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Heidfeld on his Goodwood run: “I wasn’t doing anything special”
Next year marks 20 years since Nick Heidfeld set a record at FoS that stands to this day
Nick Heidfeld is quick. Indeed, his nickname is Quick Nick. He’s raced in every major motorsport discipline worth mentioning. Formula One. Le Mans. The Nürburgring. V8 Supercars. Porsche Supercup. Formula E.
And yet, one of his greatest achievements involved none of those things. Indeed, Google ‘Nick Heidfeld’ and one of the top suggestions is ‘Goodwood’. Because in 1999, Quick Nick climbed into a McLaren MP4/13, did a thing, and climbed out a hero.
“The feedback from the people watching afterwards was amazing,” he tells TopGear.com. We’re speaking in Cambiano, at Pininfarina’s HQ – Nick is the development driver for Automobili Pininfarina’s stunning new PF0 electric hypercar. We’ll come back to that shortly, because, well, Goodwood.
“Those that saw it live were later telling me ‘Nick, I was there, I stood on that corner’,” he fondly remembers, “it was so emotional. That it gave the people so much.
“Without the feedback from them after, it would not be so unique to me,” he says. What? Setting a course record of 41.6s which remains undefeated (Goodwood hasn’t run F1 cars for years because of safety reasons, but still) wouldn’t be a big deal without the people? Didn’t he feel like he was onto something special in those 41.6 seconds?
He laughs. “Not at all. I didn’t think I was doing anything special on that lap,” he tells us. “It was not on the limit. It looked aggressive, because the car was moving and following each camber, but the main thing was the time of the week and when it was run – it was the first time over the weekend that it was dry.”
So, he wasn’t even trying to go for a record. He was just trying to beat another racer. “The previous outing before mine was Bernd Maylander in a Le Mans car, and he was quicker than us, so we said ‘that’s not possible, we need to be quicker’.
“That was the mindset. To just be quicker than Bernd,” he laughs.
Certainly, his new career as a development driver for Automobili Pininfarina will give him yet another chance to be quicker than most. “My number one target [for the PF0] is to make it fun to drive,” he says. “The PF0 is not positioned as a track car, but as a luxurious car. So I want drivers to step inside and feel the same emotions as when they look at it from the outside.
“And obviously feel the huge power available at hand, to enjoy how an electric vehicle responds,” he adds. Huge power, check: the PF0 will have in the region of 1,900bhp and do 0-62mph in less than two seconds.
But power isn’t the be all and end all, despite the PF0 having the power to, well, end all. “For me, some of the most fun cars I’ve driven were not necessarily the most expensive and most powerful. For me the BMW M3 – whichever generation – was always huge fun.”
(As an aside, he reckons the E36 is the prettiest M3, while his father used to own an E30 “with the wing. Such a cool car”.)
He notes how McLaren got it spot on with the 570S, saying that should the PF0 reach that level of feedback and control, “for me personally that’s a car I’d love to drive”. To make something with heavy batteries feel light on a twisty road. These are good words.
Also, he wants to avoid the Testarossa trap. “When I was younger I loved cars, and bought a Ferrari Testarossa when I could,” he tells us, noting how cars that look good are important. But also they need to actually be good. “But then I’ve learned the hard way unfortunately: when I bought the Testarossa and drove it I thought ‘oh my god, what did I do here?’
“This will not happen with the PF0,” he says. We’ll find out in the near future if he’s right…