Beyond the chequered flag: Thierry Boutsen

Beyond the chequered flag: Thierry Boutsen

3 May 2013 – For the latest instalment of a series running throughout 2013, GPUpdate.net enjoyed a candid conversation with Thierry Boutsen, who is currently making his presence known in the aviation world after widespread success in Formula 1 and sportscar racing. The Belgian competed for five outfits during an 11-season phase in the top echelon, which yielded three victories in the colours of Williams.

Born in Brussels on 13 July 1957, Boutsen’s route to Formula 1 was an impressive one. After winning the Volant V title in 1977, Belgian Formula Ford honours were promptly notched up, before champagne was sprayed in abundance in Formula 3 and Formula 2. At this time, he also tried his hand at endurance racing, but his focus was on breaking into Formula 1, and the opportunity ultimately arose with Arrows in 1983.

Boutsen driving the Arrows A6 chassis in 1983
"It was a great moment," recalls Boutsen, who raced from his home Grand Prix onwards. "I never thought I could achieve that, but I believe there were some key elements. First of all I was able to win races in all of the categories I took part in, whether it was Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Ford, Touring Cars or Group C. I thought that Formula 1 would be OK for me if I had the chance. But to get a chance you need to do a lot of research for money and get the team to work with you. I was extremely lucky to have a very good start."

It was while driving for Arrows that he was involved in one of the most bizarre finishes to a Formula 1 race. Following on from the midfield battles of his first two seasons in the sport, interspersed by a trio of points finishes, the 1985 San Marino Grand Prix saw him fighting with the big guns. But he claimed his maiden podium in a rather unconventional way, calling on the power of his muscles after running out of fuel.

"I crossed the line pushing the car in third position," Boutsen reminisces. "I got second afterwards. I knew that it was totally forbidden to push a car on the track, but there was a line in the regulations saying that you could if the car is in a dangerous position. So I purposely left my car in a dangerous position when it ran out of fuel, to push it across the line. I was very competitive all the way through and was within a few seconds of the 'real' leaders. I’m not talking about Senna because he was using far too much fuel and was out of competition right away. It was a very good race."

Boutsen’s performances over the course of the next two years did not go unnoticed in the paddock, with Benetton offering him a contract for the 1987 and 1988 campaigns. Although his first season was ruined by a string of reliability problems, momentum gathered the following term and he was able to achieve a quintet of podium finishes behind the dominant MP4/4 driven by Alain Prost and the aforementioned Senna.

"In the first year with Benetton the car was quite competitive," explains Boutsen. "I could have won at least two races, like in Mexico and Austria, but we had so many problems with reliability that I could never get to the end of a Grand Prix. Competitivity is one thing but reliability is the other! And I was missing one. The year after, I finished on the rostrum five times behind the two McLarens. It was a very, very good year; I was not equipped with a turbo engine, just a normally aspirated engine."

In 1989 Boutsen made the biggest move of his Formula 1 career and joined Williams on a two-year deal. Despite a massive pre-season accident, which he described as mentally-draining, his childhood dream of winning in Formula 1 came true, with victories being achieved at the rain-soaked Canadian and Australian Grands Prix.

More silverware was added to his cabinet throughout 1990, while playing a key role in the development of the team's active suspension. But, despite his positive results, he was replaced by Nigel Mansell at the end of his contract and had to watch from the sidelines as the Briton fought for the title. Just how did he feel at that moment?

Boutsen reads some notes in the Williams FW12C
"I was totally frustrated because I did the development of the active suspension for almost one year," says Boutsen. "I spent all my time doing that and the car became very, very competitive at the end and then somebody else benefitted. But, c’est la vie. I don’t even think about it anymore because it happened like that and I’m extremely lucky to have done well in Formula 1. Of course you can always do better when you think back, but when you do it you are limited by certain factors and you should not cry too much."

