Where Are They Now: Nelson Piquet Jr

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Paul Jeffrey, Sep 10, 2017.

  1. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    Where are they now - Nelson_Piquet_Jr.jpg
    Son of a three time World Champion and never far from controversy, today we look what became of former Renault Grand Prix driver Nelson Piquet Jr...

    Born with one of the most famous names in modern motorsport*, Nelson Piquet Jr. had Formula One driver written against his name practically before he could even walk.

    Son of triple World Champion and longtime Formula One star Nelson Piquet, the youngster would have nothing but the best of opportunities to make the leap up the professional racing career ladder during his formative years in the sport.

    Benefiting from movie star good looks and prodigious pace almost from the first time he stepped into a racing car, Piquet Jr. would very quickly begin to stamp his authority on the lower ranks of the racing ladder as he attempted to make his first steps out of the intimidating shadow of his famous father.

    Born in West Germany but continuing to race under the Brazilian flag, Piquet would enjoy something of a cult following during his early years racing karts back home in Brazil, mostly due to a still substantial fan base courtesy of his famous father, but also in equal measure due to the way in which the young driver asserted himself on the racetrack, often seen powering past his rival drivers in daring overtaking moves and aggressive actions born from the supreme personal confidence of a young man born into the world of professional motorsports.

    Following a near decade racing in a variety of different categories of karts, with plenty of success, Piquet Jr. would step up to the Brazilian Formula Three Sudamericana championship for 2001, racing in a team funded and supported by his former World Champion father, Nelson Piquet Snr.

    Piquet’s first year of car racing would yield instant results for the young driver, aided both by a demonstratively better funded and prepared car than his occasionally amateurish rivals and a driven desire to prove himself in professional racing, Piquet would round out the year in a very solid fifth position in the overall standings, despite pitching himself against some highly experienced drivers with multiple years of knowledge driving the skittish Formula car, and having only competed in a total of seven races that year.

    2002 would be an infinitely more impressive year for the Brazilian’s second season in the series, with Piquet adding a further 13 race wins, 16 pole positions and a drivers championship during the 17 race season.

    Practically unbeatable in his Piquet Sport car, the massive success and media hype surrounding young Piquet Jr. would propel the driver to the most important and competitive Formula Three series in the world for 2003 – The British F3 championship.

    In only his second full season of car racing (2001 was a part season), Piquet would bring his new Piquet Sport Formula Three team over to the United Kingdom against incredibly stiff opposition, rounding out a remarkably composed and mature year of racing in a brand new country, with a brand new team on circuits he had never raced on before to finish an impressive third overall, a feat made all the more impressive considering he would be racing against a field that would include no less than seven future Formula One Grand Prix drivers.

    Building confidence in the youngster and aided by a not inconsiderable budget thanks to the Piquet name, Nelson Jr. would also take in a number of races outside of his main championship challenge during 2003, notably scoring an impressive double podium in the Masters of Formula Three and Korean SuperPrix standalone F3 festivals.

    With confidence high and experience building up quicker than those around him, 2004 would bring with it championship success in his second season of British F3, taking five poles and six race victories over the course of the 24 race season to end the year as drivers champion, even finding time to take in several standalone F3 events, albeit without the success of previous years.

    A move to GP2 was inevitable for Piquet the following season, once again moving up through the single seater career ladder with his own Piquet Sport team, entering a series arguably entering the peak of its competitive powers and boasting a packed grid of highly regarded talent, not least of which would be eventual 2005 series champion Nico Rosberg and future Formula One drivers Heikki Kovalainen, Scott Speed and Giorgio Pantano, alongside future multiple World Touring Car champion and current Formula E and World Endurance Championship driver José María López.

    Piquet would acquit himself well in his first season in the Formula One supporting series, securing a number of podium places and a race victory at the mighty Spa circuit, however inconstant performances in the middle of the season would prevent the driver from challenging for a stronger championship finish than his eventual eight place at season's end.

    Nelson Piquet Jnr A1GP.jpg

    The short lived but incredibly awesome A1 GP Series would follow for Piquet, representing his beloved Brazil in the new A1 GP Cup of Nations contest utilising the powerful Lola Zytek open wheel race car. Of course the chance to represent his country in an international level series would be hard to resist, and with a driver still short on experience at the very top level of single seat racing by the winter of 2005, Piquet would jump at the chance to sharpen his skill set before a second season in the GP2 series and potential title challenge.

