WEC

Jacky Ickx praises safety advances and backstage heroes in emotional speech

Jacky Ickx delivered an emotional and thoughtful speech upon accepting his FIA Hall of Fame award last week. In what was one of the highlights of the Paris ceremony, the two-time champion with Porsche remembered the late Stefan Bellof, praised the advancements of safety in motorsport and dedicated the ceremony to those working behind the curtains.

"Yes, I have been very privileged. That’s for sure," Ickx spoke after taking the microphone from host Louise Beckett.  "But of course you have realized tonight that racing at my time and in the eighties was very dangerous.

So obviously I have lovely memories, but also, I’m sure for those who understood and were hearing about Stefan Bellof, dying in Spa-Francorchamps, you all know that I was involved in it. It’s nice to remember him, and I think it was a real privilege to remember him tonight. Voila, racing is made of very good and also very sad moments, where you never recover."

Bellof was killed during the 1985 Spa 1000 Kilometres. The German, driving a Brun Porsche 956C, attempted to pass Ickx's works Porsche 962C at Eau Rouge when the two made contact, causing a crash that would claim Bellof's life. After touching upon Bellof's untimely passing, Ickx aimed his direction at FIA President Jean Todt and talked about safety improvements in racing.

"But that gave me the chance to tell you how much I appreciate the effort that has been made by your predecessors about safety in racing," he continued. "I’d like to remind you that in the seventies and in the sixties, a large number of talented drivers died because the circuits were not safe enough, the cars were not safe enough.

And you have finished that job. I know it’s never finished in motor racing. You have to think about every aspect, but I think you have to be grateful to the FIA and for those who were handling these difficult responsibilities for the incredible achievement you have done. Because now we have safe cars, safe race courses. Yes, we have to accept that sometimes, there are fatalities, obviously."

Finally, Ickx moved on to praise the unsung heroes of motorsport: those working behind the curtain.

"I had the privilege to win a large number of races in Dakar, Formula One, Can-Am, long distance. But I would like to dedicate this evening for all those… not only the co-driver, as been said, Derek and my team-mates, but I think this evening has to be dedicated for those who are behind the curtains.

I always say it’s easy to drive a good car. Of course, people expect you to win, but I consider that eighty percent of the job, it’s made by those who prepare the cars, who work on the cars, who have the intellectual satisfaction to have done the job. You never see them, most of the time.

You see the glory of the drivers, who are underneath the spotlight. But those are making all successes, and I’m sure you share that idea. And we have also to consider, I guess, the destiny, the timing, the provident, the luck. So for all those I suggest, maybe you applause them, because them, we are nobody."