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. Sunday 26 June 2016

  2. Power outduels Kanaan to Road America win 21:01

    Power outduels Kanaan to Road America win

    Will Power won a dramatic and frenetic shootout at the end of IndyCar's return to the legendary Road America circuit on…

    Indy
  3. 18:12

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Assen

    MotoGP
  4. Lorenzo considered withdrawing in Assen 18:11

    Lorenzo considered withdrawing in Assen

    Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo has admitted he considered withdrawing from the Dutch TT as he struggled for performance…

    MotoGP
  5. Márquez lauds 'important' Dutch TT result 16:21

    Márquez lauds 'important' Dutch TT result

    Honda rider Marc Márquez hailed an "important" race at the Dutch TT as he opened up a 24-point advantage in the MotoGP…

    MotoGP
  6. Espargaró secures two-year Aprilia switch 16:12

    Espargaró secures two-year Aprilia switch

    Aprilia has confirmed that Aleix Espargaró will ride for the team in 2017 and 2018, alongside Sam Lowes, meaning the outfit…

    MotoGP
  7. Miller ecstatic to reward Honda's faith 15:55

    Miller ecstatic to reward Honda's faith

    Jack Miller says his shock maiden MotoGP victory justifies Honda's faith in him graduating from Moto3 straight to the premier…

    MotoGP
  8. Delétraz triumphs in second Paul Ricard race 15:12

    Delétraz triumphs in second Paul Ricard race

    Louis Delétraz narrowed the gap to championship leader Tom Dillmann as he claimed his second Formula V8 3.5 victory of the…

    FV8 3.5
  9. Miller takes shock maiden win at Assen 14:25

    Miller takes shock maiden win at Assen

    Marc VDS rider Jack Miller claimed a shock maiden MotoGP victory during a thrilling topsy-turvy race at a wet Assen, despite…

    MotoGP
  10. Hamilton: Relationship with Rosberg 'really good' 10:51

    Hamilton: Relationship with Rosberg 'really good'

    Lewis Hamilton has described his current relationship with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as "really good" and reckons it has…

    F1
  11. Stroll builds lead with double Norisring win 10:02

    Stroll builds lead with double Norisring win

    Williams development driver Lance Stroll cemented his advantage at the top of the F3 standings by winning twice and finishing…

    F3
  12. Renault sees back row as a 'one-off' 09:08

    Renault sees back row as a 'one-off'

    Renault's back-row qualifying result at last weekend's European Grand Prix in Baku has been described as a "one-off" occurrence…

    F1
  13. Video of the Day: Hamilton's Green Hell 05:24

    Video of the Day: Hamilton's Green Hell

    In a trailer for Mercedes' new AMG GT-R, Lewis Hamilton tackles a different version of the 'Green Hell'.

    F1
  14. Saturday 25 June 2016

  15. 22:38

    IndyCar photos: Saturday at Road America

    Indy
  16. Power secures pole at Road America 22:36

    Power secures pole at Road America

    Will Power calmly cruised to pole position at Road America on Saturday, staying 0.16s clear of the Ganassi duo of Scott Dixon…

    Indy
  17. 17:20

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  18. MotoGP bans winglets from 2017 17:18

    MotoGP bans winglets from 2017

    The Grand Prix Commission has elected to ban the use of winglets in MotoGP from the start of the 2017 season. The aerodynamic…

    MotoGP
  19. Lorenzo 'didn't feel safe' in wet conditions 16:57

    Lorenzo 'didn't feel safe' in wet conditions

    Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo admitted that he "didn't feel safe or comfortable" riding in wet conditions as he…

    MotoGP
  20. Orudzhev keeps Nissany at bay for win 15:51

    Orudzhev keeps Nissany at bay for win

    Egor Orudzhev resisted a late attack from Roy Nissany to collect his second win of the Formula V8 3.5 season at Paul…

    FV8 3.5
  21. Video: Road America practice highlights 14:34

    Video: Road America practice highlights

    Watch highlights from practice as IndyCar returns to Road America for this weekend's Kohler Grand Prix.