    The inaugural year of A1 GP would not be without it's troubles, however Piquet and car share team mate Christian Fittipaldi would perform solidly throughout the season on route to sixth overall in the standings, with two poles and two wins for the youngster serving as a perfect boost ahead of the new GP2 season.

    With more experience for both team and driver heading into 2006, Piquet would find 2006 much more to his and Piquet Sport's liking, with a battle royal between both the Brazilian and rival Lewis Hamilton lighting up one of the best seasons in the history of the series, resulting in a race to the very end of the year ending in Hamilton's favour, 12 points clear in the race for the championship.

    Nelson Piquet Jnr GP2.jpg

    2006 would mark out Piquet as a seriously credible driver worthy of a chance in Formula One. Strong race craft, blisteringly quick single lap pace and a composed championship challenge throughout the year, earning himself a role with the then championship winning Renault team as test and reserve driver for the coming season.

    Piquet would rack up plenty of miles in the yellow car throughout 2007, supporting main drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalaninen around the test tracks of the world, eventually doing enough to earn a seat alongside returning Renault hero Fernando Alonso for the 2008 season.

    Nelson Piquet Jnr F1.jpg

    Piquet's time in a race seat in Formula One wouldn't end up as successful as either driver or team expected at the start of his junior career, with little in the way of performances or results to show for his opening races in Formula One. Trounced by the returning Fernando Alonso, Piquet would soon find himself in a supporting role at Enstone as the Renault management put their full weight behind Alonso's faltering World Championship challenge, unsurprisingly echoing the very successful formula adopted by the then titled Benneton team in the glory days of Michael Schumacher during the early 1990's.

    With performances lacking any serious conviction and his confidence gradually eroded by the situation within the team the Formula One circus headed to the new Singapore Grand Prix in September for the 15th round of the championship. Unbeknown to team and driver, the race would eventually prove to be the catalyst for ending both Piquet and ultimately Renaults participation in Formula One in the near future, with the race having now gone down in history as one of the more blatant and dangerous attempts at cheating in the recent history of the sport.

    Nelson Piquet Jr F1 Crash.jpg

    Heading into the fourteenth lap of the race, with teammate Alonso the only front running driver to have stopped for fuel, Piquet would be instructed by Team Principle and manager Flavio Briatore and long standing Renault technical engineer Pat Symonds to deliberately crash his car on a section of track not adequately covered by marshal extraction equipment, effectively guaranteeing a safety car period and placing Alonso in prime position to take the lead of the Grand Prix, something the Spaniard managed in fine style as his stroked the car home for his and Renault's first race win of the season.

    Despite adamant claims from the team that the crash was the cause of a simple mistake, Piquet would go public following his sacking during the 2009 season and effectively end all possibility of the driver remaining in Formula One with another team, regardless of his lack of any conviction for wrongdoing from the FIA investigation on the back of his and his fathers claims in 2009.

    Piquet would walk away from the world of Formula One during the 2009 season with a major black mark against his name, and desperate to repair a once sterling reputation in the sport as he looked to remain a professional paid motor racing driver for 2010.

    * Piquet was actually christened Nelson Ângelo Tamsma Piquet Souto Maior, but understandably is better known as either Nelsinho Piquet or Nelson Piquet Jr.

    Formula One Career Statistics
    Wins: 0
    Poles: 0
    Podiums: 1
    Fastest Laps: 0
    Teams: Renault

    Nelson Piquet Jnr NASCAR  .jpg
    For 2010 the now disgraced Brazilian driver would do what anyone in his positon would do, he moved over to the Land of the Free and attempted to kick start a professional career left in tatters following the 2008 / 09 Renault debacle.

    Snagging himself a one-off appearance in the then titled NASCAR Nationwide Series and three drives in Camping World Trucks, Piquet would very quickly find himself on the road to establishing himself within an American audience seemingly happy to allow the driver an opportunity to make up for his past mistakes in Formula One.

