It's a long way from a grocer's shop in Falkirk to the speed and glamour of the Grand Prix circuit, but Scot CRAIG POLLOCK has joined the fast lane with the sport's newest team, British American Racing. Words: Lorin McDougall
RATHER LIKE THE HEROINE OF THE film Sliding Doors, Craig Pollock saw his whole life turned upside down by a twist of fate. Instead of following his intended career path as a PE teacher, the Scot was driven in a different direction and now fronts the newest team on the Grand Prix starting grid — British American Racing (BAR).
‘Around [980, things were pretty grim work-wise in Scotland.‘ he recalls. ‘But then, by reading The Times Educational Supplement, I found a teaching job in Switzerland. I’d always loved skiing and actually had a Swiss-German girlfriend from the age of sixteen, and often stayed with her family over there.’
Before long, Pollock found himself teaching future Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, who later appointed him his personal manager. Last year, when BAR was created, Pollock and Villeneuve were handed two of the key jobs. becoming team supremo and number one driver. The pair are great friends. but should strictly have little in common. Whereas Villeneuve, son of the late Grand Prix legend Gilles, seemed destined for international greatness, Pollock‘s family ran a grocery store round the corner from Brockville Park in Falkirk.
‘It’s as if at times I‘m being watched over by a guardian angel,’ says the likeable 42-year-old in an attempt to explain his remarkable success story. “I’ve been accused by my peers of being arrogant, and that
hurts in a way. I‘d say I‘m confident in business and I'm a huge risk-taker. I don‘t mind taking some dangerous decisions, and most have worked out and I’ve been very lucky. I don't consider myself the most intelligent or best businessman in the world. but I can make calculated decisions.‘
Many more tough decisions will need to be taken as Pollock juggles BAR‘s annual budget of £50 million. Never in the sport's history has a rookie team invested so heavily. but the ice-cool Scot is unfazed: ‘The biggest pressure was when 1 had to find my own money to put in — I’d made some. but not that much. The huge sponsorship package took a little bit of pressure off. although everybody expects we will succeed. BAR didn’t understand just how tough the competition is at first. but recently certain things have been driven home to them. I have a very good partner in BAR. and at board meetings it‘s clear that they‘re 110% behind me. The employee car park at our factory is usually full by 7.30am and the guys are really buzzing.‘
Also fully guarenteed is the excellence of Villeneuve. ‘I knew what made him tick and knew how to get him for the team.‘ says Pollock. ‘lt was a huge risk for him to join us. but it would have been a huge risk for us not to get him. A top driver can find you an extra half second to a second a lap. and that was important.’
Neither Villeneuve nor co-driver Richard Zonta completed last month‘s
'We're aiming to get up there with Ferrari and nip at the heels of McLaren.’
Team spirit: Craig Pollock with drivers Jacques Villeneuve (left) and Ricardo Zonta (right)
season opener in Melbourne. but their boss drew plenty of encouragement for race two in Brazil this month. ‘Australia was good for our first Grand Prix because we got through the weekend without major disasters. The chassis appears to be quick and we could see BAR on the podium relatively quickly.
‘Brazil is not so much an engine track as Australia. and that might even out the field a little. Our reliability increases race by race. so we‘ll keep our fingers crossed that we finish the full race distance. We‘re aiming to get up there with Ferrari and nip at the heels of McLaren.‘
For all his unconventional background within the sport,
Pollock‘s rivals should underestimate him at their peril. He is. after all. from Scotland. home to many leading drivers from the late Jim Clark to present—day star David Coulthard. Current team chiefs Jackie Stewart and Tom Walkinshaw are two more high—profile Scots. and Pollock believes this is no coincidence.
‘There are a huge number of Scottish people amongst the top businessmen in the world in major corporations. It’s a mentality that Scots have: we're fighters - remember BruveltearL'
The Brazilian Grand Prix is on Sun 11 Apr; qualifying stages take place on Sat 10 Apr. Both will be shown live on Scottish Television.
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