« It’s great to be a transmitter of dreams »
Dominique Chapatte is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Sunday car show on M6, which began with the channel in 1987. He joined Karim Benzema in Spain to test two racing cars: a McLaren 765LT and a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo Turbo. The journalist evokes this meeting and takes a look at the current car.
TV MAGAZINE. – Why did you choose Karim Benzema for this anniversary?
Dominique Chapatte. – We’ve been tracking him for months. He has a busy schedule with his almost daily training. Then the Covid did not make things easier because it takes a lot of precautions. When he accepted, it was an opportunity to talk about his nice collection of cars, his childhood about which he says he watched Turbo with his father in Bron, in the Lyon suburbs. And as a matter of fact, it turns out that Karim Benzema is also celebrating his 35th birthday.
He invited you to his garage?
He does not take us there but he evokes his cars. For example, a BMW M6, a Mercedes GL 65 AMG, a Mercedes SLR, a Porsche 911 Turbo S, two Bugatti Chiron and Veyron of which a model manufactured in only 5 copies, a Ferrari La Ferrari… We did a very interesting. We picked him up at Real’s training camp and took him to the old Jarama F1 circuit, near Madrid.
In 35 years, you have met fascinating personalities and even stars. Who left you the most memorable memory?
It is difficult to name just a few without offending the others, but the encounters that marked me the most were that of Alain Prost – even if I met many other pilots – but he gives off some something, a kind of sweetness that you don’t imagine when you see him driving an F1; that of Fangio, whom I interviewed in Argentina a few years before his death, and that of Depardieu, who left me with unforgettable memories. He was a BMW ambassador, I brought him a hybrid car and we did a show for almost three days with him. We talked about cars and everything else. But not everything is relatable (laughs). In any case, he is an extraordinary character.
In 35 years, you have seen automobiles change considerably. How do you view this universe?
The current cars obviously have nothing to do with those of the 80s but things came about empirically. And one wonders how far it will go. I remember that when I was a kid between 6 and 10 years old, I made drawings of cars flying in cities, between buildings. The technology has taken off but basically it is not necessarily visible at first glance in mass market cars. This is more about the driving position, the materials used or simply the optics of the headlights.
There are few shows as old as yours, but since 1987 a whole generation of bloggers has flourished on the internet. Information and car tests are no longer a domain reserved for TV…
But it does not change anything. Because these are two ways of talking about automobiles. Whether “Automoto” on TF1 or “Turbo”, we are journalists. There is a level of collaboration with manufacturers which is that of car manufacturer to car analyst. We are there to judge with a press card. Influencers and bloggers do another job. It’s funny by the way because I see a lot of people who “do Chapatte” on their blog. It amuses me to hear them say: “Hello welcome” and at the end “Cia-ciao”. They have an audience and speak to it in their own way. We have a classic approach to self analysis. This means that we must have respect for those who are watching us. You can’t step into the role of an influencer.
Politicians do not like cars in the city and many city dwellers complain about it. What do you think?
I’m not all for the car in town. But neither can we act in such a coercive, even punitive, way, as most municipalities do, which have gone to war against the car like Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg… These cities do not do not belong to Parisians, Bordeaux residents or Strasbourg residents, but to all those who come to work there and I regret that they are being chased away. On the other hand, I’m not for rotting cities either with the car in all directions, getting in the way of bicycles or pedestrians. I have always been in favor of a process of conciliation, of compromise.
35 years of presence on M6: do you feel ready to return for a few decades?
You are asking a question that you do not believe! (Laughs). I do not know. It is a lease of trust between the channel and me, which is renewable by tacit agreement every year. I am only a tenant of my position and the owner is the management of the chain. There will come a day when I will say: « I’m going back to the pits » or someone will say to me: « we’ll stop ». You have to see that with a lot of humility. I’m not on the defensive saying to myself: « Ah if I don’t do TV anymore, what will I become? » and I would be remiss to have such thoughts. I take life day by day. I do a wonderful job, which makes you dream. We provide an emotion and a desire. It’s great to be a transmitter of dreams. I have always slipped into the shoes of those watching us, without using any haughty tone. We share, and the beautiful cars that I try, at the end, I return them and I take the train or the metro…
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