The ups and downs of a French F1 trail-blazer

The ups and downs of a French F1 trail-blazer

With scorching pace over one lap, René Arnoux blazed a trail through Formula 1 at Renault and Ferrari. His duel with Gilles Villeneuve at Dijon in 1979 is the stuff of legend, as are his later years at Ligier - for rather different reasons. Happily for us, he's as cheerful and cheeky now as he ever was. But, as Damien Smith found out, when it comes to his old foe Alain Prost, the frost is clearly yet to thaw

That impish smile, the twinkle in his eyes: little René Arnoux was always a character - and as French as the Eiffel Tower.

He fills his retro Renault overalls snugly these days, but hey, he's 69 and he's lived well since his days as the enfant terrible of la Régie during their first super-powered Formula 1 bloom. He looks great, and, as we discover over the course of a glorious hour, he's fantastic company, too.

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