    2010 would be a difficult year for the driver as he looked to adapt to a completely different style of racing on America's oval facilities, however the former Grand Prix star managed to form enough of a strong impression to secure himself a decent ride under the guidance of NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick's truck series team for 2011, competing in 25 rounds of the series and winding up an impressive 10th overall in the year end standings, one of the more impressive rookie performances for a non native North American driver in an official sanctioned NASCAR series in recent years. Piquet would find himself well and truly on the patch to establishing himself over in America after his debut campaign, doing enough to earn himself a full time drive in the Turner Motorsport truck team for 2012 in what would be his most successful NASCAR year of his career.

    Nelson Piquet Jnr NASCAR Trucks.jpg

    Driving for Turner Motorsport in his second consecutive truck racing season, Piquet would manage a brace of race victories to add to his three hard earned pole positions during 2012, even branching out to the NASCAR supporting Nationwide Series for two rounds and picking up another race victory for his team, leaving Piquet Jr. will a very respectable seventh overall in the truck series standings at the end of the season and a promotion to a full time Nationwide drive for 2013, again under the management of the Turner Motorsport team.

    Unfortunately the earlier successes secured by the partnership would fail to materialise on a regular basis in the new season and Piquet would soon find himself looking for an alternative means of employment at the end of the year following the withdrawal of key sponsors of the Brazilian driver, dissolving the contract a year early and walking away from his attempts to establish himself in the highly competitive world of NASCAR competition.

    Nelson Piquet Jnr Global Rallycross.jpg

    Undeterred by having to cut short his NASCAR adventure, Piquet would act quickly to re-establish himself in professional competition by signing up for very busy schedule of activity in 2014, making his debut in the growing Global Rallycross series alongside several appearance's in Blancpain GT racing and a full time drive in the brand new Formula E electric open wheel championship, something he would continue to participate in through each of its three seasons to date.

    Despite now plying his trade in Rallycross cars that are as far removed from his recent experience base as possible, Piquet would find himself almost immediately right at the very sharp end of the field during 2014. The Brazilian driver showed a tremendous ability to adapt to his new surroundings on the loose stuff, heading off a very successful season with fourth overall in the standings, securing four podium finishes across the 10 round season and doing enough to secure a new contract for the following two years.

    Alongside his commitments in Rallycross Piquet would dip his toes into the world of GT racing in the Blancpain GT Sprint series, committing to an eight race schedule for BMW Team Brazil that yielded some promising performances despite a lowly eighth in the overall standings, reiterating his long stated desire to one day take a shot at the overall win at the legendary Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race.

    Despite what was undoubtedly a very strong performance in the GRC series, 2014 would be a breakthrough year for Piquet as he looked to return to open wheel competition for the first time since his ignominious exit from Formula One, securing himself a drive in the very first running of the new all electric Formula E championship.

    Somewhat uniquely spanning over two calendar years and running outside of the main championship schedules, Formula E would be the perfect environment for Piquet to pick back up on his single seater career whilst maintaining his programme in GRC, and the shift back to open cockpit cars would prove to be a very successful move for the now 29 year old driver, with both Piquet and his China Racing team going on to achieve championship honours in the inaugural season, taking two race victories and 144 points on their way to becoming drivers champions, Piquet's first drivers title since his hugely successful Mil Milhas Brasil season back in 2006.

    Nelson Piquet Jr Formula E.jpg
    Formula E would be the making of Piquet on the international racing scene, propelling his back into the public spotlight following his years in the wilderness over in the United States. Many eyes would be trained on the new Formula E championship during the 2014/15 season as the world waiting to see if electric racing really was the answer to future motorsports, and Piquet would take the opportunity with both hands as he forced his unfancied China Racing car towards the front of the field at practically every opportunity.

    Title success in year one would boost the confidence of Piquet heading into 2015 as he looked to maintain his winning form in Formula E alongside his continued Global Rallycross commitments, a duel programme that continued to bring success to the Brazilian as he again finished fourth in GRC after taking his first win, alongside further broadening his experience with drives in Indy Lites (two races, one win) and the Stock Car Brazil series where he would retire from pole position.

