Stars' Cars - 1980 F1 Champion Alan Jones
AUSTRALIA has only ever produced two Formula 1 World Champions, and with Sir Jack Brabham no longer with us, 1980 champ Alan Jones is our most successful racing driver alive today.
Regarded as straight talking, tough as nails and wonderfully un-PC in today's over-commercial world of F1 with its heavily-censored drivers, we sat down with the great man to find out about his motoring life past and present. Swear words (mainly) cleaned-up.
What was the first car you ever drove?
It was a Lancia Aurelia that the old man (racer Stan Jones) had brought back from Europe after he'd done the Monte Carlo Rally. He had it parked in our driveway, and I jumped in it and let it roll down the drive, then I let it roll down the street. I was only about ten I think.
Dad was always letting me sit on his lap while driving, or I'd drive when he was racing down at Fishermans Bend or somewhere like that. I was always driving something.
What was the first car you owned?
I remember a very horrific and embarrassing car that the old man did up for me: a Morris Minor convertible that he painted iridescent green with gold wheels. I was only 15 or something. It was the most embarrassing horrible thing and I couldn't get rid of it quick enough.
And when you did?
Then I got an Austin Healey Sprite and an Austin-Healey 100-6 after that.
Every Saturday, as a bit of a ritual, we'd take the wheels off, clean under the mud guards and fill in the name of the tyres in gold or silver. We'd immaculatise the cars; I used to find that quite therapeutic. Then we'd go out on a Saturday night and do figure of eights at the local football field and put s*it all over them again.
What do you drive now?
A Lexus LS600h F Sport (327kW V8 large sedan) and I genuinely love the car. I like sports cars and I like performance cars but just for getting down the road I want to hop into something easily with nice air-conditioning, good steering, and very comfortable. It has constant all-wheel-drive and four settings including Sport and Sport+ where it lowers itself and turns into a bit of an animal so I can have a bit of fun.
Fun? What kind of fun?
You get these tradies in their utes looking across and see this grey headed old bastard in a four-wheel-drive car and I just quietly put it into Sport+ and blast 'em. And it goes. For its size it's quite quick.
Drive anything else?
A Lexus LX570 4WD we use to tow the horse float. The only thing quicker than the rev counter is the fuel gauge unfortunately.
Own any classic cars?
No. I've got more interest in what's coming, not what's been. I like the technology. I'm still a car perv; I still like good looking cars and it doesn't matter if they're small and inexpensive or big and expensive, I can like it.
What road car did you drive when you were an F1 driver?
When I was driving for Williams in the UK, a Formula 1 driver could buy a Merc or a BMW or something at quite a substantial discount, direct from the factory less sales tax and everything. So most of the guys used to go over to Germany, buy one of those, drive it for nine or ten months and then sell it and make a few bob. I worked it out, my sixth or seventh one was virtually for nothing (with the money I'd made).
What's the best road car you've driven?
I know this'll sound terribly corny, but it's the absolute truth, I love my Lexus LX600h (yes, AJ is a Lexus Australia ambassador).
Okay then, what's the best race car you've driven?
The Williams FW07 (Jones' 1980 F1 World Championship winning car). You used to slide into some cars, be it a GT car or an open-wheeler, and you'd be immediately comfortable as it had the right feel, with the steering wheel in the right place. The Williams was like that, as was the Porsche 935 Alan Hamilton brought over to contest the Australian GT Championship (Jones won every race in the car in the 1982 season to secure the title.)
Do you have a favourite driving road?
I've not been one of those people who think "I'm on the such and such road in France," thinking this is terrific.
How about a driving road in Australia?
Nowhere is Australia! (laughs).
How about a favourite race track?
In Australia there's Bathurst and Phillip Island, while overseas I liked Watkins Glen in Upstate New York and the old Österreichring in Austria. I've always had a preference for circuits that are fast and flowing, which is why I probably don't like the majority of circuits in Australia.
What frustrates you on the road?
I honestly don't believe Australians know how to merge. When I go to England they know how to merge, but I generally think here we're not good road drivers at all. Another frustration is people sitting in the overtaking lane, that gets up my nose. Also people who flick their cigarettes out the window, using the road as one big ashtray.
Any preferred driving music?
Easy listening or country and western.
Is the future of cars electric?
I've driven a Tesla and was really impressed. Whether we like it or not, that's the future. It's like modern Formula 1 cars; it's inevitable that we've got to be seen to be going green.
Tesla is a reasonably heavy big four door car that does 0-100kmh in 2.8 seconds. That's quicker than a Porsche Turbo costing about $400,000. Eventually we will have electric charging stations around the place. And we'll have our normally aspirated V8s for the weekend, when we're paying about $9 a litre.
Who: Alan Jones MBE.
Born: November 2, 1946, Melbourne.
Resume: One of only two Australian Formula 1 World Champions, Jones won 12 Grands Prix from 116 starts in an F1 career from 1975 to 1986. Son of 1959 Australian Grand Prix winner Stan Jones, he was a junior karting champion before relocating to England to compete in the British F3 Championship.
Moved to F1 in 1975 driving a Hesketh-Ford and Embassy Hill, then scored a full-time F1 drive for Team Surtees in 1976, a fourth place being his best finish. Scored his maiden victory at the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix in a Shadow-Ford, then moved to Williams Grand Prix, scoring four race wins in 1979, five in 1980 (and the World Championship) and two more in 1981 before retiring. Made F1 comebacks, including the full 1986 season, and also competed in Can-Am, CART, Touring Cars and at the Le Mans 24 Hours.