The prize money for winning the 1972 Formula One “Race of Champions” at Brands Hatch in a BRM P160 allowed me to purchase a 1934 Bentley 3.5-liter Drophead Coup, a love-at-first-sight purchase. In fact, motor racing allowed me to build quite a collection of iconic vehicles of both road and track. I sold most of them a few years ago at an auction in Monte Carlo. Some of those I’ve owned included a 1964 Rene Bonnet Djet Coupe—my racing career began in Bonnet’s cars—a 1958 Peugeot 403 Cabriolet, similar to that made famous by the TV series Columbo, it was a must for me to have any Peugeot, I’m a great enthusiast, an ex-Henri Pescarolo 1970 Matra MS120 Formula One car (chassis MS120-02) and a 1973 Le Mans-winning Matra-Simca MS670B Barquette Endurance Racing Sports Prototype (chassis #MS670B-02). Motoring in France in the 1970s was an era when you could still drive freely on the road, limited only by your eyesight and conscience, these were the only markers that set the boundaries of what was reasonable.
As for racing cars, can you imagine the moments of intense emotion as I drove these beautiful machines over the course of my racing career? All the cars I raced were full of meaning for me and packed full of anecdotes that I list in three categories—sentimental, amusing or unrepeatable. To choose one of these cars as a greatest racecar is unbelievably difficult. However, many Formula One Grand Prix fans will remember me for winning at the rain drenched 1972 Monaco Grand Prix, driving a BRM. Most think this was by far my most difficult win, but no. It was Jochen Rindt who told me it is sometimes far easier to win than to get 8th or 9th place. In fact, I remember racing at a rain-soaked Zandvoort; it was the 1971 Dutch Grand Prix. There was a distinct difference in performance with those who ran on the chunky Firestone tires and the rest of us on the Goodyears. I was battling for 9th position with Graham Hill. Other great drivers were behind us, including Jackie Stewart, who had already won three Grands Prix that year, Denis Hulme, Mario Andretti and others. The first eight places were taken by drivers equipped with Firestone tires and many of the rest of us from 9th onward were, as I’ve said, on the Goodyear tires. The Firestones were better suited to the atmospheric conditions of the race. It’s a bit like Schumacher today battling, by his standards, in midfield because of the tires, compared to previous seasons when it was far easier for him.
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