La compétition automobile, une école pour la vie | Pierre DUPASQUIER | TEDxClermont

La compétition automobile, une école pour la vie | Pierre DUPASQUIER | TEDxClermont



Translator: Robin Noel
Reviewer: Denise RQ I'm going to talk about motor sports,
in particular about racing. We'll try and see if racing
teaches us anything about life, if it has any use, any value,
if it has an impact on all our futures. In "motor sport" there's "motor" and behind "motor", there are different areas
and different specialist skills. Take a racing car, for example,
it has aerodynamics, an engine, a chassis, suspension, it even has tires. To make it go, you need a lot of people who all have to rely on each other, who are all recognized
and respected for their skills, who are are all going to work as a team
to bring to the starting grid – that's where the machines line up at the start of a car or motorbike race – vehicles which are
as competitive as possible. It's an interesting moment
because it's the start of the contest. We have the impression
that motor sport in general is an individual sport. The driver gets in his car
or on his bike and runs his race. We get the impression
it's an individual sport. But nowadays, that's not true at all. Because by the time the machine
gets to the starting grid, the teams have put in
thousands of hours of work to make a winning vehicle. On a lap, if we lose 3/10ths of a second,
due to the vehicle, for example, the driver will try to make it up. When drivers have
different levels of skill, as is the case in amateur racing,
that doesn't matter too much. But when the drivers have been chosen
after years of fierce competition, they're all at a very high level. I'm thinking about Formula 1
or motorcycle grand prix. There, the drivers obviously try,
by their talent or what they do, to make up the 3/10ths of a second by lap. They will take considerable risks which can lead them to spin off the road
or come off the bike, and a crash or fall
always has consequences. So that's a very important factor
when picking the teams. It means these so-called individual sports
are actually team sports where everyone brings their skills
with a lot of modesty, humility and respect for other people,
respect for other people and their skills. That's not always obvious. What are the penalties in these sports? There are two arbiters
and they are very similar. One is the lap time,
the other is the result of the race, it's as simple as that. The lap time is a determining factor because it enables a team to see
if it's been doing a good job. To see if the vehicle
is running well, if it's fast, if possible as fast as or faster
than the others. We do different tests,
sometimes even with different drivers, and we reach conclusions. We have to redesign the aerodynamics because what we saw on the simulator
or in the wind-tunnel doesn't work. I've seen lots of Formula 1 teams
arrive with big ambitions on the Thursday evening
before the Grand Prix. I've heard them say, "We've improved
the down force by 3 points." Wow! but in fact,
it hadn't worked at all. Because what they'd seen
on the simulator or in the wind-tunnel is very hard to extrapolate
to the race-track. Because in the wind-tunnel,
the models they use are very well-engineered, very pure, there are no defects,
no bolts sticking out, nothing at all. And then, when the vehicle
is actually built, a few tenths of a millimeter
between two panels, between two plastic panels,
and you've lost it. The air gets between them,
and you lose 500 kg of down force. When we are talking about tires, what gives speed and grip
is the down force. So the lap time is
an absolutely determining factor. Then we have the result of the race. The result of the race
is linked to the lap time. I'm not going to spend time
telling you how to achieve a fast lap time when you are in pole position. For example, the Monaco circuit
is narrow for cars. If you are in pole position,
that is to say you had the best qualifying time
in the trials before the race, you generally win the race
because it's very hard to overtake. The result is important but sometimes it doesn't depend
on the competitiveness of the vehicles. One day, one of the senior managers
of the company I used to work for phoned me to say he'd like to go
to the Monaco Grand Prix. It was in 1979. As you know, Monaco
is very narrow, very cramped. It's improved a bit since, but it was
very uncomfortable at the time. It was difficult to get around
and see the action. So I suggested he came instead
to the French Grand Prix at Dijon. OK, why not and we arranged to meet. I said it wasn't the race he must see
but what went on on the Friday morning. He was there Friday morning
and we spent the weekend together. Maybe some of you remember,
I think it's still on YouTube. Jean-Pierre Jabouille
was driving a Renault. It had a powerful turbocharged engine
which at the time wasn't very reliable. It was improved afterwards. He shot off in the lead,
pursued by two rascals, Arnoux driving the second Renault,
and Gilles Villeneuve driving a Ferrari. Those two boys were made
of the same metal. They finished the last five laps
of the race wheel to wheel. In Formula 1, imagine the risk they took. Absolutely mind-blowing.
Maybe it's still on YouTube. At the finish, the 4th driver,
was Jones, an Australian, in a Williams equipped with tires
from a rival company. At the finishing line,
M. Rondreux said to me, "You must be happy,
let's have a glass of champagne." I said, "Yes, but what if
Jabouille's engine had failed," "which could well have happened," "and the two lads behind him
had touched and stopped." "The race would have been won by a driver
using another company's tires." "We'd be staring at each other glumly" "saying we'd lost the race." And yet, we'd have done the same work, applied the same techniques
and obtained the same results. So lap time, OK, but you can never
take the result for granted. To get results, you understand,
people must give all they've got. You don't do what I just described
quietly drinking a cup of tea, although there's no harm in that. What I mean is,
those people give their all. People like that
have different personalities. Maybe you know Ari Vatanen. I mention him because he's from Finland,
someone with charming manners. He was, and perhaps still is,
a member of the European Parliament. A rally driver, if ever there was one,
he took part in the Paris-Dakar rally. He was calm, restrained,
pleasant and kind, but when he got into his car,
closed his eyes and put his helmet on, he was an absolute disaster. He was often very fast,
but at times he finished upside-down. You will remember one year,
