AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE 1979 WORLD CHAMPION
I must admit to having supported Gilles Villeneuve when the late Canadian and his teammate Jody Scheckter were duelling for the 1979 Formula 1 World Championship at Ferrari. In the end, Scheckter won. Sitting in front of the television as 14-year-old boy in Hungary, I never dared consider meeting the South African. But that’s what happened last weekend when he welcomed me to his Laverstoke Park Farm in West Sussex, England.
After a one hour train journey from London Waterloo to Overton, I was advised to take a taxi from the local station to Scheckter’s farm. The weather was typically autumnal for this part of South East England. Wind and drizzle. After a short delay, we arrived at the main building of the 2500-acre organic farm to meet the Champion. Jody Scheckter, 68, is fit and could easily pass for 15 years younger. His first-floor office lacks any sense of extravagancy – though, for me it was incredible to discover his racing helmet and models of his F1 cars. McLaren, Tyrrell, Wolf and finally Ferrari, even the dreadful 312 T5. On the walls, drawings in red frames of former Ferrari World Champions, from Ascari to Lauda and Scheckter. “They were free,” he says with a waggish smile. Soon I can sense the Champion, who is often described as an introvert, actually has a wicked sense of humour. After presenting him with a copy of my Gilles Villeneuve interview book (there’s a chapter devoted to Scheckter) I start with a loaded question.