10 SEASONS IN WORLD SERIES BY RENAULT
Can you take us through your career ?
“My father was the track manager at Spa-Francorchamps. I was a bit like Obelix – I fell into the magic potion of motorsport at an early age. I started out by organising events in Belgium and by the time I was 21 I was already directing races. I spent 12 years as the local race director of the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix, working alongside F1’s permanent starter and race director Charlie Whiting. My international career began in 2003 and I joined the Renault Sport ranks the year after, with Formula Renault V6 Eurocup and Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup. I’ve been involved in the World Series by Renault ever since its launch in 2005.”
What does being a race director involve ?
“I have a global vision of the event. I start on Thursdays by inspecting the track and organising the track activities with the local officials. I also chair the drivers’ briefing and I’m responsible for the race start procedure, and it’s my decision when to bring the red flag and the safety car out. I’m also something of a prosecutor. I take charge of investigations into incidents and decide if I should let the stewards deal with them. I have the power to impose penalties too, for example when drivers cause a red flag in qualifying.”
What help do you have with your job ?
“I’ve got a whole team around me, starting with Xavier Bonnet, who takes care of Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and is my assistant in the other two categories. Anne-Marie de Donder is my admin assistant when it comes to issuing reports, which need to be accurate and unequivocal. Timekeeping is provided by the Alkamel team, and then there’s a category manager, who takes care of the competitors in each championship. And last but not least, comes the team of scrutineers.”
What kind of preparations go into race meetings ?
“When there’s a new track, like Jerez this year, I make a start on all the administrative preparations two months before the event and I map everything out in conjunction with the World Series by Renault organisers, Renault Sport and RPM. When I arrive at a meeting, I meet up with the track managers and we inspect the circuit to identify any potential problems and take photos that we can show to the drivers at their briefing. Then we go over points relating to the World Series by Renault regulations : the track marshals, the pits, access to the parc fermé and access to the track.”
What is your happiest World Series by Renault memory ?
“The first time I took charge of a whole World Series by Renault meeting on home soil, at Spa-Francorchamps, in 2008. Having helped put the championships together, it was wonderful to finally have the World Series by Renault at Spa-Francorchamps.”
A NEW EXPERIENCE WITH FORMULA E
How did the first Formula E race go ?
“Very well. We saw some pretty spectacular action. It just proved that is very much real car racing, even if it is a little bit different to what we’ve been used to. It takes place in cities and on new tracks, and you also have to remember that Formula E is an electric racing series. Apart from being a genuinely motivating challenge, Formula E also responds to the needs of new generations.”
What went through your mind when you started the race ?
“We had two event simulations at Donington in the summer, which helped me prepare. I looked on them as I would any other single-seater races and the procedures were very, very similar. That said, there are a lot of unique features that you have to take care of. I’ve been in the business for 30 years, though, and the novelty factor didn’t frighten me.”
In relation to your job, what new parameters does Formula E involve ?
“These are electric cars so the energy parameters are new to us. Safety is an especially important feature, and the FIA has put a lot into its studies. You also have to think about training personnel, and that means the teams, rescue units and the marshals. Formula E also uses a lot of technology that’s very closely related to Formula One, such as telemetry, GPS and the marshalling system. Finally, there’s the fact that we’re starting afresh at each track. Urban tracks always involve more complications, especially when the circuit has never been used before. What’s more, some of the countries we’re visiting don’t have much motor racing experience, so we have to help the track officials and give them some guidance.”
You’ve been around a lot and no doubt some of the faces on the Formula E grid are familiar to you.
“That’s right. There are ten or so drivers who’ve raced in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and it was nice to see them again. Some of them were competing in it not so long ago, while others have spent some time in Formula One in the meantime. It’s good to see so many World Series by Renault drivers on such a high-class grid as that of the FIA Formula E Championship.”
What do you think the future holds for Formula E ?
“The championship has got everything it needs to work. It’s a series that’s targeted at young drivers. Instead of creating a video game from a car race, as has always been the case, this is a video game made real. As for the environmental side of things, it’s pushing the boundaries of motorsport and exploring new avenues. Formula E is taking motorsport to a new audience and it’s all the better for that. It’s a thing of the future.”