Two Generations, One Passion
When it comes to car racing, it is all about timing with the highest precision, appreciation of exceptional engineering and a penchant for design. The parallel and appeal to many of the same passions are easy to observe with watch enthusiasts. We spoke to Garmin MARQ® Driver ambassadors and motorsport greats — legendary Dakar and Le Mans driver René Metge and Top Gear presenter and former Le Mans racer Bruce Jouanny. They take us through their journey through the sport over the years, how passion remains the great constant and how this unique Garmin tool watch would have helped them back in the day.
It’s All About Precision
Santa Claus was generous when Bruce Jouanny got a go-kart for Christmas at the age of 10. He was fast straight out of the blocks and from his first race until today, 30 years later, his passion for motorsport is still the same. “The instinct was there! The sense for the course, the way the corners appear and the straight capacity to take risks. I believe you are born to be competitive. The secret to success is passion,” Bruce recalls. “Perseverance and the strive for perfection were key. Because it all takes time — nothing happens overnight. You have to get out on the track, do your laps, over and over again. You have to define and target your objective and never get out of focus. Racing is on your mind 24 hours a day. You think … no, you actually live, racing.”
After his first major win in the French Nationals in Formula Renault, he was fueled to pursue a career in car racing. He succeeded with merit and claimed a seat in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in the top category. “We qualified fifth overall, and it was great to start that race in such a promising position. What made it so very special was to see and feel the emotional support of the French crowd. That meant a lot to me.” But reaching the top and staying at the top isn’t always easy.
“Once you have a big goal, a setback is often the moment when you learn and when you get better. It may sound like a platitude, but it’s so true: You learn more by losing than by winning. My target was always the perfect lap and with that mindset, you never stop chasing it. So you go out there on the racecourse again and again and you keep striving, practicing in order to find this perfect lap.”
As racers know, finding the perfect lap is all about precision. Not just the racing behind the wheel, but even more important finding the right setup for your car. “Oh, man. I am a precision freak. I’ve spent half my life analyzing data and working on the car setup. I was back in Formula Renault when data logging systems came up. At that time, it was real basic stuff such as speed trace, throttle, brake and steering trace. But this was the beginning of a revolution and a different way of working. Testing and timing is completely different these days, and that’s why I am using Garmin. I can absolutely rely on its precision. My MARQ® Driver is basically a car data logging system attached to my wrist! It’s hard to believe, but it’s exactly that. You can improve your driving performance, at whatever level, just with this watch. It’s surreal. I love the titanium face and the ergonomics of the bracelet. So many people ask me about it and are often surprised at how much technology is condensed into something you can wear on your wrist. I also really like the smart functions that allow me to pay with it, listen to music and use streaming services.”
Racing is very demanding, so keeping your fitness at a high level is key to staying focused during an event. “I follow the training programs for cardio and body building on my watch, which has changed my way of training. Knowing that I am well prepared and that I have reached my training goals gives me confidence. In that respect, Garmin helps me to refine my goals and keeps me in a positive mindset by never losing sight of every detail regarding my performance. I feel like it really gives me an edge. It tells me how hard my heart has been working during activities, it even alerts me if it’s too high or too low.”
A Different Breed
The alert for a high heart rate would certainly have gone off for many of us if we’d have sat right next to René Metge in his rally car in the roaring ’80s. Bruce describes him as a legend and a pioneer. “He has achieved so much in racing. He’s an idol for everyone who loves motorsport. What is so special about René is his ability to switch cars. Coming from a single seater background, he raced monsters in the 24 hours of Le Mans and he won the Dakar Rally three times! But he then could jump back on a racetrack at the highest level, racing GTs, prototype or super touring. It’s nuts. This is nearly impossible today, only a few can master this. Fernando Alonso is the only one who comes to my mind. That says it all! And above all — he is such a character … there is no one like him.”
