I have caught up with ex F1 race winner, Thierry Boutsen to discuss his race career and his current business, Boutsen Aviation.
- Who was your sporting idol growing up?
Boutsen: There were a few, Jim Clack, Jackie Stewart, Pedro Rodriguez, Eddy Merckx and Paul Van Himst were on the top of my list.
2. What was the toughest thing about reaching F1 in your era?
Boutsen: The lack of sponsoring was certainly the biggest challenge. I suffered from that all the way along my career, having been evicted from some F1 teams for “money reason”
3. Your Formula One debut came at the 1983 Belgian Grand Prix. How special was it making your F1 bow in your home race?
Boutsen: It was a great achievement. Until the Thursday of the race weekend, I could not believe I had made a step in paradise!!!
4. After three seasons with Arrows, you made a move to Benetton. What was the best thing about being able to challenge the likes of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna more, especially in the 1988 season?
Boutsen: I could finally prove what I was capable of. Fighting with the best of the best. And I eventually became close friend with Ayrton, which was for me as important as racing.
5. A move to Williams brought plenty of success with three wins and your first pole position in F1. How special was it racing for Williams and finally winning some races?
Boutsen: I wish the Benetton was more reliable, I could already have won Austria and Mexico in 1987 which would have changed my career quite a bit. Going to Williams, although the team did not have the best car of the field at that time, was a big achievement, and I think I made good use of it!
6. Once Williams let you go, how disappointed were you to not find any decent drives despite being one of the strongest drivers on the grid?
Boutsen: I was very disappointed but did not give up, working with the Ligier boys to bring the car from a “non qualify-able” status to a top five qualifier was a great experience.
7. Your final F1 race came with Jordan at the 1993 Belgian Grand Prix. How tough was it saying goodbye ten years on from where you started a stellar F1 career?
Boutsen: It was a decision that I took because I did not enjoy driving a non-competitive car. I went on to drive for the Porsche works team in the GT-One championship and won many races!
8. After a stint in Sportcars, you now run your own business (Boutsen Aviation). After years of racing, what made you want to move into the aircraft industry where you’re now the chairman of your business?
Boutsen: I decided to quit racing in 1999 because I wanted to do something else. I had a passion for airplanes, I have had my pilot’s licence since 1981 and flew my own plane to most of the races.
This passion has become a profession, a very interesting one, not only because we have sold 335 of these exotic machines in 51 countries, 5 continents, but also for the human side of it, meeting people with so different cultures, languages, history, way of doing business,
I think I have learned more about people in one year of aircraft brokerage than in 10 years of F1!
9. Finally, what do you make of F1 now in comparison to your decade being in the pinnacle of Motorsport?
Boutsen: F1 is and will always be the top of motorsport.
By a long way. The cars are very different today, since the IT has taken over most of the human decisions. The whole of motorsport has changed drastically because of the means of communication meaning that it is not better nor worse, just different! I am still a fan!!!
With special thanks to Boutsen for taking time out from running his business to do this interview.