With this year’s Passione Caracciola rally taking off in Milan, it was only natural for the 58 teams – the age that Rudolf “Karratsch” Caracciola reached – to have their first stopover at the Autodromo Nazionale in Monza. It was here where the German racing driver had won the Italian Grand Prix in a Mercedes-Benz W 25 back in 1934. On this hot day, right before the fleet of classic cars (up to 1980) started heading to the rally’s next stopover in St. Moritz, we met with former racing driver and legend, Jochen Mass, and Spanish F1 racing driver, Carmen Jorda, to talk about muscles, bumper cars and – of course - racing.
Jochen Mass: Do you live in Madrid?
Carmen Jorda: No, in Valencia. Have you been there?
Jochen Mass: Three times. It was nice, Valencia is good.
Carmen Jorda: Where do you live?
Jochen Mass: I live in the South part of France.
You both have seen all these beautiful cars here in Milan and Monza during the Passione Caracciola. Which one is your favorite?
Carmen Jorda: I would definitely say the [Mercedes 190] SLR that I drove this morning, because it didn’t have a big engine but I think it was very easy to drive. Unlike the one I drove yesterday [Mercedes-Benz SLS], where the steering was quite difficult.
Jochen Mass: The Brazilian, the Roadster. Yeah, yeah, I love that car too. You are absolutely right. It has pretty good power.
Carmen Jorda: Not much, around 160.
Jochen Mass: Yeah, 160/170, but that’s okay.
Carmen Jorda: Yeah that’s okay, but I am just saying that it was incredibly hard to turn. It was unbelievable.
Jochen Mass: You get used to it. You get used to it. You will grow muscles. (laughing)
Carmen Jorda: It’s not about muscles, it’s about turning and stability in the corners. Steering this one is like steering a truck, it’s so big. I never drove…
Jochen Mass: Trucks?
Carmen Jorda: No, No. I am not used to trucks.
What about you, Mr. Mass, what is your favorite car?
Jochen Mass: My favorite car actually is the [Mercedes-Benz] SS in regards to the steering forces. (Turns towards Carmen) That one you should drive. You would love it. It is very heavy. The S which is from the 1929/30 is a lovely car. It’s a straight 8 normally with a big engine but not much power, so I drove the Mille Miglia with it and the tight corners are … forget it! You can’t make it, so you have to go forwards and backwards going up to San Marino. But it’s a beautiful car, I just drove it now at the Nürburgring again. It was the car that Rudolf Caracciola used in 1927 in the Nürburgring inaugural race. Ah, it’s fantastic. You sit in the car, Rudolf Caracciola’s 1927 winning car. It’s very interesting, very touching actually in a certain way. It’s nice.
When it comes to driving, what is the biggest challenge when you sit in a race car? Is it the focus, the mentality, or perhaps the strength?
Carmen Jorda: Of course, I think you have to be very focused. You go through the preparation, so you know every step you’re taking. But I also think it’s a slightly different preparation for each of the three: free practice, the qualifying and the race. Because for every session you have to have a different mentality. For example, for qualifying, you know that you have to fight for the best and quickest lap time, while for the race maybe you have to settle something different in your mind like the starting grid or the first two laps that are the more crucial for the race. So, I will say focus, concentration obviously, and being aggressive as soon as you jump in the car.
Would you agree with that?
Jochen Mass: Yeah, absolutely. It’s perfectly right. You have to have a certain gift. Obviously talent to drive is one thing, that’s the obvious part, but then you need a lot more. You need to be nice. You need to be reliable. You need to be cool enough in order to absorb all that in a positive way and don’t ever think that you are too important. That’s the key thing. Stay modest in a certain way and drive well. That’s the key thing. But that’s like a lot of things in life, you know.
Carmen Jorda: Well, you are more experienced than me…
Do you remember the first time you sat in a car and that moment where you realized that you wanted to be a race driver?
Jochen Mass: The first time I raced, I remember it clearly, because it was a GTA, the Alpha. It was exactly what I had thought it would be. It was funny when I drove it, I thought it was a déjà-vu. I had mentally prepared myself long before that. It was very interesting and revealing. Driving nicely was the key thing, and driving aesthetically. I thought if I drive nicely and beautifully, I would drive quicker than the others.
Carmen Jorda: I remember my first time very well. I was eleven years old. My dad got his old go-cart, the ones that have a button for the fuel. I remember that my dad prepared it and he said, “I am going to try it for my daughters and I am going to bring it here in the parking”. My sister didn’t like it at all, but I jumped in it and asked, “What is this? Can we go to a track and do something with it?” I still remember this moment so vividly. I felt from then on that the speed and the adrenaline of racing were going to be part of my life.
Jochen Mass: You obviously have the talent, otherwise you would have never experienced that in that way. You already had worked it out…
Carmen Jorda: You know it’s something very funny. My dad was a driver himself, and when I was five years old, he took me to drive with the bumper cars.
Jochen Mass: Bumper cars?
Carmen Jorda: Yeah, so I always said to him: “Daddy, I want to drive, I want to drive”. He would answer, “Okay, but I must sit next to you”. So, when I got to the end of the driving platform, I started oversteering and such, and my dad was probably thinking I was mad! Since then, he always says that I had it in my DNA. And I think it’s true.
Jochen Mass: (laughing) Because you have it. Otherwise you can’t make it!
Carmen Jorda: Either you have it or you don’t have it. It’s as simple as that.
Jochen Mass: You just know it. When you get to a car, you know you can do it, you don’t even think about it.
So, what advice would you give to up-and-coming race car drivers? What are the qualifications and qualities you have to have?
Jochen Mass: I think you have to believe in yourself. Never doubt your talent. Be critical of yourself, but still kind. Don’t let yourself be deterred. You can’t go in tentatively and say “let’s see if I can do it”. No, you have to be convinced.
Carmen Jorda: I completely agree. I have doubted myself at times because I didn’t have a good race. But I have learned that doubting is a mistake. If you put your mind to it and just do it, as Jochen just said, that’s when you make it. Then you go on the track and think: “I am going to overtake this one!” And that’s when you are going to overtake him – no matter what.
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