When he was just three years old, Thierry Boutsen already knew he wanted to become a racing driver – and he later turned his boyhood dream into reality, competing in 163 Formula 1 grands prix between 1983 and 1993. The quiet, reserved Belgian might not have been as flashy or spectacular to watch as some of his colleagues, but he was precise and error-free and, thanks to his engineering studies, knew how to develop a car. Boutsen established a reputation as a reliable points-scorer and, at the peak of his F1 career in 1989 and 1990, won three races with Williams-Renault. He enjoyed success in touring and sports cars as well, including two second places at Le Mans and a win at Daytona. Today, the former racer lives in Monaco, where he runs his business Boutsen Group. And, starting with this issue, he will write exclusively for AUTOMOBILSPORT about his career and the people he got to know along the way.
When I think back on my racing career, the teammate I think about most often is Bob Wollek. I recently had to think about him on 16 March, which is the anniversary of his death. Bob tragically died in a needless bicycle accident in Sebring in 2001. On that sad day, motorsport lost one of its great talents – and I lost an extraordinary teammate and a true friend. I have very fond memories of Bob.
When I started racing back in 1977, I knew what an exceptional driver he was from what I’d read in magazines and seen on TV. The first time I met him in person was in 1983. It was purely by coincidence, but a very interesting story. A couple of days before the 1,000-kilometre race in Monza, the first round of the Group C World Sportscar Championship season, I received a call from Reinhold Joest who asked me if I wanted to join his team and share a Porsche 956 with Bob Wollek. I immediately jumped into my car and drove to Monza on Thursday evening to meet the team and Bob in time for the qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday…
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by Thierry Boutsen
Photographs: Kräling, Motorsportimages, John Brooks, Michael Keyser, McKlein, Porsche, Porsche/Dennis Ashlock