Harold Primat is one of the best drivers in Le Mans Prototypes. The Swiss driver competed in many endurance races and his results are very good. Winning the Le Mans 24 Hours is still his dream. RacingInside.com spoke with Harold Primat about this dream and his career.
Hello Harold, some of our visitors will be familiar with the name of Harold Primat. Unfortunately, some of them have never heard of you. Could you give a brief introduction about yourself?
I was born in Paris but moved to Switzerland when I was very young. I still live in Geneva. I attended a couple of racing schools in France but then had some time out of the sport before racing in US Formula Ford 2000, British F3, the F3 Euroseries and World Series Lights. During my time in single seaters I also did some sportscar racing in the V de V championship and was Vice Champion in 2004. I made the full time move to sportscars in 2005, driving for Rollcentre Racing in the Le Mans Endurance Series. I also made my Le Mans 24 Hours debut with them that year. In 2006 I was with Swiss Spirit in the Le Mans Series and at Le Mans and last year I did the same programme but with Pescarolo Sport. I’ve also done several races in the US in the American Le Mans Series and raced twice at the Daytona 24 Hours. I’ll drive for Pescarolo Sport again this season.
How did you get involved in racing? Have you always wanted to become a race driver yourself and what job would you have chosen if you weren’t a race driver?
I had some friends who were involved in Formula 3 and also my father’s company had some involvement in Formula One as a sponsor of the Larrousse team. I went to a few races and that really sparked my interest. However my family did have a history in motorsport. My uncle was Claude Vigreux, a top motorbike rider who was killed during a race in 1967. He died before I was born, but I grew up knowing about what he’d achieved through the memories of my family.
Did you started your career, like many other drivers, in karting or have you been into the cars straight away? Do you think karting will be an essential step in the career of a race driver?
I did very little karting. I did some go-kart schools and a couple of races here and there, but it was more of a leisure thing with friends. At that time I didn’t have the money to go karting at a serious level. I do think it can help a young driver though. It gets you used fighting with others on track and overtaking and is a good foundation to build a career in motorsport.
You attended some racing schools back in the 90’s, but it wasn’t until 1999-2000 that you were serious involved in racing. What have you done in the years between?
I won the Winfield Racing School at Magny Cours in 1996, but the fact that I’d already attended a different racing school a couple of years before meant I was disqualified from receiving the prize of a scholarship. My family really didn’t want me to be involved in motorsport, mostly because of my uncle’s death all those years before, and I didn’t have the budget to race without that scholarship. My parents encouraged me to concentrate on my studies, so I moved to London and studied for a business degree and then took a full-time job in New York working in finance.
In 1999 and 2000 you were driven Formula Ford 2000 in the United States, why haven’t you started your real racing career in Europe?
While I was working in the US I got the opportunity to race with Pabst Racing in the US Formula Ford 2000 championship. That’s where my racing career began, and it was great because my family didn’t know about it as I was overseas!
Although I came to the sport relatively late, I don’t regret those years in which I didn’t race, because my studies, and then my work in finance, has given me a much wider view of business and the world in general than most racing drivers who started racing when they were very young.
In 2001 you came back to Europe to drive Formula 3. You stayed involved in Formula 3 until 2004. During those three seasons in Formula 3 you had some good results, but you changed to World Series Lights in 2004. Which of the formula-cars did you like the most: Formula Ford 2000, Formula 3 or World Series Lights?
I really enjoyed racing the Nissan Lights car because it had ground effect. The car was incredibly fast in the corners, much faster than an F3 car, and it encouraged you to keep pushing the limits of the car which was a challenge I really enjoyed. I scored a couple of podiums and had a decent season that year.
During the seasons in formula-cars you have also driven some endurance-races, why did you make the definitive switch to endurance-races in 2005? Do you think your career in formula-cars was just ended that time or have there been other reasons to quit racing formula-cars?
I have quit formula-cars mainly because of my age. I was 29 by then and it was getting harder to move upwards in single seaters towards Formula One. Also I’m quite tall and had some problems with my height in single seaters, so I thought a move into sportscar racing was the best thing to do for my career. There are more opportunities for drivers in endurance racing and it felt like a very natural move to me.
During the last few years you have been very successful in the Le Mans Series and American Le Mans Series. Do you enjoy these championships enough to keep doing it the following years or are you looking for a new adventure?
I think the Le Mans Series is growing every year and 2008 should be the best season to date. The championship has manufacturers such as Audi and Peugeot and there is great competition in every class throughout the field. We also race at some excellent, historic circuits such as Spa and Monza. It’s a good championship to be involved in and I’m happy at the moment.
If you take a look ahead, what do you think that the future will bring to you? Winning the Le Mans 24 hours will be your main target, but do you have any other targets that have to be accomplished?
To win the Le Mans 24 Hours is my primary goal, but there are other great races I want to win or do well in. In the US they have the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Daytona 24 Hours, and here in Europe there is the Spa 24 Hours. These endurance races are all famous, high profile events that I would love to get good results in. I guess you could say I’m trying to build an endurance racing CV which includes good results at as many of the best races as possible.
From the outside, being a race driver looks like a real dream. But there are also negative points, of course. If you could take people a look at the ‘inside’ of racing, what do you think is the most negative point of being a race driver?
I don’t think there are any, it’s all good!!! We’re very lucky to be doing the job we do. The only thing I can think of is that it’s sometimes difficult for a driver to get into the right racing programme. You need to be with a good team and have the right technical package, otherwise things can be very difficult for a driver.
What would you like to say to everyone that is dreaming of a career in racing?
It’s important to have a fall back just in case. I’ve worked hard on my education and my business interests outside motorsport. There aren’t many fully-paid drives around so you need to have a back-up plan just in case. I think that’s very important. You also need be very fit. If you get an opportunity to show you can perform you need to be ready, so fitness work should be part of a daily routine for any aspiring driver.