Frenchman Andrea Bénézet is only 19, but already he’s storming up the leaderboard in the GT4 European Series behind the wheel of a Toyota Supra. Only in his second season of professional racing, he recently picked up a race win at Zandvoort, and shares his story with us.
Andrea Bénézet : “You need to be able to do a lap with your eyes closed”
Andrea, congrats on the recent win at Zandvoort. That puts you into second place in the championship…
Yes, at Zandvoort a few weeks ago, we finished second in the first race and won the second one. It was the perfect weekend and we scored very good points for the championship. Now we’re second overall. The next race is at Spa and the goal is clear: to go back to the top of the championship ranking. We’re fighting with two drivers who have a lot of experience. But we’re not scared of the challenge ahead. Normally, in this kind of racing, one driver is stronger than the other. But my teammate and I are at the same level. There’s only one-tenth of a second between us.
You switched from an Alpine last year to a Toyota Supra. How are you finding the transition?
This year, I’m competing in the European Championship with the Toyota GR Supra GT4 with the CMR team. I had the opportunity to change from an Alpine A110 GT4 last year, so it’s really exciting and I’m giving it my best. It’s a fabulous car – it has an incredible engine, and you can’t compare the Toyota to the Alpine. The Alpine was like a big kart. Now with the Toyota, it’s not as easy to drive but it is mechanically stronger.
Could you explain how the GT4 European Series racing works?
We have one car for two drivers. It’s a one-hour race, and we change drivers mid-way through the race. We keep the same tyres for the entire race, but we have two sets of tyres to last the weekend. We do the qualification with them, and the tyres I used during my quali will be the same tyres I start my race with. It’s the same for my teammate. We can only change the tyres if we have a puncture. This year we had one at Zandvoort, but thankfully it was in free practice.
You haven’t been racing long, Andrea. Could you share your journey with us?
I started racing in karting at 15, so at quite a late age. I raced during the weekends in small cars, and I officially began my professionnal career in the French Championship last year, driving the Alpine. The objective of the year was to learn and develop. It was stressful and I had to work hard, but I had a great teammate who was a world champion in karting, and he shared a lot of experience with me. The specialty of the team is to help young and new drivers. Last year they had the youngest driver of the championship, who was 16, and by the end of the year he was category champion. At the end of last year, my teammate and I finished fifth in the Silver Championship. We were happy with our performance and finished just behind Aurélien Panis, one of France’s best drivers. So, we had a really, really good season. When I’m not racing, I study at the IÉSEG business school in Paris.
What does it take to be a competitive racing driver?
A great driver needs to be a complete driver. You need to prepare a lot. I run or ride my bike at least three times a week, and I spend a lot of time on the simulator. I prepare for each race with at least four or five three-hour sessions. It’s a lot of work. But it’s very important. You need to be able to almost do a lap with your eyes closed.
You and Motul recently teamed up. What does this mean to you?
Yes, Motul is my partner. It’s the thing I’m most proud of in my young career. A lot of drivers dream of being sponsored by Motul, and I had the chance to be one of them. In France, there are only a few Motul-sponsored drivers, and they tend to be stars of motorsport. It’s incredible for me, and without Motul I don’t think I would be able to finish my season. I want to thank them, and the best way to do that is to win the championship.
Do Motul’s products help you win?
For sure. Because when you don’t have a high quality lubricant, the motor, the transmission and the gearbox won’t work at the highest level of performance. It’s not something you can change during the weekend.