“We were certainly a different breed,” René begins. “The races I competed in during the 1980s became legendary, mostly due to the cars we were racing at the time. I loved the atmosphere, pushing your limits and making progress. It was a fun time, traveling the world, meeting people and sharing the adventure. The Dakar Rally was a unique adventure. It was by far more than a race in the desert. It’s a long journey — more than 3 weeks. You learn a lot about yourself too. Contrary to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, you are not on your own in the car, but you share it with your co-pilot, which sometimes became an adventure in itself. Besides the racing, it’s the foreign cultures, alluring landscapes, which makes it so fascinating.”
René changes his tone. “However, it was dangerous. Each time the routing was different, which meant that you faced different challenges every day. All day long you had to concentrate, pay attention to every detail, perform at the highest level. You rev the engine, smell the petrol, the oil, the hot tires. And not for only one or two days, but for weeks. It’s noisy, broiling hot. Exhausting and stressful. For the driver and the car. And we did this without any GPS technology at all, nothing to help with the journey. Oh, to have had a Garmin! On the other hand, it was probably better not to see my level of adrenaline,” he laughed.
“Navigation systems did exist but were only used by the army. We had to rely on the Road Book, which we prepared by ourselves every evening. It gave us the information about road conditions, surface, corners, bumps, stones, boulders, dunes, etc. While the driver was racing, the co-pilot was permanently reading the book, actually shouting out the information. We got some vague information during pit stops or at points of time registration. It would have been fantastic to have all the smart features, alerts — which are nowadays literally at my wrist — in the car. It’s incredible that today all the data is conveniently packed in my little beauty, MARQ Driver. Minutes, seconds decide whether you are the winner or the runner up. Timekeeping, chronometry has been an immensely important part of my life.”
Whereas Bruce is exercising a lot to maintain and improve his fitness level, back in the day this was just not a part of the job for a racer. “There is a point in a rally where you hit your limits, and you have to push yourself. As far as mental training is concerned, it simply did not exist in my time. I remember the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1986. Instead of 3 or 4 drivers, we were only 2. After a couple of hours, we were in the lead. In the end, I was totally exhausted and had lost 7 kilos within 24 hours because of the extreme heat we had to face in 1986. We won the category. If I had a MARQ Driver that day, I wonder what my Body Battery™ would’ve been!”
The Secret of Success
Living in the fast lane may sound appealing to many of us, but winning races never comes easy. What is the key ingredient of winning the Dakar Rally three times? “Being calm is in my nature, but I have learned the benefits of being patient,” René explains. “As a racing driver you always want to go fast; however, in many situations you have to control the eagerness. During a 24-hour race, it all depends on strategy and your timing. If you permanently floor the accelerator and go at an unrelenting pace from start to finish, the car will not make it to the finish line. Waiting for the precise moments to attack, to overtake, is the secret. That’s even more important during the Dakar Rally, when you spend three weeks in the car. Attacking from the very first moment would smash the car. But apart from being prudent and calm, you have to be fast. No doubt. It doesn’t matter whether the race lasts for 1 hour, 24 hours or 3 weeks, keeping time is critical.”
And it’s exactly that what makes the Garmin MARQ Driver stand out of all the other smart tool watches: It really makes you a faster racer. It not only has more than 480 preloaded tracks of the world’s most famous circuits, it also has a tachymeter and a chronograph that let you time your lap and calculate speeds at the track. In this way you stay on top of your performance with stats on every single lap. “I use the preloaded tracks, which bring back great memories. I use the GPS to tag certain points — I feel like I’m back at the racetrack. It’s gorgeous. Along with the quality and design, today it’s the smart alerts/notifications I love best. I never hear my phone; now I have everything at my wrist. Emails, apps, music — it even helps me to find my phone. And I only have to recharge it once a month,” the retired René concludes.
Although they belong to different generations with a different approach to racing, René and Bruce share the passion for precision and perfection. Their mutual appreciation of quality and design in chronometry is met by their MARQ Driver.
Photo credits: Vivien Lavau, Aurelien Vialatte, Ugo Richard