    Sadly his positive results from other series would not transfer to the second season of Formula E over the 2015/16 series, with a stark loss of form leaving him a very disappointed 15th overall, with just eight points on the board and never looking like he would seriously challenge for big results throughout the season.

    2016 would see some further outings in GRC for his SH Rallycross team, however Piquet would end the relationship prematurely after just three rounds when the opportunity to try his hand in prototype endurance racing came about courtesy of the Rebellion LMP2 team, giving Piquet his first shot at Le Mans glory and three outings in the main World Endurance Championship series. No major results would come of the partnership between Piquet and Rebellion, however the obvious potential displayed by Piquet during his limited outings in endurance racing would lead to a renewed assault on LMP 2 for 2017, with the driver now racing under the new Vaillante Racing colours and again participating in a limited WEC and Le Mans assault alongside his Formula E commitments, finishing a highly impressive third overall at Le Mans before post race disqualification on a technical infringement lead to the team being stripped of their hard earned podium position.

    Fortunes would once again be distinctly low key for Piquet in Formula E during the 2016/17 season, despite the Brazilian securing his first win since his title winning debut year in the series. Remaining with the now rebranded NextEV NIO team Piquet would look much more like the driver who first rocked up in the series back in 2014/15, however 11th overall would a disappointing reward at the end of the year and leaves Piquet's participation in the next season of racing very much in doubt.

    So where is Piquet now?

    2017 has been a disjointed year for a driver looking at something of a career crossroad. With a couple of faltering years in Formula E behind him, it looks very much like the focus for Piquet is a new career in endurance GT racing, with duel programmes driving sporadically in World Endurance events for Rebellion / Vaillante and a continuation of his strengthening BMW relationship aboard the team Teo Martin M6 GT3 in the expanding International GT Open series.

    Recent speculation has Piquet very firmly linked with a new Jaguar Formula E entry for next season alongside his Vaillante LMP2 commitments, however with a driver as unpredictable as Piquet has proven himself in recent years and at only 32 years of age, anything could happen....

    Career Highlights
    2002 Formula Three Sudamericana - 1st
    2003 British Formula Three - 3rd
    2003 Masters of Formula Three - 2nd
    2003 F3 Korea Superprix - 3rd
    2004 British Formula Three - 1st
    2004 European Formula Three Cup - 4th
    2005 GP2 - 8th
    2005 A1GP - 6th
    2006 GP2 - 2nd
    2006 LM24 - 4th (GT1)
    2006 Mil Milhas Brasil - 1st
    2011 NASCAR Camping World Trucks - 10th
    2012 NASCAR Camping World Trucks - 7th
    2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series - 12th
    2014 Global Rallycross - 4th
    2014/15 Formula E - 1st
    2015 Global Rallycross - 4th

    We hope you are enjoying our 'Where Are They Now' series of articles. In case you missed it, check out the previous features on the links below:

    How do you rate the professional career of Piquet Jnr? Did the now infamous Singapore Crashgate scandal unfairly cast a shadow over the obviously talented Brazilian? Let us know in the comments section below!
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017
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  2. Oversteer


    Very good article series I didnt knew RD did these kind of stuff good job guys! :thumbsup:
    And you really explained the whole career of Piquet Jr beyound my knowledge (and I´m Brazilian) and I think that Piquet Jr is a great driver but off course he had his ups and downs but overall he is a fast and competitive driver that´s not afraid to try new things and I believe that is what made him climb out of his father shadow despite carring somewhat of the "explosive and cocky" gene from his father. :roflmao:
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  3. snyperal


    Another driver gone from f1 too early.
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  4. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    I rated Piquet I must admit. I was fortunate to be closely following F3 at the time of Piquet racing here in the UK and watched many of his successes and met him several times. Even back then he had that "star" quality many of the youngsters lack.

    I think he cocked up in F1 and never recovered, which is sad really.

    Fun fact.. during his victory at Donington Park in F3 we were at the podium and Piquet Sr stood on my mates foot! Didn't even apologise... from a Mansell fan I have no surprise about that whatsoever.... a hole.. :D
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  5. Eric Rowland

    Eric Rowland

  6. Nick Gregory

    Nick Gregory
    Forever a backmarker Premium

    It makes me wonder how things might have gone for him had he refused to crash on purpose at Singapore in 2008.
  7. kondor999


    So, basically someone who had every single opportunity imaginable in motorsport and yet will be remembered primarily for:

    1) Cheating.
    2) Ratting out his team.

