He was a very promising talent, back in the years when he drove in single seaters. After winning races and even championships in Formula Renault, Formula 3 and Indy Lights, it would not have been a surpise to see him in the Indycar Series. Unfortunately, destiny took him to some other great opportunities with some ups and downs. For the 2016 season, Jean-Karl Vernay took another new challenge. He will be racing the very popular TCR Series with the Volkswagen Golf and drove his first racing weekend a few weeks ago in Bahrain. RacingInside.com spoke to the French multi-talent and asked him about his career.
Hello Jean-Karl, some of our visitors will be familiar with the name of Jean-Karl Vernay. Unfortunately, some of them may have never heard of you. Could you give a brief introduction about yourself?
I am born in Villeurbanne France at October 31, 1987. I started to race in karting in 1997 and moved up to single seaters in 2005. I've studied marketing in college. I love golfing, cycling and I am a big fan of football (Olympique Lyon).
Some race drivers are getting involved in racing through friends or family. How did you get involved in racing? Did your parents support you from the early beginning?
My grandfather was doing hillclimbing races in the European Championship, back in the 60's. Besides that, my father did some karting, he became vice-champion in the French Championship, and is now doing historic races with a Lotus Cortina.
You have started your career in karting, like many other drivers. Do you think karting will be an essential step in the career of a race driver?
You learn everything in karting about 'fighting' at the track. But when you move up to open wheelers, you have to learn how to drive a racecar and the technical part of driving with it is completely different than a go-kart.
During the beginning of your career, while racing cars, you have raced in single seaters in a very successful way. You were one of the top competitors in Formula Renault 2.0, Formula 3 and Indy Lights. What is the reason you made the switch from single seaters to prototypes, GT's and touring cars?
After winning Indy Lights, I thought I would go up to drive the Indycar Series. But I did not found the budget to race it. Then, my main goal was to become a professional racing driver and I had the chance to be part of the Peugeot squad in LMP1, which was a great chance.
During the last couple of seasons you have mainly raced in different championships with GT's, but for the 2016 season you made the switch to the very popular TCR Series (which are driving with touring cars). What is the biggest difference between a GT-car and a touring car?
Now, I do something different since 2009 already. As a professional driver, I go where I have the best possibility to perform; even if I would love to do something similar for a few years! TCR is getting really popular and I thought it would be something good to do for my future, even if I had no experience with front wheel racing cars before I went to Bahrain for the first races. But my main force is to adapt myself quickly and the qualifying of Bahrain showed it. The biggest difference is when you get oversteer, you have to keep it flat!
Every race driver has good and bad moments during his career. What is your best moment in racing, until now? What is the moment you would like to forget as soon as possible?
I have lots of good moments; as I had the chance to win a few titles, but I will say the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013 would be the best. I drove for 11 hours and we won the race in the GT -class.
The worst moment is when I lost the win in Macau in 2009 in Formula 3 by a small mistake while shifting. Of course, it was not very good to me when the director of Peugeot called me when we were testing in Sebring to let me know that the LMP1-project would close a few days before the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The life of a race driver is tough physically and mentally. Do you have a special training programme to stay fit and to gain strength?
I love sports in general and do a lot for training, but also by pleasure. I also work with a mental coach about starts, reflexes etc.
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?
Even if you win your championship and reach the target, you are not always sure to race the year after. Some winters have been really difficult mentally, especially when you can only bring your skills to a team or a factory.
What would you like to say to everyone that is dreaming of a career in racing?
Everything is possible and I think I can be an example, without any arrogance. I come from a normal family with no money, but with all the support of my family, friends, the federation, sponsors etc. when I was in F3 and of course hard work; I finally reached one of my goals, which is to live from racing. so, Believe in your dreams.