Breakfast with ... David Hobbs



Your Formula 1 career?

Very short… It was going to be 65 with Tim Parnell in the French Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand but to get there; I had to tow the car to France. I was in my Cortina and on the way down to Slough to pick up the race car, between Aylesbury and Bicester, a laundry truck coming the other way lurched off and I slammed into the side of it and broke my arm and my jaw and my cheeks and my nose. That was the end of my Formula 1 debut.

The following year I did have my Formula 1 debut at Syracuse with Tim (Parnell, legendary team owner) and I came third in his Lotus BRM behind the two factory Ferraris of Surtees and [Lorenzo] Bandini.

But it wasn’t a world championship race.

No. It was one of those non-championship races, so I didn’t get any points and I never did get points. However, in modern racing, I’d have got points in every F1 race I did because they go down to tenth today. I kept coming seventh and the points only went to sixth. I suppose one of the highlights would have been racing the Honda in 1968 at Monza when I was doing quite well until a valve dropped in the V12.

What was that like working with Honda?

Mr Nakamura was in charge of that. There were only about six of us. Pat (wife of John Surtees) was the timekeeper, then there was Nakamura, a couple of other mechanics, Laurie Hands was always there with the sparking plugs from Champion. I became a Honda dealer in 1987 and in 1993, I was on the American Dealer Council and a group of us went to Tokyo for the motor show. And when I went into Mr Kawamoto’s office, who was the president then, he leapt up from his desk and said, “Mr Hobbs, I must apologise most profusely for letting you down in the Italian Grand Prix in 1968 when the engine blew up – all my fault, all my fault.” These other dealers were standing there open-mouthed, because he was now the big cheese worldwide. He must have been just one of the guys working for Mr Nakamura.



I think I would have finished third or fourth in that Italian Grand Prix, because I was going well. I didn’t qualify very well because in those days, there was no qualifying, it was all practice and they timed every lap and then whatever was your fastest lap counted to your grid position.

They made me test the air-cooled V8, which was a horrible thing to drive. It had a red line of about 8000 rpm and gave no power until 7000, and I mean none. The chassis twisted like a pretzel so every time you changed the springs, you couldn’t tell any difference. Surtees was on pole in the other one and I was about 15th. In the race, I was humming along. I was up to about fourth or fifth before it broke.

John Surtees can be a demanding character. What was he like as a team-mate?

Difficult, especially as a boss. Very demanding, which is not a bad thing. I drove for Roger Penske and he’s demanding but it’s all very well organised. John was demanding but didn’t come up with his side of the bargain. The car was always late. I drove for him on and off for a long time in Formula 5000. He was a bit difficult to work for and it was all very frustrating because you’re working for a world champion on both two and four wheels and a man who’s a kind of icon. He must have ticked some people off somewhere because why he hasn’t got a knighthood? Beats the hell outta me. He should have one.