Four-times Formula 1 world champion racing driver Alain Prost knows a good deal when he sees one, which explains why he was at Le Bourget yesterday to join Bombardier's Flexjet fractional ownership programme.
Now the boss of the Prost Grand Prix team, the diminutive Frenchman has signed up for a sixteenth share of a Bombardier Learjet 31A business jet. Membership of the scheme will give Prost 24hr-a-day, seven-days-a-week access to a range of the latest Bombardier equipment, including the Learjet 60 and the Challenger.
Prost has bought 50hr a year over the next 24 months, which will enable him to fly quickly and cost-effectively throughout Europe, frequently to and from areas not served by a regular commercial airport. He'll be jetting from Prost Grand Prix's HQ on the outskirts of Paris, to his home and office in Geneva, to F1 manufacturing plants across the region and to European races.
"It makes good business sense and combines the essential elements of quality, service and cost," he says. "I travel a great deal, although not really enough to justify owning an aircraft of my own. With this deal I don't have to worry about aircraft, fuel and pilots. All I need is a phone number and around six to ten hours' notice before I want to fly.
In the past Prost has owned two Cessna Citations (a II and a V) and a Beech King Air 90. "But all too often I found myself paying for pilots to return to base without me and then having to pay for yet another return journey to pick me up again. It just wasn't worthwhile financially."
A qualified pilot himself, Prost also owned a Beechcraft Bonanza for leisure flying. "When I launched my own team in 1997 I was too busy and let my licence lapse. But I really regret it now," he says.
Winner of the F1 world championship in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1993, Alain Prost has had a torrid time in the competitive world of team ownership. But with Ferrari power this year, and drivers Jean Alesi and Luciano Burti, things have been looking up. The world of motor sport was delighted to see Alesi score two points for a fine fifth place in Canada the weekend before last. The next race - the European Grand Prix - is next Sunday at Germany's Nurburgring.