If you want an A-to-Z guide of motorsport, Mark Blundell is the man to talk to: he's raced in Formula Ford, Formula One, IndyCar, Le Mans and motocross. He's now an expert analyst for ITV's Formula One coverage and has his own sports management company that looks after young racing drivers.
You started on two wheels rather than four. How did you get into motocross?
I grew up in a rural area and when I was 14 there was a bunch of us mucking around in fields on old motorbikes. We decided we could do something in a competitive way and a few of us got together and got motocross bikes, and we went from there. Some of us progressed to club level and luckily I was quite sensible at it and managed to become one of the top 36 schoolboy riders in the country. It was a case of my competitive edge coming out.
And from there you got into Formula Ford 1600?
That's right. Formula Ford was the basic single-seater race car that everyone started in. My dad was a car trader for a big chunk of his life, so I was brought up around cars. We managed to acquire a Formula Ford and I went to a little race school in Lincolnshire called Cadwell Park. I set a couple of records, won a championship and came second in another. That's where it all started.
How did you get from there into Formula One?
I started motor racing in Formula Ford in 1984. By 1989 I was a test driver at Williams and by 1991 I was a full-blown grand prix driver. In my day, that was a quick turnaround, and I was one of the youngest guys in Formula One. After starting with Williams as a test driver I went to Brabham, and from Brabham I went back to being a test driver because I realised that back-of-the-grid teams were always going to be exactly that. So, I went straight to McLaren as a test driver for Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger. I did a good job and got noticed by a French team called Ligier, who took me on the following year. Then I went to Tyrell, and after that I went to McLaren and took over from Nigel Mansell, who was retiring. After that I got disheartened with Formula One and went to the United States to take part in IndyCar racing.
How does IndyCar racing differ from Formula One?
It's pretty similar. If you look at an IndyCar you won't see a huge difference. It's just a different style of racing because they have three different circuits. Predominantly you are running around on a street course. But you also race on oval circuits, and oval racing dominates around 40 per cent of the championship. The cars also reach much higher speeds than in Formula One – I think we were touching 248mph sometimes, so it's pretty rapid stuff – but there is a lot of risk involved as well.
You also got involved with the Le Mans 24-hours race...
Yes. In fact, that was one of the routes I took before I got into Formula One. I had already ventured into the World Sportscar Championship [the series that the Le Mans race used to be part of] and been there with Nissan as a factory driver. I set the record with Nissan as the youngest driver ever to achieve pole, which I think stands to this day. After IndyCar I went to Peugeot and won Le Mans in 1992. I have been back several times since and had second and fifth finishes – lots of strong results.
Do you still get involved with racing now?
I don't get behind the wheel as much these days, although I did 40 laps around Silverstone in a Williams car for a television slot that we did last year. Nowadays I either talk about motor racing on TV or look after the younger guys who we manage.
Tell us a bit more about the management company.
It's called 2MB Sports Management and is jointly owned by Martin Brundle and me. We have three young drivers on our books, at different levels, and all three have a contractual association with Formula One teams at the moment. They are on the brink and we hope that at least one of them is going to pull through. We are trying to get guys who have got potential, and we encourage them not to make the same mistakes we made. It's good trying to help the younger generation.
And what does your work with ITV involve?
I am going into my fifth year now, and all I try to do is explain things in layman's terms. I float into a race environment on a Thursday – if it's a European race – or from Tuesday if it's a long haul one. At that point you start to gather information and do your research, finding out what's going on in the paddock, and with the drivers and cars. From there we do some early filming, some voiceover work and a couple of interviews, and then it goes to the live show on Saturday before qualifying. Most of my TV work is live in fact, which is a real buzz.Reuse content