Jacques Villeneuve – Tommi Makinen – Mick Doohan: the meeting of the championsWritten by 'Αγγελος Φωτσεινός
Translated by Giannis Binas
Barcelona, 22-23 April 1998.
What can happen when the reigning Formula 1, WRC and MotoGP champions find themselves at the same circuit?
Response: an event with an unexpected outcome, the details of which will be recounted at the present article.
In the context of promoting its brand name, Australian tobacco industry Winfield, organized the “day of the champions”.
Protagonists to the event were the drivers who conquered 1997 world drivers’ title in Formula 1, WRC and MotoGP, namely the Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the Finnish Tommi Makinen and the Australian Mick Doohan.
Common background of these drivers was the sponsorship connection: Villeneuve was Winfield Williams Mecachrome’s driver, Makinen had raced in Rally Australia in 1997 with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV painted at the tobacco firm’s colors and Doohan (besides originating from the land of kangaroos) had raced in the past under the sponsorship of the ‘sister’ tobacco firm Rothmans (Honda’s sponsor in MotoGP until 1993, then sponsor in Williams F1 during 1994-1997).
Someone would expect that ‘day of the champions’ would entail a battle between the three drivers, including alternating ‘weapons’ and terrain – a dream of every motorsports enthusiast.
For safety reasons though, the choices were a racetrack and a testing of the FW19 (the single-seater that gave Villeneuve the title) by Makinen and Doohan.
The Canadian undertook the ‘teaching’ of how to drive the car, but the students did not pay much attention to their teacher’s words.
Doohan was the first to seat behind FW19’s steering wheel.
He didn’t manage to complete even half a lap, since he had an exit in turn 4.
At his 2nd attempt, he did better, completing 8 laps (out of which, the best was just 5 seconds short compared to the time scored at his MotoGP race in 1997).
"To be behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car is not as easy as it looks - the drivers know what they can do and can not do"
On the 2nd day of the event, it was Makinen’s turn to drive the car.
His 1st effort was similar to Doohan’s: he also fell victim of the cold tires, just a few meters beyond where the Australian had an exit.
His second effort though was much better, until the 8th lap, when he had a major accident (thankfully without any consequences for himself, just some extensive damage to the car) while driving at 250 km/h.
It was an inglorious finale in ‘Mr Maximum Attack’s’ effort, who, nevertheless, was pleased with the car.
''I am so disappointed but at around 175mph I tried to change up a gear from fifth to sixth but thought I was in my rally car and tried to change down and all I could do was wait until I stopped spinning.
To drive a Formula One car was a dream come true for me and it was an experience I will never forget.
I have never flown in a moon rocket but I'm sure that is a similar experience.
There is no time to think driving a Formula One car.
I'm just so sorry the test ended in this way.''
Whether the experience of driving a single-seater can be compared to flying a rocket, cannot be told for certain – Jacques Villeneuve though, was furious with Williams for not allowing him to test Doohan’s Honda NSR500…