette going there… Francois Cevert was there running in F3 and he impressed me so much, I was a fan of his and his helmet design! The helmet stood out and I was always looking for him to come by.  That was my first contact with motorsport. I didn`t say to myself: “That`s what I want to do!” But I was very interested in the whole equipment, the atmosphere and the helmets! TSS: Talking about your career as a driver. You were noticed  internationally in 1976, when you drove for the Martini Team in F2 together with Rene Arnoux.PT: Yes, we had a very good car and I moved up quickly into F1 in `77 with first Surtees and then Ensign. John Surtees was in contact with me all winter and he offered me a drive for my home Grand Prix here in Dijon. But the car was misfiring badly. I don`t know if there was a problem with the fuel injection or whatever, but there was no chance to qualify for the race. I had no money so I could not go on with them, but that was no problem because I was already in contact with Mo Nunn and Teddy Yip from Ensign for the next races. The race in Zeltweg was decisive. It was raining and I was matching the pace of the Ferraris with my inferior car. After the race I got a call from Mauro Forghieri and I met with Enzo Ferrari to discuss with him the possibility to drive for them in 1978. Ensign also wanted me to sign a long term contract, but I didn`t sign. I had a contract with Marlboro and they were looking for a young driver to go to one of the big teams. On the tuesday after Zeltweg I flew to London for a meeting with John Hogan from Marlboro and Teddy Mayer from McLaren. Teddy had a briefcase which I liked very much… it was an American briefcase from Brooks Brothers,  and he put it in front of me. He said, this is what we can offer if you would like to race our F1 car. I didn`t really knew what team to choose, Ferrari or McLaren, I just wanted to race a competitive F1 car and get the best equipment available. TSS: It was then a bit of a surprise that you ended up with McLaren and Villeneuve went to Ferrari, because he did his first race with McLaren. PT: Yes, it was a bit of a guess which team would be more competitive in 1978. We didn`t know about the Michelin tyres and Ferrari and who would be a better teammate for Carlos Reutemann at Ferrari, so McLaren was the safer option at that time. John Hogan said, we think that you would be the better teammate to James Hunt, so they offered me the McLaren deal and I said, ok I take it. After the meeting I went over to the states for a CanAm race and I told Gilles, that I signed the contract with McLaren and that he should be coming over to Europe and visit Ferrari because they were looking for a driver to replace Niki. TSS: The years with McLaren were of mixed success: `78 was ok, but in `79 the car was simply not performing… PT: Yes, `78 was ok,  because the car was still good, they ended `76 and `77 on a high, James Hunt was in top shape - `79 was terrible, it was the teams` first wing car and it didn`t work  at all. It was twisting like crazy. At that time I was already driving also in the CanAm series in the US. In early 1980, Teddy Mayer said to me, they wanted to know, if I was really a good driver and they wanted to make a shoot-out in Le Castellet with me and Prost. I told John Hogan, believe in me or not, but I will not do the shoot-out. So I went back to the states and did another season in CanAm and won the championship again. TSS: You came back into F1 for `81 with Theodore and half a season with Talbot-Ligier. PT: Right, I started with Ligier in midseason here in Dijon and finished it in Las Vegas. Do you remember what happened in the race in Las Vegas? TSS: Yes, you had a big crash and the car was wrecked! PT: Yes the car was more or less cut in half, and I could literally walk out of the car to the front. My legs were on the ground in plain air… Go to youtube and just type in „Las Vegas GP 1981“ and you can see the live-coverage! TSS: Can we talk about your time with the Ferrari team, when you got the call to replace Gilles. How were you welcomed, did you negotiate with Enzo directly? PT: I had a meeting with Enzo already at the end of `77 when I refused to drive for them. In `82 I went to Monza to meet him and to also to Maranello. At that meeting it was just Forghieri the Commendatore and me.  Enzo did most of the talking himself, in perfect French! Enzo said to me:” You already made a mistake in `77 not to sign for us, so don`t do the same mistake again!” So, it was a no brainer this time and I happily signed of course. TSS: The car was of course great in `82 and you had a very successful time with Ferrari. Btw I was in Hockenheim for your first victory! PT: Oh, so that was when you got your hang to motor- racing? You were a kid then… TSS: I was young, but not a kid anymore - I was a kid when I saw you in F2 in 1976 in Hockenheim! PT: we were going to Hockenheim with great expectations, but Didier had his accident there on Saturday, but fortunately I was able to win my first GP on Sunday!82 and 83 was a good time to go to Hockenheim. I always liked the Ring with the long straights through the woods and coming back into the stadium, which was almost like a different race track for the driver. I liked the fast tracks like Spa and Zeltweg very much. Looking back, losing the two races in Hockenheim and Zeltweg in `83 cost me the world championship. TSS: Did you ever had the chance to drive for Lotus? PT: No, I never wanted to and I never got an offer! TSS: But Lotus had a Renault turbo engine at that time. PT: Yes, but after Prost was fired, I was with the works team in 84 and 85. He had a way to do things and  I had my way. I was not unhappy that he was not with the team anymore. But he ended up being more successful than me, so it could have been not that wrong… TSS: In your last year in F1, you could race in the first Hungarian GP at the Hungaroring. How do you remember that weekend? PT: Oh, that was interesting because we were going to the eastern part of Europe for the first time. The F1 community felt very very privileged because we were the first group of motorsport from outside coming to the other side of the wall. It was very exciting for us, for the country as well and very exciting for the ladies! TSS: We were talking about helmet designs: your helmet, it was typical seventies style with only two colors, white and blue. Who did the design? PT: I did it! I choose the colors I liked and wanted to keep it simple with white stripes going round on a blue ground. TSS: When your son Adrien started in motor-racing, did you push his career or what were your feelings as a father? PT: I always said that I would not push I only want to stand by and give advice. That’s what I did when he was about to join Audi for DTM. He had shoot-outs and driver evaluations in spain where he finally was picked by Dr. Ulrich also because of his technical understandings. He had two or three good years with Audi in DTM and is doing the Blancpain GT series for Mercedes now. TSS: Patrick, thank you very much for your time, it was a pleasure to talk to you!
  Lets talk, Patrick
TAmbay
TAmbay Ferrari Legend The Commendatore did all the talking - in perfect French! Teddy Mayer put a briefcase in front of me. I liked very much what I saw inside…!
GalleryDijon Historic