As we walked in to the IWC Race Control building, there he was, the legend that is David Coulthard, sipping a beer having just won the Tony Gaze Trophy at the 77th Members’ Meeting. “Don’t mind me – all the driving is finished,” he said.
David Coulthard has ordered an Aston Martin Valkyrie AND an AMG Project One
While Coulthard, known by many simply as DC, never won a Formula 1 driver’s championship, in the world of modern F1 he is a very familiar face. Having started karting at the tender age of 11 before moving his way through the single-seater ranks, DC reached Formula 1 in 1994, joining Williams for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Since retiring from Formula 1, his face – and voice – have never been far from F1, having taken on presenting and commentary duties for the BBC and more recently Channel 4.
The rest of the time? He’s been taking care of his various business interests (including working to promote IWC, the Swiss watch brand who own the Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing he has just raced) and encouraging his son Dayton to race in karts.
Seeing as he was here, and driving in the slightly lower-pressure world of Goodwood’s 77MM (well, less pressure than the world of Formula 1, anyway), we had a quick chat with DC about the race, the Gullwing, and his road and race cars…
We started by asking why he partnered with IWC. “Well, I’ve always had a small collection of watches since I started to earn a few quid. It wasn’t about actually going racing, it was the fact I was already a brand ambassador for Mercedes, IWC was a partner with those, and so there’s a natural fit to us all being together.
“And then IWC decided to be more active here at Goodwood, and then created the IWC racing team, which is essentially a branding exercise against a classic car, the Mercedes Gullwing, which is my favourite car…
“Technical term coming up: I f***** up in ’95. When I first started to earn some money I wanted to own a Mercedes classic because my father had always bought Mercedes. Two cars available: a fully restored Gullwing, £120,000; fully restored Pagoda, £30,000.
"You know the thing I thought – and I could afford the £120,000 – “how can I tell my mum and dad I’ve spent a large percentage of my Formula 1 salary on a car?” Because classics, they were enjoyed but they weren’t celebrated the way they are as investments. So I went for the Pagoda, which I still have today.
“So what that story tells you is, one, I’m not a visionary investor and, two, I’m very Scottish because I went for the cheaper option rather than what I should have gone for. So, the Gullwing has always been my favourite – I could probably go and find one now – but I think there’s something nice about having that dream, and then I to drive them here.”
So what of racing the car? “It was tight at the beginning, wasn’t it?” he said. “I feel sorry for – it was Richard, wasn’t it, the chap who had the car problem [Richard Woolmer in an Austin-Healey 100/4] – I feel sorry for him, but I actually think he would have won had he not had the technical problem because that was me on my limit and he was hounding me.
“We’d already had a discussion before, ‘look, if you’re behind I’d be very careful because I have to brake early,’ and he said ‘well I’m on disks so I should be a bit better’. So knowing that I thought, as soon as I got the opportunity, I just put it down the inside because he won’t expect it and you’ve probably got one chance to do it – at least if I’ve got track position I can kind of get my elbows out.
“And then he had that problem, so I’m sorry for him in that respect.”
How does driving the Gullwing compare to driving a modern race car? “It’s difficult, I think. It’s tough because a modern racing car goes in a straight line, it brakes in a straight line.
“Goodwood being a big oval you’re constantly braking with lateral load, and the car, when you brake – I don’t know if you saw the warm up lap but every time I braked the front wheel would lock. The 300 SL is quick in a straight line relative to the other cars so that gives you a bit of breathing space.”
Given that the Gullwing is now 64-years-old, does it have any quirks? “Yes,” he says. “When you brake, if you’ve got lateral load, it turns. So if you’ve got a little bit of right lateral leaning to the left, it will turn in.” DC proceeds to use his body, head and arms to illustrate how a Gullwing rotates under power and on the brakes. Suffice to say the Gullwing, despite being immaculately prepared, is still an old car and needs to be driven with respect.
Will there be more racing after this? “With IWC, but otherwise no.” When was the last time he won a race? “Probably 2003”.
“Actually, my son, he was haranguing me last night and haranguing me this morning saying ‘you’ve got to win’. And I was saying to him ‘I can’t… Yes, I’m in a good car but there are good people out there…’ And he’s going ‘no, daddy, you have to think positive!’”
And what about DC’s own cars? “I don’t have a lot of cars actually. I’ve got all my racing cars. I’ve got my first car from ’82 and the last car from ’88, Formula Ford, Formula 3, Formula 3000, four or five of my Formula 1 cars, and a DTM car, and all of my trophies and stuff. I’ve got a load of race cars but they’re not runners, they’re just display.
“Road cars, I’ve got the Pagoda. I’ve got an ’84 Mercedes G-Wagen, short wheelbase, two door – redone with no roof at all, so there’s none of that fabricy s*** at the back. If it rains, you find a tunnel and park it somewhere. I’ve got some modern Mercedes… I’ve got an order on the Valkyrie and I’ve got an order on Project One – I’m in the holding pattern for those cars.
“The Valkyrie is because of Adrian [Newey] – Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, I’ve worked with Adrian – and the only reason I can afford it is because I drove his cars and won a few races. And Project One because I’m a Mercedes guy. I think Valkyrie will represent something truly special from Adrian’s eye, the aerodynamics side and what have you. And the Project One will be a celebration of German engineering – somehow they’ve shoehorned the impossible engine into a road car, because a Formula 1 engine shouldn’t work in a road car.”
Photography by Tom Shaxson.
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