    Bright future ahead, obviously!
  8. Terry Rock

    Terry Rock

    Every time I see Pat and Flavio, I can't help but feel a bit of sorrow for this young man.
    Sure! he could have said 'no'...but his career was largely scuppered by that decision.
    To see them act as if nothing ever happened and be embraced by top personnel as they are now, is a bit sad.
    He basically lost his way after that crash-gate incident.
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  9. Paul Kelly

    Paul Kelly

    Merci, Paul. You continue to present us with interesting and unusual info on our sport. Love your articles!
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  10. Spocky


    A couple of minor complaints, Lopez has lost his seat at DS Virgin and looks to possibly be out of E, Piquet did not win in the 2016-17 season, and Jaguar is not a new entry for next year.
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  11. @apocapollo


    You left out the part where Piquet kicked Brian Scott in the balls on pit-road after a NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 2013.

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  12. Nestoche


    So let me get this straight, I never understood this "Crash Gate" fiasco, and I am no fan of the Piquet's, especially Sr, I think Sr. a jerk! But I don't get why Piquet Jr. was blacked-balled from F1! Because he snitched on his team that made him crash his car to benefit the other team #1 driver? He was obviously following "Team" orders... no?

    Of course, the scumbags (Pat and Flavio) who order the hit did get punished and were out of F1 but it doesn't make any sense why F1 or the FIA had to punish Piquet as well. So all the other F1 teams colluded in not hiring this young man and denied his future career in F1 because he followed orders from two egomaniacs? Is that an F1/FIA policy among this corrupt organization?....SMH...Please someone enlighten me.

  13. snyperal


    Ironic isn't it that he crashes his car to show loyalty and obey orders then the top brass dismiss him, with no drive for next season its no surprise he grassed the lot of them up. Such a shame it's ruined his f1 career as I believe he could've been a contender.
  14. Andrew Harper

    Andrew Harper

    A talented driver for sure and I didn't realise he'd tried so many different disciplines. He's not someone I'm over keen on but I certainly like his character a lot more than his Dad :laugh:

    The whole crashgate thing though was pretty bad. Never been a fan of Flavio and I would be happy never to see him in F1 again (he keeps hovering around). I sometimes wonder why he's loved so much by sections of F1 when he treated most of his drivers pretty badly. Piquet Jr isn't the only one who they chewed up and spat out.

    Anyway on a positive note, glad to see him doing well and in a way he could of had a pretty dreadful time in F1 if his decisions went the wrong way. So the fact he's now in a top WEC team (and done very well in Formula E) is great for him.

    On a side note A1 GP was really entertaining and I miss it in a way. The racing was good but they went to some really amazing venues as well.
  15. Ghoults


    Personally I see the crashgate as a huge black mark against piquet. Piquet was one of the best placed drivers to say no to the crashing. He was rich, he had pretty solid racing record so far in the lower classes and a name that basically guarantees drives. He had very little to win and all to lose. And by all I mean his racing career. His life outside f1 was still comfortable. And in the end what kind of future did he think he was going to get at renault with alonso, briatore and symonds? Piquet was far better positioned to say no than some poor kid whose parents had taken huge loans to get their child into f1. Those kids had all to lose. Piquet had nothing to gain.

    Piquet had his career bought for him and that barely made a dent to his fathers wealth. From that pov the crashing is unforgivable. To say no would not have just been the right thing to do but had he said no he would have landed in feathers. It was not like f1 career or mcdonalds career for him. It was renault f1 or something else, still f1 probably.
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  16. Andrew Harper

    Andrew Harper

    Yes I agree with you. I don't want to be too hard on the guy but he shows signs of brilliance and then gets mixed up in things that he should be not doing or saying yes to.

    One of the original stories I read was that it was Piquet's idea alongside Pat and Flavio but I see that's been changed over the period of time and the subsequent investigation. Although most thought he should have been banned as well.

    Flavio was a pretty vicious team manager though, I can just imagine what Nelson was told if he didn't do what he was asked. I see he was planning on suing the Piquet family for ruining his character. I don't know how far that went. Not very probably.