Spells with Liger and Jordan followed, before he called time on his Formula 1 career at Spa-Francorchamps in 1993. He then made further sportscar outings, notably securing a GT1 victory at Le Mans, but what about life away from the fast lane? Instead of relaxing on a beach, Boutsen has been at the helm of an aviation sales company since 1997. Dedicated to meeting the exacting needs of clientele, including the likes of Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen, a similar adrenaline rush is experienced.

"The real start of it was because of my passion for aeroplanes and the fact that I had already bought and sold two or three aeroplanes for myself while I was racing," he explains. "In 1997 I decided to form a company in Monaco, because I got some business from a friend in Formula 1. Heinz-Harald Frentzen asked me to purchase a plane for him and that was the very first client I had. Then I worked for Keke Rosberg, Mika Häkkinen, Michael Schumacher, Guy Ligier and some other people in Formula 1.

"After a couple of years I decided to go abroad and see the rest of the world! I enjoy doing what I’m doing as much as I enjoyed F1 and racing as a whole. Every time I sell an aeroplane it’s like winning a race. We are successful because we are putting a lot of energy into it to get it right. The reward is very, very big when you do that."

Mike Seymour
Twitter: @MikeSeymourF1


Previous instalments: Mika Salo

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Monday 30 March 2015

  2. Malaysian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers 16:44

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

    Sebastian Vettel surged clear to return Ferrari to the top step as Mercedes was beaten for the first time since last August.…

    F1
  3. Sauber rues 'missed opportunity' for points 14:29

    Sauber rues 'missed opportunity' for points

    Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn says her squad missed out on an opportunity to add more points to its tally as neither…

    F1
  4. Renault heartened by Ferrari success 12:41

    Renault heartened by Ferrari success

    Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says that the company must keep pushing as Ferrari's victory in the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  5. Video: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg highlights 11:38

    Video: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg highlights

    Watch highlights from the first round of the IndyCar season as Juan Pablo Montoya claimed victory for Penske around the streets…

    Indy
  6. Wolff: Ferrari victory 'good' for Formula 1 11:22

    Wolff: Ferrari victory 'good' for Formula 1

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes that Sebastian Vettel's triumph at the Malaysian Grand Prix is positive for Formula 1, as…

    F1
  7. Ericsson believes seventh was possible 10:50

    Ericsson believes seventh was possible

    Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson believes that seventh place was possible for the squad in Malaysia, had he not spun out of…

    F1
  8. Rossi revels in 'one of the best races' 09:12

    Rossi revels in 'one of the best races'

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi described his victory in the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar as one of the best races of his…

    MotoGP
  9. Arrivabene urges Ferrari to maintain progress 08:30

    Arrivabene urges Ferrari to maintain progress

    Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene says the squad must remain realistic, despite claiming its first victory in almost…

    F1
  10. Video of the Day: Get ready for Long Beach 05:17

    Video of the Day: Get ready for Long Beach

    Formula E stays in the United States for round six of its inaugural season – the Long Beach ePrix.

    FE
  11. 01:23

    Championship standings after Malaysia

    F1
  12. Sunday 29 March 2015

  13. Montoya outduels Power to take St. Pete victory 23:16

    Montoya outduels Power to take St. Pete victory

    Juan Pablo Montoya held off team-mate and pole-sitter Will Power to win the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St.…

    Indy
  14. Pedrosa reveals arm injury, considering future 22:30

    Pedrosa reveals arm injury, considering future

    Honda's Dani Pedrosa says he is considering his options after revealing that he has been suffering with an arm problem for over…

    MotoGP
  15. Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller 19:51

    Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi claimed victory in the opening round of the MotoGP season in Qatar as he beat Ducati's Andrea…

    MotoGP
  16. Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap 17:06

    Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap

    Enjoy Will Power's record pole-winning lap for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    Indy
  17. 16:02

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday at Sepang

    F1
  18. Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture 15:20

    Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture

    Kimi Räikkönen says fourth position was the best result possible after he sustained a puncture during the early stages of the…

    F1
  19. McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise' 13:41

    McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise'

    Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button say that McLaren-Honda's raw pace during the Malaysian Grand Prix came as "a nice…

