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Tags:   Cars,   Motoring,   Motor-racing

By Colin Fitz   -  May 26, 2014

SWAG gets the lowdown from the people who matter in Malta’s auto world. Pierre Vella, the island’s most recognisable motor racing TV pundit, known to thousands as Pierre tal-Formula One tells us the history behind his becoming so connected with the sport. 

What was your very first car?

My first car was a green FIAT 127. I had it for quite a while and it was my pride and joy. I modified it once the guarantee ran out and I used to race it at Ta’Qali. It was also a delightful family car for when my children were still young.

What other cars have you owned?

I’ve owned various, from a Seat Marbella to a Mazda 626 and a Mitsubishi Lancer which is still in the family circle.


What do you drive at the moment?

At the moment I’m driving a Renault Megane. I’m contemplating replacing it but I find it hard to let go of my cars. I also own a treasured Limited Edition Subaru Impreza WRX.


Have you ever regretted any of your car purchases?

No, because I always took time to decide and my choices were spot on.


Do you have a single dream car?

Well, you always have a dream car which you can only afford if you won the lottery, but my work gives me the opportunity to drive various cars ones I would or could never buy.


Do you have a favourite TV or film car?

To be honest I was never a fan of any TV car. I had decided to follow Formula 1 from a very young age and no film car has ever been more important than racing cars. However, to me, a film becomes good if an exciting car chase is included.


If you could own a road car currently available for sale, what would it be?

There are three: the Renault Captur, the Hyundai i30 and the Toyota Auris.


Which classic cars would you like to own?

That’s easy: a Ferrari 250 GT0 and a Ferrari 512 bb, but I guess if I could afford these, you would be asking these questions to my secretary.


What’s the best car you’ve ever driven?

This is difficult to answer because I've driven quite a few and they always gave me pleasure. But if you’re asking me about the greatest emotions a car has generated in me, I’d have to say it was from sitting in the latest Ferrari jewel, the laFerrari…


What have been your best and worst moments when driving?

I always try to make driving an exciting experience, especially when abroad. Thank God, there was only one bad moment that will live with me forever. A completely drunk driver slammed into the rear of my car, which had left the factory without seatbelts – they only became compulsory many years later. Luckily I had installed seat belts myself and my belt saved my life.


Are you any good at car maintenence?

I am proud to say I’m very good. I take pride in keeping my cars in pristine condition, both the bodywork and the engine. I do most of the work myself.


Have you always been a car fan?

Yes… I recall being allowed to briefly drive a FIAT 500 when I was around 12, and taking engines apart a few years later.


What is your first memory of watching motor racing?

At a very young age I used to enjoy the news items they used to show before films at the cinema, where F1 was reviewed. The first race I actually attended was the Silverstone F1 Grand Prix in 1987.


Who is your favourite racing driver?

I have respect for all F1 drivers but my all time favourite is Gilles Villeneuve. Even though he was never a world champion he was a driver that put his everything into driving a race car. I never met the guy, but I have been blessed with meeting his wife and his famous son Jacques Villeneuve. I even named my house after this great Canadian driver. I have another story about meeting racing drivers: in 2001 I was a passenger in a two seater F1 car driven by Fernando Alonso who was still a novice at the time. It was a uniquely exciting experience.


What is your favourite racing circuit?

My favourite street circuit is Singapore, and my favourite race circuit is Montmelo in Spain. I’ve been attending the GP there for 18 years and I still enjoy it very much.


What advice would you give to someone who is looking to buy a car?

Well, do your homework well and read the reviews, but most importantly, test drive the car. Driving it can make a lot of difference.


What’s on your car stereo at the moment?

My favourite music is engine noise. I hardly turn the radio on in the car. However I enjoy music by Queen and The Beatles.


Is there a famous road that you dream of driving along one day?

Yes the Twelve Apostles Great Ocean Road on the outskirts of Melbourne in Australia. I was fortunate to be driven along it once and I would love to actually drive it myself one day.


Who would be your dream passenger on a long journey – dead or alive?

Enzo Ferrari.


How would you like to see the motor industry develop?

I feel that global car manufacturers are taking the environment very seriously into consideration. We have seen a lot of progress, with electromobility campaigns even here in Malta, which is good. But my main concern as an FIA advocate for road safety is our roads. I am sorry to say that road rage is on the increase and so is the unnecessary and constant use of mobile phones by drivers. Road discipline is almost non-existent, and I believe that stiffer penalties should be introduced. 


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