Arnoux had his first season in the Renault turbo in 1979, as teammate to Jean-Pierra Jabouille. He’s seen here at Monaco.
Photo: Maureen Magee
On the whole, French racing drivers are quite friendly toward each other and generally there is a good rapport and camaraderie between us. I think this stems from the roots of our motor racing careers in France. Most, if not all, of us came through the motor racing school system where we learned our racing skill and craft. I was at the Winfield Motor Racing School, which was a great training ground for drivers. Elf petroleum worked hand in hand with the school to promote and support the rising stars of French motor sport. If we were very strong or very fast drivers, we were helped up to the next level, and the best of us went on to race in Formula One. The Winfield school was a very good training ground, it was not very expensive, but it was very selective; there was always room to progress for the successful drivers, and I think these things made Winfield very strong. The drivers I’m talking about are Alain Prost, Patrick Tambay, Jacques Laffite and Didier Pironi. There were strong Winfield drivers before this time like Pescarolo, Beltoise and Jarier. We would start at the beginning of the year with, say, 300 drivers all competing against each other. Some would fall away, the rest would compete until the end of the season and there was just one winner, one champion, who would be supported to go on and race in other championships outside the school. My progress got me all the way to the top. I was able to win in Formula Three, then in Formula Two and Formula One, too.
As for Formula One, it was very difficult for French drivers to enter until French teams such as Renault and Ligier started. In my time, it was easier for English drivers to get into F2 and Grand Prix racing than French, because most of the teams of my era were from England. I think the mother of the Formula One championship is in England; Ferrari have been in the championship from it being very young, too. The English teams soon joined, but when the French teams entered the championship train was in the middle of its journey. It was very complex to get into an English team because first you had to compete with many talented drivers, not just in Grand Prix racing, but most of the major formulas too, then you needed a lot of money.
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