    F1
  20. Verstappen delighted with maiden points 12:59

    Verstappen delighted with maiden points

    Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen expressed his satisfaction after becoming the youngest ever points scorer in Formula 1…

    F1
  21. Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work' 12:44

    Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work'

    Sergio Marchionne praised the "incredibly hard work" of his Ferrari team after Sebastian Vettel took victory in the Malaysian…

    F1
  22. Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident 12:12

    Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident

    Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat played down his contact with Force India rival Nico Hülkenberg during the Malaysian Grand Prix, which…

    F1
  23. Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang 12:09

    Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang

    Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado was forced to retire from the Malaysian Grand Prix with a brake issue, as his and the squad's…

    F1
  24. Rosberg wants improved communication 12:05

    Rosberg wants improved communication

    Nico Rosberg has urged Mercedes to improve communication after he came home a distant third in the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  25. Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish 11:54

    Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish

    Formula 1 debutant Roberto Merhi expressed his joy after he was able to finish his first ever race in the sport as he came home…

    F1
  26. Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today 11:42

    Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today

    Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari were simply "too fast" to deal with during the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  27. Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018 11:22

    Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018

    Sepang will continue to play host to the Malaysian Grand Prix after organisers agreed a new deal to remain on the Formula 1…

    F1
  28. Vettel 'speechless' after first Ferrari win 11:16

    Vettel 'speechless' after first Ferrari win

    Sebastian Vettel said claiming his first victory for Ferrari during Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix initially left him lost for…

    F1
  29. 09:59

    In full: Malaysian Grand Prix race result

    F1
  30. Vettel breaks Mercedes run with Sepang win 09:54

    Vettel breaks Mercedes run with Sepang win

    Sebastian Vettel claimed his first victory for Ferrari as the team pulled off a two-stop strategy to beat Mercedes, which had…

    F1
  31. 07:46

    Follow the Malaysian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  32. Dennis hopeful of European turning point 07:32

    Dennis hopeful of European turning point

    Ron Dennis is optimistic that McLaren-Honda will find itself in a much stronger position when the Formula 1 paddock arrives in…

    F1
  33. Stevens unable to race amid technical trouble 07:18

    Stevens unable to race amid technical trouble

    Will Stevens is unable to start this afternoon's Malaysian Grand Prix, with Manor Marussia failing to resolve the technical…

    F1
  34. 06:32

    Revised starting grid for the Malaysian GP

    F1
  35. Video of the Day: Backstage with Sauber 04:22

    Video of the Day: Backstage with Sauber

    Go behind-the-scenes during Sauber's pre-season filming day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

    F1
  36. Saturday 28 March 2015

  37. Power starts title defence with pole, track record 21:47

    Power starts title defence with pole, track record

    Will Power stormed to pole for the season-opening round of the Verizon IndyCar Series on Saturday, setting a new track record in…

    Indy
  38. Dovizioso takes pole for Ducati in Qatar 18:21

    Dovizioso takes pole for Ducati in Qatar

    Andrea Dovizioso emphasised Ducati's progress over the winter as he claimed the third pole position of his MotoGP career at the…

    MotoGP
  39. 18:17

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday at Sepang

    F1
  40. Massa frustrated by Williams' wet pace 18:14

    Massa frustrated by Williams' wet pace

    Felipe Massa expressed his frustration that Williams is still "too slow" in wet conditions, after a rain-hit qualifying session…

    F1
  41. Montagny suspended by FIA until end of 2016 16:36

    Montagny suspended by FIA until end of 2016

    Franck Montagny has been suspended by the FIA's Anti-Doping Committee until December 2016, after he tested positive for…

    Misc
  42. Ricciardo: Fourth a 'good result' for Red Bull 14:00

    Ricciardo: Fourth a 'good result' for Red Bull

    Daniel Ricciardo was pleased with Red Bull's performance during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix after a difficult…

    F1
  43. Formula E unveils shortened Monaco layout 13:20

    Formula E unveils shortened Monaco layout

    Organisers of the Monaco ePrix have unveiled the layout for the race which will take place on May 9. The 12-turn 2.76km…

    FE
more news