Part IV – Relationship
A. Jack Heuer, an amazing boss
He’s by far the best boss I’ve ever had ! He was a real sport and competion enthusiast, especially skiing and motoring (he drove a Porsche). I got on very well with him. He was a friendly man, who had an excellent relationship, but also had a strong personality and made his point.
He was also a visionary, someone with a feeling to develop his futur products. The use of the name Carrera for his chronographs is a very good example – an extraordinary choice that came about when he met the Rodríguez brothers in South America.
Very receptive and openminded, he allowed a lot of freedom in the timekeeping field. When an idea or a new project was explained to him, he was the first to say: “Oh yeah! that’s not a bad idea. That’s good. Try to put it on paper. Give me a little report”. That’s how the timing department at HEUER became so important and recognised, with incredible progress in electronics.
B. Clay Regazzoni, the swiss brother
My friendship with Clay Regazzoni was one of the strongest. He was one of my best friends. Maybe because we were both Swiss. Then, he was from Ticino, so he was Latin; he was an extraordinary person, outgoing, who loved life, who spoke with his voice and his hands, who knew how to be calm but could also throw a tantrum. Generous and a human, he enjoyed drinking a glasse of wine with friends, managers, the journalist or the mechanics. This great seducer had succes with women, while remaining very professional. He was not this kind of guy stating up all the night before a grand prix to be with a beautiful woman .
We were like brothers and we had friend relationship outside formula 1. Between grand prix races, we had kind of holiday we spent together. We went to California, exploring the west of the country via Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We had some incredible adventures, like being lost in the desert with a car that wasn’t made for it.
We made several trips to Hawaii and the Caribbean after the US grand prix. We rented sailing boats and sailed for part of the 15 days before the japanese grand prix.
I was very sad when he narrowly lost the 1974 world championship. Thanks to his vast experience, he dominated the competition, while his young team-mate Niki Lauda was already making big impression, getting nine pole positions during the season. Two unfortunate incidents caused him to lose the title. Firstly, at the Austrian Grand Prix, where I was timing, he stopped in the pits to change his tyres. As a technicians’s clamping gun was stuck on the wheel, Ferrari gave him the starting signal. Clay, without looking in his rear-view mirrors, shifted into first gear and started. The wheel came completely off and went away 50 metres further on. The mechanics had to chase after it, bring it back and screw it back on. He lost three or four places, corresponding at least to the three points he needed to win the world champion’s title. Then at the Canadian Grand Prix, because the car was out of control, Ferrari made a rather unusual adjustment… but this option turned out not to be the best one, making him loosing points once again.
C. Gilles Villeneuve, the great friend
I really liked Gilles Villeneuve. An amazing and courageous guy, Enzo Ferrari really appreciated and considered as his son. He was a daring driver, loving risk… he was worse than Regazzoni, who was already quite crazy! (Clay used to drive through villages at 90 or 100 kilometres an hour in his Ferrari Daytona).
I was often with Gilles in his car between the hotel and the circuit. His wife, who however knew him,
asked him to drive more carefully: “Stop driving like that! Calm down! You’re taking too many risks! For the anecdote, when he arrived at the circuit after a good run from the hotel, he said: “Well now, I’m on fire, I’m going to make good times in practice”. It was his way of life, always in top gear! At Ferrari, he was known as the ‘car breaker’. Even if his car was damaged, he was absolutely determined to get it back into the pits, even if it was out of order.
His strong Quebec accent, brought the Ligier mechanics to the Ferrari stand to hear him speak a french they didn’t understand. It made them laugh.
The period after his fatal accident in Zölder in 1982 was terrible. For a long time, talking to me about Gilles Villeneuve, brought tears to my eyes. We were close. Back then, he used to come and see me with his wife and children, Mélanie and Jacques. When I saw Jacques in Formula 1 again, I reminded him that he used to dance on my lap when he was a child!
D. James Hunt, the party guy
I knew James Hunt well. He was a “bon vivant” and a party guy who enjoyed life. He didn’t hesitate to have a couple of beers, not before a grand prix, but certainly the day before. And with women, he was known to be a renowned hunter! You know, in the formula 1 world, there were a lot of pretty fan girls hovering around the drivers. So some guy took advantage of it, and others were more reserved or educated.