    Indy
  22. 14:00

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Assen

    MotoGP
  23. Dovizioso takes pole at damp Assen 13:59

    Dovizioso takes pole at damp Assen

    Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso claimed his first pole position of the season after storming to top spot during qualifying for the…

    MotoGP
  24. Assen gets 10-year MotoGP extension 11:17

    Assen gets 10-year MotoGP extension

    MotoGP organisers have confirmed that Assen will continue to host the Dutch TT until at least 2026 after a new 10-year deal was…

    MotoGP
  25. FIA moves to reward 'safer' drivers 10:36

    FIA moves to reward 'safer' drivers

    Drivers who avoid collecting penalty points in FIA-organised categories will be rewarded with points towards their Formula 1…

    F1
  26. Celis Jr. set for Austria practice run 10:04

    Celis Jr. set for Austria practice run

    Force India development driver Alfonso Celis Jr. will return to the cockpit of the VJM09 during Friday practice for next…

    F1
  27. Dovizioso tops third Dutch TT practice 09:51

    Dovizioso tops third Dutch TT practice

    Andrea Dovizioso maintained Ducati's position at the head of the field for the Dutch TT during a tightly-contested third…

    MotoGP
  28. Feature: Who should partner Vettel in 2017? 09:22

    Feature: Who should partner Vettel in 2017?

    With Nico Rosberg set to extend his stay at Mercedes, the key to this year's driver market appears to revolve around Ferrari…

    F1
  29. IndyCar confirms revised Texas plan 07:50

    IndyCar confirms revised Texas plan

    IndyCar officials have confirmed plans for resuming the Firestone 600, which will take place at the Texas Motor Speedway at the…

    Indy
  30. Video of the Day: 'Ferraristi per Sempre' 05:26

    Video of the Day: 'Ferraristi per Sempre'

    Earlier this week, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene were present at the opening of the new…

    F1
  31. Friday 24 June 2016

  32. 18:32

    Latest MotoGP photos: Friday at Assen

    MotoGP
  33. Rossi to use standard frame at Assen 18:24

    Rossi to use standard frame at Assen

    Valentino Rossi has dropped Yamaha's new frame for the remainder of the Dutch TT, after testing it in practice, while team-mate…

    MotoGP
  34. Leclerc set for five FP1 outings with Haas 15:14

    Leclerc set for five FP1 outings with Haas

    Ferrari Driver Academy member Charles Leclerc is set to make five Formula 1 practice outings with the Haas team in 2016…

    F1
  35. Iannone stays on top in second practice 14:06

    Iannone stays on top in second practice

    Andrea Iannone remained at the top of the times with a late charge during Friday afternoon's second practice session for the…

    MotoGP
  36. Ricciardo expects stronger Austria showing 12:59

    Ricciardo expects stronger Austria showing

    Daniel Ricciardo is expecting Red Bull to enjoy a stronger showing at this year's Austrian Grand Prix, the squad's home event…

    F1
  37. Video: Lewis Hamilton's Baku trouble 11:07

    Video: Lewis Hamilton's Baku trouble

    In Mercedes' latest Studio Show, power unit chief Andy Cowell explains what de-rating is and Sporting Director Ron Meadows…

    F1
  38. Salo: Ferrari should keep Räikkönen 10:12

    Salo: Ferrari should keep Räikkönen

    Ex-Formula 1 driver Mika Salo reckons Ferrari should keep Kimi Räikkönen into 2017, for what would be a fourth successive…

    F1
  39. Iannone heads Ducati 1-2 in first practice 10:03

    Iannone heads Ducati 1-2 in first practice

    Andrea Iannone edged out team-mate Andrea Dovizioso in a Ducati 1-2 during the first free practice session for the Dutch TT at…

    MotoGP
  40. Interlagos seeks 2025 contract extension 09:02

    Interlagos seeks 2025 contract extension

    Brazilian Grand Prix organisers have moved to ease fears over the future of the event, following comments made by Formula 1…

    F1
  41. Alonso: 'A lot more' required for titles 08:23

    Alonso: 'A lot more' required for titles

    Fernando Alonso has admitted that the McLaren-Honda partnership still has "a long way to go" in terms of overall competitiveness…

    F1
  42. Video of the Day: James Allison interview 05:06

    Video of the Day: James Allison interview

    Ferrari's Technical Director, James Allison, discusses how a Formula 1 team splits resources between its current and future…

    F1
  43. Thursday 23 June 2016

  44. Crutchlow to remain at LCR for 2017 19:04

    Crutchlow to remain at LCR for 2017

    Cal Crutchlow has confirmed that he will be staying at LCR Honda in 2017, for what will be a third campaign, ending recent…

    MotoGP
more news