At 71 years old, Jacky Ickx says he is far wiser than he ever was. Born in Brussels in 1945, Jacques Bernard (Jacky) Ickx is known, today, as one of the finest racecar drivers of all time. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans six times, achieved eight wins and 25 podium finishes in Formula One, and won the Can-Am Championship in 1979. From Formula One racing to endurance racing and winning the Paris Dakar Rally, Ickx recalls his racing career and his association with Chopard in an exclusive interview with Haute Time’s US editor, Roberta Naas.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a racer?
JI: “No. I thought I would be a gardener or something like that. I disliked school a lot and my parents were in total desperation. Everyone said I a was very intelligent, but very lazy. ‘What a pity,’ the teachers would say. I liked to look out the window in school and think about being outside. I didn’t think about auto racing, but I believe in providence, or destiny. I am a great admirer of those who say they always knew what they wanted to do because I think most people never know exactly where they want to go or what they want to do, let alone succeed. I became someone I never dreamed I would be. Despite everyone telling me I was good at nothing, suddenly I found something I was good at, and that was a hell of a motivation, to discover that you are not bad at everything; that you can do something. I believe it was destiny that took me to motorcycle racing and then providence that took me to car racing and I was just lucky I had such good results. ”
Q: Once you found your way to motorcycle and then Formula One racing, were you incredibly competitive, and is that what you attribute your success to?
JI: “There is plenty of temptation is to say ‘I did this; it is about me and my abilities’ but that would not be true. Yes I was competitive. I think when you are a professional racer, you are two different characters. There is the one in the car when you are competing and the other one is the one outside the competition. Those two personalities don’t always mix and sometimes you have a hard time recognizing yourself. Now, when I look back to those younger days, I understand that I was very privileged. My successes were not all about me. I was surrounded by a lot of people who built a project and worked together to make the races a success. Those people work in a shadow 100 percent of the time. They do their job beautifully, and they give you a toy — a winning toy. In many ways it is unfair that the driver gets the glory and that team only gets the satisfaction of knowing that they did their job well. Honestly, if you don’t have the right people on your team, then you won’t have the right toy and it doesn’t matter how competitive you are, you will never win. The driver represents only about 15 percent of the win. He finishes the job. The rest was done by the others. But you can only see this and say this, after you have lived a good part of your life, after you have become wiser and more intelligent, and you learn to be grateful, too. It was the passion and motivation of the people on my team who gave me a safe car.”
Q: How did you come to team up with Chopard?
JI: “The family, especially Karl, is so involved in racing and the rallies and so I somehow became friendly with him. We met a few times and then I met the family and then we developed a strong, friendly relationship. We built up trust and confidence. Also we had the same types of personalities and passions. In motor racing and in watchmaking you need to be extremely precise. We both love a job well done. For me it was a necessity for precision and exactness; it is the same for them. Also, the success depends on the people who work in the company and the philosophy of the company toward its employees, much the same as the team building the car. They are a family business, and they understand this. It is much different than working with a big company with shareholders, and other requirements.”
Q: How does it feel to have a watch made in your honor?
JI: “We have had six editions in my honor and it is still very satisfying for your ego, for sure. You are very proud of it and are always looking at your watch. In the beginning I was worried that they would make too many and not sell them, but Karl always tells me to relax, they always sell them. I also love that they give me the opportunity to have input into the design. It is like I have a new little toy I can play with again.”