E. Niki Lauda, the professional
I didn’t have a strong relationship with Lauda. Said ‘hello’ and ‘good evening’ and we took sometimes a short trip together. He did not particulary touch me. He wasn’t outgoing and was often with his wife.
He embodied a new era of super professional drivers. In bed by 9pm, he shook the gates at 8am on the mornings of the tests at Fiorano, and shouted to the mechanics: “Open the gates! We’re late!” When he arrived at Ferrari in 1974, he quickly caused sensation. I could see the team manager, Luca di Montezemolo, was impressed by his results.
Whatever, this guy was very courageous. You know, he was facing me when he was back at the Monza Grand Prix, a month after his accident at the Nürburgring. He wasn’t a pretty sight with his bloody face. I think he finished fourth! Hats off to him!
His sport rivalry with James Hunt, as depicted in the film “Rush”, was marked by several standout moments, especialy that final race in torrential rain at the Japanese Grand Prix. Two thirds of the way through the race, Lauda brought his car back to the pits and announced he would not continue to race in such conditions. This retirement let Hunt win the 1976 world championship by one point !
F. Ayrton Senna, tragedy and questioning
Ayrton Senna liked me. He often came to me for timing information: “Jean, Jean, may I see the times please? May I see the speeds please? So I asked Ferrari if I could give him some data, without revealing everything. And generally it was OK.
His death on 1 May 1994 on the Saint-Marin circuit was really shocking, upseting and traumatic. This accident occurred in a particular and dark context. Already on the previous Friday, during free practice, Barrichello lost control of his car which climbed over the fences, with the grandstands behind . It was very dangerous, but he escaped with his life. The following day, Saturday, during qualifying, Austrian Ratzenberger was killed. And finally, on Sunday, Ayrton’s accident. But instead of cancelling the grand prix, as it was getting to be too much, a new start was given ! Two cars touched ! One tyre went towards the grandstands, and it was just a miracle that it stopped before. Another flew towards the pitlane, almost knocking out some mechanics.
Despite all of this, the race went ahead. My commitments and those of Tag HEUER, as well as our partnership with Ayrton Senna, meant that we had to provide the timekeeping, but I said to myself: “What am I doing here ? What am I doing here ?”. I’m passionate about motor sports, but this was unacceptable ! unacceptable !
As a former motorbike racing competitor, I was quickly back on my feet. However, the Tag HEUER marketing director with me, was upset until our back in Switzerland. It was an emotionally heavy day. Just as formula 1 can be extraordinary in hard-fought races, with duels between exceptional drivers, so you can have questionning when accidents like this happen.
Fortunately, car and circuit improvements now guarantee greater safety for drivers (and it’s the same in motorbiking). Until 1980, number of death in Formula 1 and other races was hight.
G. Show business people
When you work in Formula 1, frequented by big stars and politicians, for sure you meet a lot of celebrities. I’ll give you an example, because it’s funny, I kissed Liz Taylor’s hand in Monaco at the start of my formula 1 career ! I’ve met actors like James Coburn, I had lunch with once a year, and the artist Jean Tinguely to tell them about Formula 1 exploits. I’ve been lucky to have made extraordinary encounters in formula 1 world. This has marked my life.
- banner : xtrztk.com
- visual 1 : Jack Heuer – unknown – original modified : reframed
- visual 2 : Clay Regazzoni au centre, lors du briefing du Grand Prix des États-Unis 1975, à Watkins Glen – par Christian Sinclair – under cc by 2.0 – original modified : reframed
- visual 3 : Gilles Villeneuve – by Rainer Schlegelmilch – motorsport image
- visual 4 : James Hunt after winning the 1976 Dutch Grand Prix – by Gahetna in het Nationnal archief – sous cc0 – original modified : reframed
- visual 5 : Lauda at 1982 Dutch Grand Prix – by Hans van Dijk for Anefo – sous cc0
- visual 6 : Ayrton Senna 8 – Cropped – by Instituto Ayrton Senna – sous cc by 2.0