Men’s Style catches up with Austrian dangerman Felix Baumgartner.
Jumping from 39km above the earth wasn’t enough? You had to become an Audi race car driver as well?
It was always a childhood dream, to be either a skydiver or a race car driver, but my parents didn’t have the money for car racing so that’s why I did skydiving because it’s much cheaper. I got the chance to drive last year [at the 2014 Nurburgring 24 Hour] through the Audi Driving Experience and now I’m working my way up. I don’t have a real race car career I’m in my mind because I’m 45 years old, it’s too late, but I think I can still make it to a certain level.
You finished ninth out of 145 in your first outing – did that give you a taste for more?
I had no him how I’d go. It was an opportunity they gave to me and I took it. You never know how good you’ll perform until you do it I had some really good team-mates who made the pace but then again, you have to make sure the car stays on the road. It’s not easy in a 24-hour race-there are lots of opportunities to have an accident, so I did my part. But without the other guys we never would have finished ninth.
Is racing a car a different sort of pressure to, say, BASE-lumping from the Rio Jesus?
Once you show up at the racetrack, all eyes are on Felix. This is hard to deal with because at a certain age, you don’t want to put yourself in the position of ‘student’ again, but if you’re going to learn something you have to go to that place. The younger guys, they kick your ass and they teach you things. I hate that sort of feeling but it’s the only way to learn.
Which of your many feats have brought you closest to realising your mortality?
Maybe the BASE jump in the cave in Croatia. There are a lot of different judgments on a jump-for me it’s always, ‘Can I hurt myself?’ and also, ‘What’s the shortest way to the hospital?’ You have to think about the dark side of the equation – if something goes wrong, what are the treatment options. The more remote you do the BASE jump, the harder it is to get to a hospital. Also it was hard because you can’t see… you step off and you’re basically blind. I was used to making judgements with my eyes, but you jump into a dark hole, with no light inside at all, and it takes a while for your eyesight to adjust. Jumping from Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue was a scary one because it was so low. I had two-and-a-half seconds before I hit the ground, as one-and-a-half seconds to open the parachute. That’s one tiny second between living and dying… you’re standing on that right arm and if something goes wrong, you know you’re going to die within the next two and half seconds. There are not many sports where you can have that feeling.
You’re a great fan of watches – Zenith’s your brand?
Besides the design what I like most is the movement – what’s inside, like the engine of the car. I have 17 or 18 Zeniths as well as a couple of other brands. I like watches and think as a man, you should have a good watch. I’m not a fan of jewellery. A good-looking watch is enough for a man.
Why do you do what you do? Is it an addiction to adrenalin?
The challenge. The fact I’ve never done this before. What’s the way the way to success? That’s why I like working with Red Bull Stratos. I’d done so many base jumps and thought I was repeating myself, so signing up for what is in effect a science program where I’m a complete beginner, meant I had to do everything from scratch. And fear and failure- that’s the reason why you do all this. I do not want to fail in front of all these people!
Baumgartner’s greatest daredevil moments.
1999: Base jumps from Malaysia’s Petronas Tower, setting the record for highest parachute jump from a building.
1999: Leaps off the right hand of Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, setting a record for the lowest BASE jump ever.
2003: First person to skydive across the English Channel wearing a special carbon fiber ‘wing’
2004: Base jumps into the 200m deep Jama Mamet (Mamet Cave) located in the Velebit Mountains, Croatia.
2007: BASE jumps from the 90th floor of the world’s tallest building at the time, Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan.
2012: The Red Bull Stratos ‘space jump’, in which Baumgartner set the altitude record for a manned balloon flight, parachute jump from the highest altitude, and greatest free fall velocity, also becoming the first man to break the speed of sound on the descent.