The definitive René Arnoux thread

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The definitive René Arnoux thread

Post by Antonov » 2 weeks ago

Why was he dropped by Ferrari following the first race of the 1985 season?
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Post by erwin greven » 2 weeks ago

Dear Nigel
As a kid I loved to watch Rene Arnoux race, especially in 1982 and 1983. It always seemed to me he was a real racer, never giving up. What are your thoughts on him as a race driver, and what was the reason for his sudden dismissal at Ferrari in early 1985?
Arjan Velthoven, Arnhem, Netherlands

Dear Arjan,

A very strange little guy, Rene Arnoux, and one I always found difficult to fathom, frankly.

In many ways, I always had sympathy for him, because he was from a poor background, with a thick 'country' accent, and there were those in the French racing community who ridiculed him for it. When he first came into F1, with Tico Martini's little team in 1978, he was painfully shy and timid, but anyone who had seen drive an F2 car at a place like Rouen Les Essarts had no doubts about his ability and courage.

When Renault decided to run a second F1 car, in 1979, their first choice to partner Jean-Pierre Jabouille was Didier Pironi, but Ken Tyrrell declined to release Pironi from his contract, and so Arnoux got the drive. He was married to a charming girl called Nelly at the time, and he once told me that they both burst into tears upon learning that the drive was his. At last he was into the big time, and had done it on talent alone.

Now we really saw what a racer Rene was - notably at Dijon, in which he fought a battle in the late laps with Gilles Villeneuve which has gone into motor racing legend. Early in 1980 he won his first Grand Prix, at Interlagos, and a month later came his second, at Kyalami.

In 1981, though, his career began to unravel, for by now Alain Prost had joined the team, and from the outset obviously had the upper hand. In these circumstances, Rene's form rather evaporated, and by the end of the year Renault was ready to drop him - indeed, it was Alain who persuaded the management to keep him on.

For 1982 there was no designated team leader - which Rene took as a slight, feeling that he had been effectively demoted. A more realistic fellow might have counted himself fortunate not to be the firm number two.

However, having suffered a great loss of confidence in '81, Arnoux recovered himself in '82. His driving may have lacked the sheer quality of Prost's, but at many races he matched him for pace.

If there were no team leader at Renault, from the outset Gerard Larrousse (then competitions boss at the Regie) made it clear that, as the season took shape, he with the best shot at the World Championship would be given preference. If the Renaults were running 1-2, in other words, the driver in the best points position should win.

And so in July we came to Paul Ricard. Prost had 19 points, Arnoux 4. They qualified first and second, and no one could realistically challenge them. Before the race Rene agreed that Alain should win.

Arnoux took the lead at the start, but Prost didn't worry. An hour and 33 minutes later he was still in front - and now Prost worried a lot. On the rostrum Alain made no scene - this was not his way - but inwardly he was livid and afterwards made his feelings clear to the management.

"If I had been in Arnoux's position," Alain said, "I would not have agreed to Larrousse's suggestion. This was a race, after all, and I thought the idea unrealistic. If Rene had refused, I would have perfectly understood. But the fact is that he did agree, and on that basis we went into the race. He gave his word, and he broke it. That was why I was angry."

France, broadly, took Arnoux's side. Prost was depicted as the villain of the piece, the spoiled star who whinged because he hadn't been allowed to win. Fair and square, the awkward and unsophisticated working class boy from Grenoble had beaten the prima donna, right?

"I couldn't believe the bad publicity I got," said Prost, "and I told Larrousse I would leave Renault if Arnoux stayed. A simple decision. In Formula 1 it's psychologically important to feel at home in a team; feel that everyone is on the same side. Otherwise, it's not possible to drive well and I know I didn't drive anywhere near my best in 1982. You must trust your team mate. I remember what happened with Villeneuve, after Pironi duped him at Imola; I learned a lesson from that.

"The problems with Arnoux were not confined to that day at Ricard," Alain continued. "After I'd won the first two races in '82, he was very upset; stopped working, had no interest in the debriefings, refused to test and so on. During qualifying at Monaco, for example, he twice deliberately blocked me when I was on a quick lap - and we were in the same team!

