It is very hard to unsettle Jean-Marc Gounon, who by all accounts has been around
the block a few times in motor racing, but at Anderstorp the press corps managed
it during the European Touring Car Championship.
Creation Sportif Lister Storm driver Gounon saw a different side of the GT
championship when he sat in the press room to watch the ETCC races. Behind
the wheel, it is all blood sweat and sometimes tears, an uncomfortable cooking
pot of heat and noise. In the press room, we have televisions, lap charts, and
some fiercely patriotic press officers.
Gounon had finished another typically eventful FIA GT Championship race. Having
un-lapped himself from Andrea Piccini's Lister Storm, he went off into the gravel,
climbed out of the car and was last seen removing his gloves on the tyre barrier as
the wrecker truck tugged his Lister out of harm's way.
His Creation team, one that prides itself on its 'mojo' which Gounon provides by
the bucket load, had already had one car retire, and the team sat down for a cup of
tea at the back of the garage. No one, especially driver Bobby Verdon-Roe,
expected to see Gounon's yellow Lister again before the chequer flag, but
suddenly there it was, in the pit lane and ready to be serviced.
"He's back!" yelled Bobby, on his hands and knees scooping gravel out of the
radiators and cutting his hands and arms in the process before the rest of the
team arrived to help out. It brought to mind Enna Pergusa last year, when Gounon
had an electrical switch problem in his Ferrari and solved it by parking at the end of
the pit lane, running back to his pit for a hammer, and then whacking his Ferrari
until it worked again.
For the Frenchman, the atmosphere in the press room at Anderstorp was
something of a surprise. "Ah," said one experienced hack as he watched a BMW
driver and an Alfa driver together on the track. "He'll have him off." The next shot, of
an Alfa in the gravel, was no surprise to anyone but Gounon. "We are all out there
fighting like monkeys and you are in here laughing?" said the incredulous
Frenchman. "Yes," we replied, "and you should have heard us when you were
driving at Donington!"
There, Gounon and his Konrad team had somehow contrived to miss the signal to
clear the grid, leaving him on the front row and not strapped in as the others pulled
away. The team blamed cameramen getting in the way of the five minute board,
observers blamed the rather attractive grid girl who was stationed in front of his car
before the off. His come-back drive from the back of the grid was always going to
be exciting, and indeed he delivered.
"Who is number 2?" asked one observer as the message flashed up on the
screen in the opening salvo of laps for the team manager to visit the stewards.
"Gounon" was the simultaneous reply from many for whom it was simply a matter
of time. The Frenchman had inadvertently hit a Porsche on his way through, in
typical gentlemanly fashion he held up his hand to making a mistake and
Before he served his stop-and-go penalty he had attempted to pass both Jamie
Campbell-Walter's Lister Storm and Fabrizio Gollin's Ferrari 550 Maranello at the
same corner. Sideways. He was given the chance to show his worth on the world
stage when, at Le Mans, he fought mercilessly with the Panoz of Gunnar
Jeannette. His clutchless Courage was driven to within an inch of its life, and
Jeannette earned the praise of his hero Jan Lammers as he somehow held
Gounon off to finish fifth.
The story behind that last stint is another worth telling. Gounon's co-driver was
finished, unable to continue, the other was asleep and it was left to him to finish
the race. His leg was agony, swelling up and needing attention which he found in
the form of a large, uncooked steak, which he strapped to his leg.
The car came in for the final change of driver, Gounon leapt in and was strapped in
by his mechanic who knew nothing about the steak until he tightened the belts.
You can imagine his shock as red fluid leaked out of the chunk of meat and down
the leg of the driver on which their finish at Le Mans rested.
We wonder what else he has in store for us, his team, and the spectators, before
the chequered flag falls at Monza.