Often asked about his three-race stint with Prost Grand Prix in 2001, Tomáš Enge has enjoyed an eclectic racing career thus far. Formula 1’s only Czech driver has collected race – and class – victories in International Formula 3000, the American and European Le Mans Series, the FIA GT1 World Championship, and the short-lived A1GP. He’s a former class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has entered the Rolex 24 at Daytona on multiple occasions, and even dabbled with oval racing during a short stint in IndyCar. And since 2012, he’s enjoyed a strong working relationship with Reiter Engineering.
Oh, and he’s a keen fan of Steve McQueen too…
“My name is Tomáš Enge.”
“I’m 43 years old. Well, 42 and three-quarters!”
“I’ve been racing since I was 14, so it will be 30 years in two years time … wow, that sounds terrible! But if I don’t count go-karts – I only did one season of go-karting, which was in 1991 – then I did my first race in a car in 1992, three days before my 16th birthday, and that was in the Ford Fiesta Cup at the Autodrom Most, in the Czech Republic.”
“Well, you can have a lot of best moments. One of your best moments is if you survive a big crash without injuries or something worse. Meeting a lot of people, who become friends, and that’s a great feeling when you are in the paddock or a racing community for so many years, you’re with them for many years, on and off-track. So I probably wouldn’t highlight anything in particular in terms of success. I mean, reaching Formula 1 [in 2001 with Prost], reaching IndyCar [sporadically from 2004 to 2006], victory at Le Mans [Tomáš took the GTS-class win in 2003 with Peter Kox and Jamie Davies in a Ferrari 550 GTS], that’s all good. But just to stay in racing for such a long time, that’s probably the biggest success you can have. Not everybody can say ‘I’ve been in racing for 30, 40 or 50 years,’ and I hope I have another 20 years ahead of me.”
“Oh there are so many! If I had to pick, it’s Nürburgring, Nordschleife. I mean, that’s going to be number one on everybody’s list! Circuits like Spa-Francorchamps and Brno, they’re beautiful tracks but usually a driver’s favourite circuit is the one he’s been successful on.”
“….that’s a question I’ll need to think about. Can you come back to me?”
(Later that afternoon…)
“I would say, in 2009, when I did a rally race in a Mitsubishi Evo Lancer IX, in the Czech Republic. On the second stage, I was driving quite fast, and then suddenly, a deer jumped in front of the car! There was no time to react, and I hit it. That wasn’t very nice. You don’t meet too many animals on the circuit, but in rally, it’s a big risk.”
“It’s a Czech tri-colour, which is blue, red and white. There’s also my initials too, so we have ‘’T’ on both sides, and ‘E’ on the top.”
“[Long pause] You might get a different answer from someone who knows me! [Second long pause] I would say car control. I’ve always been quite good at avoiding setup issues on the car by adapting my driving style.”
“Well, my favourite actor is Steve McQueen. Le Mans was just great, he was such a good actor and he had his own style. But casting him might be difficult now!”
“I kind of achieved quite a lot of everything. But I guess I would like to do Le Mans again for the 10th time. Obviously I would do it more than that, but to get 10 starts would be amazing.”
“Sorry, those are secrets! But my mum is here, so maybe we can ask her…*”
*Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to speak with Tomáš mother during a hectic Brno weekend. So if you happen to be reading this Mrs Enge, be sure to get in touch!
“The people. The atmosphere. ‘Easy’ racing, or should I say, ‘friendly’ racing. And the organisation is great. I’ve been involved in this series since, I don’t know, 2014 or 2015, and I’ve always enjoyed these race weekends. Hopefully I’ll get to do more of them soon.”
Yannick Mettler was speaking with Jolijn Jongenelen and James Gent at the 2019 Hankook 12H BRNO. Images courtesy of Petr Frýba. You can also check out this story in the 2019 Hankook 24H BARCELONA magazine, available for download at the link below.