the Paris-Dakar rally started at Clermont. The preliminary stage took place here
and his car finished up on its roof. Before the hostilities had even started,
he had turned his car over. People express themselves in completely surprising ways. When I talk about personalities, I'm not only thinking
about the drivers and engineers. I'm thinking about a personality
like Enzo Ferrari. I was a very young engineer
and I wanted to work with Ferrari and meet the "Commandatore",
which I managed to do. It was very impressive, I can assure you. He was a leader. We say "commandatore"
because of his physical stature. He was sitting behind a big wooden desk,
shrouded in smoke. "So, Mr. engineer, what must I do
to have your tires?" "Um, er…", I was like this of course. It worked out really well
and we had a good relationship, in racing and supplying tires
for ordinary cars. It's a memory I really cherish, especially as I'm passionate about cars. You don't meet someone like that
every day. Another factor that comes to mind
is intellectual honesty. It isn't easy to admit
you've made a mistake. Because there are
economic and personality issues. Commitments have been made,
firms have given their backing. And then there are the spectators
and the television viewers, so its a very public thing. I've met people who've tried to cheat,
and some of them are still in their jobs. But generally speaking,
that's not how you build a winning team. A striking example of intellectual honesty
was given to me by a Japanese engineer, Oguma San. Oguma was traditionally Japanese,
the head of motorbike racing at Honda, with black hair brushed flat,
cut like this. We were in England,
at the Silverstone Grand Prix, and he had a bike ridden by Spencer,
an outstanding rider, very fast, who generally won
two races during the weekend. There were 350cc and 500cc races then
and he would win them both. Competing against us
was a certain Kenny Roberts on a Yamaha fitted
with a rival firm's tires. When we measured lap times,
Roberts was faster than Spencer. I measured times on parts of the track
because we were trying to understand. Nowadays, we get that data naturally
from systems provided by the organizers, but at that time it wasn't the case. We measured lap times on the track. At top speed, the Honda
was faster than the Yamaha. The organizers gave us that information. On an outer part of the track,
at Becketts, a series of bends
at the back of the Silverstone circuit, Spencer was faster overall
than Roberts over the distance. So I said to Oguma, "I don't understand, "we're good in the bends
when we need the tires." "When we need grip, we have it." "Going flat out, you're good
because your bike is the fastest", "but if we look at the lap times,
it isn't working." And Oguma went, "Hiiii, hi." When he did that, we knew
something important was going to happen. I know, it makes some of you laugh. He went off, saying,
"See you at the next practice session." And we met
after the next practice session. And he said, "Hiiii, pencil and paper!" He took a sheet of paper and drew a graph. "Honda bike, huuuuuu,
Yamaha bike, hooooooo." I can see some of you smile
because I haven't drawn it very well, but the Honda really was
more powerful than the Yamaha, except that the curve
was steeper, much steeper. In other words, it's range was narrower. So when re-accelerating, when you need engine flexibility
to get back up to speed, the Yamaha, though less powerful,
came out much better. That's the sort of person he was. It was very enjoyable
to work with people like that who could admit they weren't the best. There are a lot of people like that. The third point is respect for the facts. Those of you who follow Formula 1 will maybe remember
the United States Grand Prix in 2005. Our Tyre, supplied by the firm
I was working for at that time, was way out in the lead that season. There was a cultural problem. Our Japanese rivals had had trouble
meeting new regulations. From the start of the season, our tires
were absolutely leading the field. We arrived in the USA, at Indianapolis. The circuit is a bit bizarre,
it's not the usual ring. There's a ring and also what's called
the "infield" used by Formula 1 cars. At the the first practice session, there were two incidents
due to the tires. We investigated, analyzed
the tires on the spot. carried out tests in France and the USA. We understood fairly quickly
that the tires we had at Indianapolis were the ones we were expecting,
they were compliant with requirements. And yet, the tires were incapable
of completing the Indianapolis course. So I organized a meeting in a big office,
around a big, U-shaped table, with all the engineers and decision makers
of our different partners, to put them in the picture
and follow events in real time and all put our heads together. They were all bright guys so maybe
they'd come up with good ideas. We came to the same conclusion,
the circuit would have to be modified. We understood where the problem was. We would have to modify the circuit
if the race was to take place. We met the teams, we had a phone call
from the president of the Federation. He was in Monaco and he refused to have the circuit modified. OK, too bad,
we wouldn't change the circuit. I said to Tony George, the track manager,
"Listen, we must do something, or the grand prix isn't going to happen." And Tony said, "I need 20 minutes
to modify a chicane, I'll see about it." And off he went. Briatore convened the drivers, among them Schumacher
and the Ferrari drivers, who at that time were equipped
with tires from our Japanese competitor. And Schumacher said,
"I don't care, I'll drive your car, I'm on the track, I don't mind
if they change it." So we got ready to start the race
on the modified circuit. At the start of the race, when the drivers
did their reconnaissance lap, the circuit hadn't been modified and the grand prix didn't take place. Six cars did race,
equipped with our competitor's tires. There were 120,000 American spectators,
who'd come to see a Formula 1 grand prix. Not to put too fine a point on it,
they weren't at all happy. And then there were
three or hour hundred million TV viewers. But after examining the facts
and understanding what was happening, quietly, objectively and rationally,
we all decided we weren't going to race. There, it was a simple as that. So all this goes to show,
through the examples we've seen, how the people involved
in this kind of game, in motor racing
which is ultimately a team game, have to completely expose
their true selves. Thank you very much
and have a good evening. (Applause)

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