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Interview Eddie Irvine: Girls always ring my room but I'm fussy. That's why my manager is outscoring me..; HANDSOME, RICH AND COCKY, THE MAN WHO PUT GLAMOUR BACK IN FORMULA 1.

EDDIE Irvine, multi-millionaire playboy, shrewd businessman, world No 3 racing driver, seems to go out of his way to be annoying.

"A million isn't much these days," he says casually. "Not in the big picture."

No wonder people love him or hate him. But whatever they think of the man nicknamed Fast Eddie, they will be hearing a lot more of his controversial opinions.

For if Damon Hill retires as expected after tomorrow's British Grand Prix, Eddie will be Britain's top racing driver.

This is his chance to replace Hill as the fans' favourite, but there will be no toning down his fast-living, girl-pulling lifestyle.

The 33-year-old bachelor unashamedly enjoys the fruits of his success.

"I love the parties, the boat, the plane, getting into nightclubs for free, getting tables at restaurants without having to queue, driving for Ferrari and getting the best- looking girls," he says.

Some, not least his female following, enjoy the glamour he brings to the racetrack. Handsome, cocky and rich, he has an old-fashioned politically- incorrect sexiness.

Others are riled by the way he criticises other drivers. He is currently embroiled in a bitter feud with British rival David Coulthard after saying: "His ratings are going down race after race."

Coulthard blasted back: "He's the classic case of the male inadequacy syndrome. He's got all the extensions to enlarge his manhood."

Irvine has not endeared himself to his other co-racers, with remarks such as: "Most of them aren't that amusing," and "Damon can be quite witty when he's let off the leash by his wife."

Nor can they stand the harping on about his wealth.

"I've made loads of money," he boasts. "I bought a lot of shares when the market was collapsing last year. I made a fortune.

"I woke up one morning and I'd made a quarter of a million dollars in the night. But another time I was down $600,000.""

He is, he boasts, the "most toyed-up driver in the paddock". There is an 80ft yacht, because "being a kind of jet-set gypsy cruising the waves in luxury is my idea of heaven", and a nine-seater Falcon jet because "I hate sitting in traffic jams".

THERE are houses and cars around the world, and he has just sold his helicopter because he kept losing it.

"I lost it twice. I parked it and then couldn't remember where," Eddie says.

"Once, I parked it in a friend's garden and then forgot where she lived. I just drove around until I spotted the rotor blades, which is easier than finding a car in an NCP car park."

He wasn't always this rich. Eddie's parents Kathleen and Edmund, a garage owner, were not well off.

Growing up in the country near Bangor, Northern Ireland, Eddie had few toys to play with. He and his big sister Sonia, now 35 and Eddie's physiotherapist, made their own entertainment, building secret tunnels and fortresses in haystacks and making rafts for the nearby river.

He was car-mad even then and loved helping out his dad. His ambition at the age of 13 was to be a Formula 1 mechanic. His parents saved up to take him to the British Grand Prix in their battered old camper van.

Eddie would sneak past the guards into the paddock to watch his heroes. "I used to dig tunnels to get in. Anything. I was in the pit garages everywhere.

"It was absolutely brilliant, good fun. The atmosphere in the camp site during the night before a grand prix was amazing. It's the big thing I miss about them now."

When he was 16, he pestered his dad for a motorbike, but his father, who once raced cars himself, bought him a Formula Ford.

Once he got in the car, Eddie was hooked. He raced, worked seven days a week in the garage and bought and sold cars to help pay his racing expenses.

THOSE early years of struggling made an impression on him. He was careful with money when he hit the big time and signed for Jordan in 1993.

"My family aren't rich, so I always wanted to be financially sound before spending money - and I got to that stage a few years ago," he says. "I don't waste money. If I can do something on the cheap, then I will.

"But I'll go to a nightclub and if it's pounds 250 for a bottle of vodka I'll pay. I'm not going to sit there among my mates who can't afford it, moaning about the price."

Clearly Eddie is enjoying his good life, especially the girls.

"You get girls ringing your room, sending you letters and photos," he says. "One girl mailed me a picture of herself in her underwear outside a Hard Rock Cafe in South Africa."

"But I'm fussy. That's why my manager is outscoring me at the minute. He's just split with his girlfriend, so he's on a bit of a roll. But he wouldn't be if his quality control was the same standard as mine.

"We go out with two good-looking girls and I always get the pick. Why? Well, that's just the way life is."

At the moment Dutch model Anouk Voorveld, 20, is to be seen on his arm, but there are no hints of any firm commitment. And marriage is definitely out. "It's not on the agenda," he insists.

I LIKE my freedom too much and I'm too selfish. I like my space and I don't like anything too heavy.

"I'm not looking for an ideal woman, but if I were, it would have to be someone laid-back who would let me do my own thing.

"I like all good-looking women. When a relationship has run its course, I always hope a girl will dump me, but it doesn't seem to happen like that in spite of my best efforts."

Eddie seems to have it all. But it must be a bit frustrating that as No 2 driver for Ferrari, he is not supposed to beat the team's No 1, Michael Schumacher, unless something goes wrong.

"I'd love it if he decided to retire," Eddie jokes. "But I don't see that happening. "

Not much seems to worry him. Nor does he fret about the obvious dangers of racing, despite being in a nasty pile-up last year.

"I want to stay alive to spend all this money," he says. "I don't think of the dangers, just the pleasures.

"This isn't a dress rehearsal. I am where I am because I always want more.

"I'm sure there's someone luckier - but I haven't met him yet."

A full version of this interview appears in the August issue of FHM magazine.THE SAYINGS OF FAST EDDIEON MONEYA million isn't much these days. I woke up one morning and I'd made a quarter of a million dollars in the night

ON THE HIGH LIFEI love the parties, the boat, the plane, getting into nightclubs for free, restaurant tables without queueing, driving for Ferrari and getting the best-looking girls

ON DAMON HILLDamon can be quite witty when he's let off the leash by his wife

ON WOMENI like all good-looking women. When a relationship has run its course I always hope a girl will dump me but it doesn't seem to happen like that, in spite of my best

efforts
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Grant, Clare
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 10, 1999
Words:1221
Previous Article:SHARES: FTSE 100 index closed up 5.3 at 6562.6.
Next Article:James Whitaker's column: Grandson is a grin & tonic.



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