Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: the Grand Prix

According to the current advertisement, Soichiro Honda once said that the value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred.

He's absolutely right. Life is largely dull but then once in a while God comes along and splashes a dollop of Tabasco into the equation, providing a moment you will cherish forever.

Like, a couple of years ago, when I was sitting on a half empty plane as supermodel Jodie Kidd sauntered down the aisle. No way, I thought, would she be sitting next to me. I always get the fat bloke. Or someone with sinus problems. But she did.

Then there was the first time I tried oysters. What looked like an alternative to eating bogeys turned out to be the world's best taste sensation.

And then there was ‘that' scene in The Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins escapes, after serving 30 years for a crime he didn't commit.

These are the Himalayan peaks that make life worth living but all of them, and the first kiss, first cigarette, and first time I drove a Ferrari, pale into insignificance compared to the moment in the Australian Grand Prix when Heinz-Harald Frentzen crashed.

I squeaked the squeak of a farmyard animal as his Williams careered into the gravel trap. And then the fire extinguisher sprayed water in his face. The man was down and the car was kicking him. It was wonderful.

I had been dreading the start of the GP season. I felt ITV would make a complete Horlicks of it, and I also felt it would be a two-horse race.

Jacques Villeneuve would tear off into the middle distance with Herr Frentzen in hot pursuit. And the rest would be worker bees, struggling to look interesting between the adverts.

Practice did little to cast much doubt. Jacques managed to arrive back at the finish line before he'd set off, while the others appeared to be in reverse. But when the race started, all hell broke loose. Eddie Irvine shoved Jacques and the hapless Herbert into the pit and I woke up. I'm still buzzing now, because that race provided everything that's gone missing from Antiques Roadshow.

"I'm still buzzing now, because that race provided everything that's gone missing from Antiques Roadshow"

It is of course lovely when a crappy drawing that someone bought for 4p in a jumble sale turns out to be worth half-a-million quid. But it's nowhere near as satisfying as seeing the smug grin wiped off some pensioner's face when what they think is a priceless Ming vase turns out to be valueless.

Sadly, this doesn't happen much any more. These days, they gallop to get to the price. And they rarely show the failures. However, thank to the Australian Grand Prix, yah boo sucks humour is back, big time.

It was of course sad to see Damon coast out before the race had even begun. But can you imagine how pleased the boy was when he saw his replacement crash with just two laps to go. And not just that - he crashed chasing a car that everyone knows is massively inferior.

Now it was of course delightful that David Coult-hard won, in his British car with its British engine - especially as I was off to Sardinia with a bunch of Germans the next day - but I've always had a soft spot for Mika Hakkinen.

And did you see him climb out of his car and hug the Scot? What a moment. Surely we haven't seen drama like this since Pam Ewing's dream. Only this was real and I was choked.

I was even more choked, however, when ITV didn't bother showing us the Flying Finn's post-race interview. They cut back to the studio where a bloke was talking to two other blokes about blokey things.

Actually, apart from Rosenthal who seemed a little bewildered by the whole thing, I thought ITV did a damn good job, mainly I guess because Murray is still there, screaming and generally making everything sound ten times more exciting than it actually is. I'd like to see Murray do Antiques Roadshow one week.

Of course, he had it easy in Australia because it was a great race but the rest of the season will be a different story. Those Williams are going to stroll round, and clean up.

I don't care what happened in South America because, right now, I'm in New Zealand where they race sheep, not cars. But I know for a fact, Villeneuve will be world champion.

Therefore, if you want your life to be stirred, it seems your best bet is a test drive in the Honda Civic.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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