My friend Stirling Moss once said to me, “By golly JC, that Alan Jones is a racer, isn’t he?” Coming from the great British champion driver, that’s quite a compliment, because Stirling really respects those guys who just get on with it, and give no quarter.
For me I reckon I’ve distilled all of Alan’s talents into two very key elements; he was a great starter, and a great overtaker. He was also tenacious, determined, calculating and resolute. These skills and character traits, and the great Williams FW07, were the elements which combined so well in 1980 to make him World Champion.
Pre-race in the pits, Monaco 1981
In 1981 I was in Monaco as a guest of the Williams F1 team and spent a lot of time with AJ in the pits and paddock, and during the race I watched him from several vantage points - St. Devote, Mirabeau, Loews Hairpin and La Rascasse.
Exiting La Rascasse onto Pit Straight
However, the most memorable spot was Mirabeau, on the run down from Casino Square. Memorable, because it was here that Alan put all his skills on show. For around 15 laps he was frustratingly tucked up behind Nelson Piquet’s exhaust pipes, watching and waiting.
Showing his patience, planning, determination and opportunism he pushed the Brazilian lap after lap, feinting down the inside at Mirabeau, to ‘spook’ him. AJ told me later that he was so close, he could see Nelson’s eyes in his rear view mirrors as big as saucers. AJ stalked him, waiting for the opportunity.
Alone at Mirabeau
Next time around, at Mirabeau, Alan Jones was alone. Piquet had lost concentration on the previous lap, and crashed into the wall near the ‘swimming pool’ chicane!
Loews Hotel Hairpin
Sadly, a fuel feed problem in the last couple of laps robbed AJ of a much deserved win, and he had to settle for second, but after that race I was convinced I’d witnessed just why Alan Jones was a World Champion.
For all the F1 races after that I followed his career on TV, and time and again watched his lightning reflexes win the drag race off the starting grid.
Alan made a brief return to F1 with the Beatrice-Lola team, but sadly the team and the car were simply not up to the standards of performance AJ could deliver, and despite his warm welcome from the locals at the 1985 AGP in Adelaide, he did not continue with the Carl Haas team.
At Adelaide in 1985 with Channel 9's Ken Sparkes
There’s a truth in racing, as true today as ever. If you don’t give the driver the very best car with which to do the job, he will not be able to realise all his potential, nor reveal all his talent. In 1980-81 Williams provided the BEST car on the track, and Alan Jones did his best with the tool at hand.
I’ve had the pleasure of a friendship with Alan Jones since 1980 and over many cold beers, and many glasses of an excellent Argentinian red, I learned that like all of us, champions are both simple and complex, but on the track Alan Jones was simply an awe-inspiring racer. Stirling Moss was on the money with his assessment.
At Glenburn, Victoria in 1983
We need to continue to pay tribute to both our world champion drivers, Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones. They stared down the greatest teams and drivers in Formula One, and through skill and application they carried off the greatest trophy in motor racing. No mean feat!
Well done AJ! You are, and always will be, a true champion!