1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill has explained how he made the switch from racing motorbikes to cars in a recent episode of the Fuelling Around podcast.
The Briton was quite late into F1 but certainly made up for lost time with him winning the championship in ’96, as well as famously going close in 1994 up against Michael Schumacher.
Before racing cars, though, he was big into racing motorbikes and he has explained how that came about and how he eventually ended up on four wheels rather than two.
Damon Hill reveals how he started racing on bikes
“I saw two brothers riding this monkey bike round and, obviously, part of my brain is going: ‘That looks fun’ and I must have had ‘Can I have a go?’ written on my face or something because they let me have a go,” Hill said on the Fuelling Around podcast, powered by Adrian Flux.
“I used to go off with my mates at home in Mill Hill and we’d go on adventures on our bicycles. Being on two wheels, I understood, this thing, you didn’t have to pedal it. You just needed to turn the little thing on the handlebar and off it went. It was like a massive lightbulb moment goes off.
“I do wonder about that because my dad actually started off on motorbikes, he also did scrambling, and broke his leg quite badly. He had a bad limp because of a crash on a motorbike. My grandma rode a motorbike. My grandad, in other words my dad’s dad, never drove a car in his life. He didn’t have a driving licence and I do think my grandma passed on some experience through genetics.”
Damon Hill discusses swapping racing bikes for cars
Speaking about moving to cars, he said:
“I won a lot of races and actually that happened at roughly the same time that I took up car racing – or my mum met a person who said: ‘He ought to get off that bike and try cars because he’s going to hurt himself’.
“That’s how I got off two wheels and into four wheels. I have to say I didn’t like it at first. I just didn’t like being strapped into a cockpit. It felt very claustrophobic and a car didn’t accelerate like a motorbike did. It had no oomph. Until you get more power, you can’t drive it like a motorbike because a motorbike has got way more power.
“It wasn’t until you get more power in a racing car, or it was wet, that I could actually do something with the damn thing because they’re like a dead weight.”
Ultimately, it was a switch that paid off in the best style possible as he roared to victory for Williams in 1996, taking his world championship crown at Suzuka.