After opening the Historic Motorsport International show, Le Mans and Grand Prix winner Jacky Ickx sat down for an interview about his racing life and what the show meant to him personally.
Taking place at the events’ Supagard Theatre, the 72-year-old was warmly greeted, talking about the ‘wonderful opportunity’ the crowd had, to enjoy the machines from a bygone time, stating that it was the atmosphere that made his racing so renowned.
“The Human aspect of driving was important in my era. We may be in different places but we all have something in common, a passion for motorsport.” he started.
“It’s important to have this event or Goodwood or Classic races. There, I can see the human aspect and the atmosphere it creates. It often doesn’t happen in the motorsport world.”
“I did a lot of things, but you are what you are because you are surrounded by people. You need to have good people around you, which was clear in my case as I was surrounded by other talent. Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Mario Andretti and others. Knowing that we all have heroes, we have many things to share together.”
Ickx was clear that he had no true heroes when he was young as he never imagined he’d even be involved in the racing world, instead talking about his alternative passions growing up.
“I never wanted or thought I would be a racing driver. I actually wanted to be a gardener or a gamekeeper, it’s not on the same planet. But life is about having inspiration.”
Despite this, he acknowledged the success of those around him, putting emphasis on the fact that it was the drivers and team personnel that pushed him further.
“[Juan Manuel] Fangio is still a giant, maybe by the advantage that the risk was higher, so it was not all about the money. They were sporty Gentleman. Also, Jim Clark. Closer to me, Jackie Stewart, because we shared some great memories and fought against each other.”
“We go back to the basic human aspect, you have to be selfish, but you need to look around and help the youngsters.”
Ickx would talk about being selfish in racing, though made it clear that no matter the environment you’re in, there are others involved behind the scenes and it would be unwise to forget their contribution.
“You grow up and find the limit, if you’re not part of a team, you are not tempted to make trouble for anyone. We can win a lot, but if you drive a good car or a Porsche, the chances to win are much greater. The people in the garage are in the shade though put vital work, but we need to finish the job.”
“In general, people do what they like, you don’t do it for recognition. We live as we’ve been taught to live. Having seen the people around, you can see the possibilities and that what reminds me about the HMI.”
Ickx will be remembered as potentially the greatest all-around racing driver, collecting multiple Formula 1 and 24 Hours of Le Mans wins as well as success in the Dakar Rally, Bathurst 1000 and Can-Am Championship.
Throughout his diversity in racing, he admitted that the objective remained the same, saying that as a driver you need to understand the work that goes into every project.
“Winning the race for a company, brand or team. In endurance you need two or three drivers, so you need the effort but understand the importance of the co-driver. The idea is to win the race, so it remains a little selfish, but Endurance racing now is a grand prix.
“In my day we had time to smoke a cigar, even when going 300kph along the straight, now you don’t see that.”
There was one question Ickx was less than open in answering though and that was on which car was his personal favourite to drive. In response, he said;
“It would be easier to ask which car I don’t like … I can’t say that either.”
The interview concluded with a speech from the Belgian star about the opportunity that many people have but never act upon and the chance that many in his generation took when they went racing.
“The privilege was to do something you like. If you have something you have talent for and like, you need to grab that chance. As for the rest you don’t have any control over your destiny, after all, it’s easy to win when you have a good car.”