"After Ricard he went on to the French press about how nothing had gone right for him; that he had fought all this time; that he was always unlucky - the underdog. A martyr, you see. And the French adore martyrs. Some of the journalists wrote that Arnoux had done the right thing, but they simply didn't know the facts, and I was annoyed that my team didn't back me up afterwards.

"There was absolutely no reason for Rene to behave like a martyr, because he had good cars, with everything necessary to win races. He always tried very hard to get all the people and the press on his side - but you have to be honest. If I don't want to speak to someone, I don't. But if I do, then I will speak the truth..."

Prost I liked immensely from the day he came into F1, and at first, Arnoux, too, was easy indeed to get along with. His first Grand Prix season, with the underfinanced Martini team was disastrous, and you felt nothing but sympathy for this shy little fellow who had starred in F2, and often wistfully spoke of returning to it. When he got the big break - the Renault drive - most had rejoiced for him.

In time, though, he changed. And when he moved to Ferrari for 1983, he took on what he saw as the essential accoutrements of the superstar. There were three more wins that year, which brought him close to the title, but in 1984 he was usually outclassed by new team mate Michele Alboreto, and early in 1985 was dropped.

I do know why he was kicked out of Ferrari, but explaining it is very difficult, for a variety of reasons, some of which are delicate. At the first Grand Prix of 1985, in Rio, he had an unplanned pit stop, but afterwards came through from 19th to fourth. That was to be his last race for Ferrari.

The year before, teamed with Alboreto, he was invariably outpaced, and did not respond well to that. For much of the season his driving was erratic, and there were suggestions that his physical condition was not all that it might have been.

A few days after the Brazilian race in '85, Arnoux had a meeting with Enzo Ferrari, and it not go well - in fact, Rene stormed out. Soon aftewards, it was announced that he had asked to be released from the contract, following problems with leg muscles which had required surgery the previous winter.

This 'official explanation' was plainly economic with the truth, let's say, and fooled no one. At the next race, in Portugal, Arnoux was replaced by Stefan Johansson. Later, of course, now restored to health and fitness, Rene returned to F1 with a spell at Ligier. He was never, though, to win another Grand Prix.

These days he seems a happy man, and regularly shows up at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, driving the Renaults in which he made his name. How do I remember his time in F1? Well, I recall days when his presence in a race went completely unnoticed - but also those, when he was really on his game, that were breathtaking, as at Montreal in 1983, when he simply drove away from everyone.

If Dijon '79 stands out in the memory, so also does the one and only race in Dallas, in 1984. Again, this was not a race which Arnoux won, but he put in a quite extraordinary drive. The conditions that day were terrible, with temperatures of well over 100 degrees, and a track surface which broke up appallingly - 13 of the 26 starters finished up in the wall.

Rene, after qualifying third, had to start at the back when his car failed to fire up for the formation lap. This was a tight 'street' track, yet he passed six cars on the opening lap, and eventually finished second to Keke Rosberg, having made not a single mistake on a day which caught out such as Prost, Lauda and Alboreto. A fantastic drive by one who, on his day, was as quick as there was
https://www.ferrarichat.com/forum/threa ... ed.187384/
Brian Redman: "Mr. Fangio, how do you come so fast?" "More throttle, less brakes...."

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Post by Antonov » 2 weeks ago

Thank you very much for that, erwin!

Seems even stranger now. Strange little guy as the article says.
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Post by kals » 2 weeks ago

Yes thanks erwin

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Post by Antonov » 2 weeks ago

Anyone knows more about the various reasons, some of which are 'delicate' ?
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Post by Michael Ferner » 2 weeks ago

That's just a euphemism for "I know shit, but I want you to think I know it all and can keep a secret, because I am a member of the inner circle". :rolleyes:
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Post by xavier28 » 1 week ago

I had a picture with him at Goodwood 2015, nice bloke willing to chat to all and have a laugh
Racing is in my blood, ( Senna @ adeliade press confrence after the he was excluded from the 1989 japanesse grand prix

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