DIJON-PRENOIS, France -- Carlos Tavares is frustrated. It's detectable only by a slight edge in his normally measured voice, the same voice he has been using to assure skeptical journalists and investors that his audacious play to buy Opel and Vauxhall, General Motors' perpetually money-losing European operations, is a perfectly logical move for PSA Group, the French automaker he has run since 2014.
Tavares has just finished dicing with about 35 other historic single-seaters at Dijon-Prenois, an undulating 2.4-mile course here in the Burgundy wine country of eastern France. In a cold, driving rain on this day in May, he's managed to keep his 1979 Chevron B47 Formula 3 car from sliding off the slick track, but he finished midpack, and he's clearly not pleased.
"If you can't see the track, then the cars start to overtake you," Tavares says in the pits after changing out of his sodden driving suit. "It's just a wall of water. I was trying to overtake a group of cars who I was much faster than, but I couldn't see, and I had to back off, and they just got away."
"At that point, what you want to do is just bring back the car in one piece and keep it for the next race," he says with a shrug.
2 worlds collide
With more than 500 races under his belt over 37 years, there's hardly an on-track condition or situation that the 58-year-old Tavares hasn't experienced. Racing, for him, is perhaps more natural than running a global car company with annual revenues of $59 billion and the potential, with the acquisition of Opel, to vault over his French rival and longtime former employer, Renault, to become Europe's No. 2 automaker.
Over the years, the two sides of his life have become intertwined. PSA's annual meetings start with a rousing video of the company's racing efforts before Tavares and his fellow executives dive into the minutiae of free cash flow, operating margins and product mix. He has named his strategic plans Back in the Race (as PSA recovered from a severe financial crisis) and now Push to Pass, from the hot button that gives racing cars a quick jolt of power.