    Piquet is very lucky to still be in motorsport at all after that incident and I would imagine it would be pretty bloody difficult to get sponsors to stay with you as well.

    I guess the one thing that I didn't think of is their actions probably affected the championship. Massa was leading easily that race and the subsequent safety car and messed up fuel stop cost him valuable points which in Brazil meant he lost by one point. All ifs and buts I know but it's still leaves a stain on F1.
  17. Leonardo Chaves

    Leonardo Chaves

    Piquet was unlucky in getting Alonso as his team mate when he got into F1, worst of all an Alonso with the "Hamilton trauma" still very recent, on a team run by Briatore... bad move by Piquet Sr here.

    While he probably would've had a long career if he had Kovaleinen as his first team mate as it was the original idea, i don't think he had star potential, he was passed over by Williams who choose Rosberg over him and he always took a while to flourish in a category.
  18. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    Well I'll be buggered. Piquet article takes bloody hours to write - 16 comments.
    Asking opinions on Project CARS that took all of 30 seconds - 64 comments!

    Looks like I now know the trick to getting community engagement going :p:roflmao:

    Coming up tomorrow...

    Project CARS objectively better physics than rFactor 2, discuss....

  19. Angelo dos Santos

    Angelo dos Santos

    Wonderful piece of writing, Paul. :thumbsup:

    I live in Brasilia, the city where Nelsinho started his kart career.
    I was at that time, trying to kick start mine aswell, but I was quite a bit older than him...and of course, I had no support at all. Plus my family was getting destroyed at that time, personal stuff.

    At 17 years of age (1995), I was doing a driving school, with a outdated go kart, old tires, outdated engine, and prepared to not have the slight chance of blow. I was doing my practice on the Master class, 125cc engine go karts.
    And on this end of afternoon, I was finishing my day, and arrives at the track this huge truck, Piquet Sports, with professional personel and with like 4 karts and tons of spare parts and tires. That was Nelsinho getting ready to run a few laps before the end of the day.

    In the end I was doing my laps learning my way, and Nelsinho´s crew saw a chance of good practice for him for a race on that weekend. At that time I guess he had 10 or 11 years of age. And he was doing the Junior class, with karts with a lot of less power, and smaller aswell.
    So they sent Nelsinho ahead of me like 10seconds, and everytime we went past the pit straight the whole crew of the truck was spanking the wall like "push push push" for him, to keep me at bay.
    Was funny. I was in a more powerful kart, but the whole rest he had the best, and our lap times were about 0,5 of each other, with me catching slowly.
    In the end, when I was about 2secs behind, I had to go to the pits. My fuel quota and track time was over, and I couldnt afford more that day.

    So I debriefed with my mechanic and my mentor, and we all agree, that was my best day of learning up until that point.
    Of course, my "career" didnt last much longer after that.

    That is the memory I have with Nelson Piquet Jr....lol

    Such a shame what happened to him in his F1 career, but he can only blame himself for it. There are no excuses for that.
    But Im happy that he turned the page and found himself again in such different classes.
    He is a impressive driver that adapts in a incredible way to different cars.

    I think last year, he drove the brazilian Stock Cars in a special event, and he did the fastest time overall, even amongst the official drivers of the series, and we have some pretty strong names around there.
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  20. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    Yes I know how that feels! I was once having some fun with a TKM Paul Carr Venom at PFI International test day with some mates. Ok we had no really serious ambitions of going professional as we were already too old and too poor (hence moving to sims :) ), but we did try our best. We had an old Y reg 1982 Ford Escort with the kart hanging out the back (the headlights died on the way home at night, so we had to drive on the motorway tailgating one of our other friends), and we had one set of pretty short overalls and a second hand helmet between us. Man we had fun.

    Anyway towards the middle of the afternoon in rocked Martin Brundle and his son with a brand new Mercedes van, two karts on the back and full awning setup. Young Brundle Jr had a helmet worth more than our entire road car / kart / tools / clothes / personal items put together.

    After that we pretty much knew the game was up, and moved on to getting drunk (successful) and chasing women (less successful).

    Happy days.
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