The shootout to exchange injured Prost driver Olivier Panis following his leg-breaking 1997 Canadian Grand Prix crash would show a pivotal second within the careers of Jarno Trulli and Emmanuel Collard. Unfortunately for Le Mans veteran Collard, the circumstances have been hardly ultimate as Trulli received the nod which kick-started his Formula 1 profession.

A-then-26-year-old Collard had simply endured heartbreak on the 24 Hours when the main Porsche 911 GT1 he shared with Ralf Kelleners and Yannick Dalmas went up in flames two hours from the tip. With little probability to course of the end result, Collard received the decision to make a seat and attend the shootout at Magny-Cours just a few days later. He hadn’t pushed an F1 automobile in over 12 months, having missed out on a 1996 race seat at Tyrrell, and coming off a gruelling enduro did nothing to assist his trigger.

“I was completely destroyed,” says Collard, who had first examined an F1 automobile with the staff in its earlier guise as Ligier in 1990. “I was really tired because Le Mans is Le Mans, it’s really tough. And it was more than one year I didn’t drive a single-seater, I was with Porsche in GT, so it was not easy for me. But in the end I did it.”

Given Prost was within the minority of groups utilizing the new-for-1997 Bridgestone rubber that proved vastly superior to the rival Goodyears – which had allowed Panis to complete third in Brazil, an in depth second in Spain and sit third within the standings previous to Canada – this was an excellent alternative to make an impression in F1.

It got here with added stress too, for this was realistically the 1996 Porsche Supercup champion’s final probability for a shot on the large time after his tough 1993 Formula 3000 marketing campaign had did not ship on its pre-season promise and left the door to an F1 race seat firmly closed.

But Collard, who had overwhelmed Panis of their yr collectively as F3000 rookie team-mates in 1992, believes it was predetermined that the seat alongside Mugen-backed Japanese driver Shinji Nakano would go to highly-rated German F3 champion Trulli.

The Italian was managed by Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant Italian who had bought the staff to Prost earlier that yr and “Prost’s close links with the team’s former owner” was acknowledged in Autosport’s report on the take a look at, which referenced ideas from insiders “that Briatore this year retained ownership of the team for some time after Prost took over.”

That Briatore and Collard didn’t have one of the best of relationships, relationship again to 1995 when Collard was Benetton’s nominal take a look at driver – “I didn’t drive the car” – merely added to his impression that “everything was against me at this time”.

“I think the deal was done before,” Collard says. “They called me but I don’t know why, I think they had no choice. They had to call a French driver, I was the only one at this time, so they called me because they had to. But in the end, the choice was for Trulli.”

Collard remembers that the unique plan was for each drivers to have a set of latest tyres every, and understood that the quickest driver afterwards can be chosen.

“I beat Trulli for the first set and they gave him a second set of new tyres so finally he was a few tenths faster than me,” he says. “It was a joke at the end.”

Trulli, who had been positioned at Minardi because the begin of the season, lapped 0.16s quicker by the tip of the take a look at, with Autosport reporting that “although the two were fairly evenly-matched on pace, Trulli impressed the team with his greater consistency, the higher quality of his technical feedback and better fitness.”

A damning assertion from Alain Prost left no room for interpretation on Collard’s health and firmly ended his F1 aspirations.

“We thought long and hard about the possibility of Emmanuel Collard taking over from Olivier,” stated Prost. “However, in Emmanuel’s current physical condition, this would have been a premature decision and we decided, mutually, not to take the risk. Having said that, I hope to be able to work with Emmanuel in the near future.”

As Collard factors out at the moment, “it’s normal” that he struggled considerably given his lack of latest F1 seat time.

“When you are not driving a Formula 1 car for more than one year, your neck is destroyed – for sure,” he says. “They knew this, so why did they call me? That was a problem for sure, but what can I do?”

However, Collard feels it wouldn’t have stopped him from giving a great account of himself on a grand prix weekend.

“I think I could make it [work],” he says. “When you are in the race, for sure we [would] have a neck problem, but this is manageable and I think at the end you can do it. That was an excuse, that’s it. It was the wrong moment for me.”

Trulli made wonderful use of the chance with Prost. Having beforehand been hampered by the yr’s slowest automobile (not together with the under-baked Lolas that disappeared after Melbourne), he certified sixth on his staff debut at Magny-Cours, completed fourth at Hockenheim and appeared on the right track for second in his remaining outing previous to Panis’s return on the A1 Ring earlier than his engine blew.

Nakano’s days have been numbered and Trulli was signed to affix Panis for 1998, laying the foundations for a profession that may prolong to 252 grand prix begins. Renowned as one among F1’s biggest qualifiers, he managed one win at Monaco in 2004.

Collard, in the meantime, would go on to get pleasure from a superb profession in sportscars and stays lively at the moment within the European Le Mans Series.

Through stints as a manufacturing facility driver with Toyota, Cadillac and Porsche, and main Pescarolo’s back-to-back Le Mans Series championship titles of 2005 and 2006, Collard’s bumper CV contains class honours at Le Mans in GT (2003) and LMP2 (2009), in addition to outright wins on the Daytona 24 Hours (2005), Sebring 12 Hours (2008), Petit Le Mans (1998) and the 1999 Spa 24 Hours throughout its spell as a touring automobile race.

The consummate staff participant, he concedes that his introverted persona meant he maybe didn’t push himself laborious sufficient on F1 groups.

“Yes, I think my character was not right I think for F1 – I was too quiet,” he says. “Maybe ultimately I didn’t push laborious sufficient, I don’t know. That was my drawback for certain, I used to be too quiet, however I believe I had the capability to make it.

“To say I would have been on the podium or score some points I don’t know, I can’t say that. But I think the level was there.”


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