During the last couple of seasons, he developed himself as a real specialist in endurance racing and he drove the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans several times. RacingInside.com spoke to Swiss racing driver Mathias Beche about his achievements and his goals for the future.
Hello Mathias, some of our visitors will be familiar with the name of Mathias Beche. Unfortunately, some of them may have never heard of you. Could you give a brief introduction about yourself?
I am a Swiss/French racing driver, racing for Rebellion Racing in FIA WEC and for Thiriet by TDS Racing in ELMS. I finished fourth overall in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014, won the FIA World Endurance Championship twice in LMP1 privateer class, won the LMP2 European Le Mans Series in 2012 and finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans that same year.
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 father offered me a go-kart when I was 6 years old and I had some successful results in go-karts, but unfortunately they were not rich.
At the age of 15, karting was already too expensive and my father told me that we had to stop racing. It was impossible for me to think about quitting with racing. Therefore I putted all my energy at finding budget and different solutions to keep my dream alive.
At the age of 17, I decided to go to China; where it was much cheaper and I started my single seater career there.
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?
Yes, it definitely is. I think that karting gives you the basics for racing craft. You learn how to slide, how drive on the wet, the lines, everything really that can give you that little bit extra. It’s in your body and veins since you are a kid and you never forget it. You need to race karting, and the younger the better!
During the first years of your career, while racing cars, you have raced in single seaters. Why did you made the switch to racing in prototypes?
I would have loved to race higher categories in single seaters, but I couldn’t. I found the budget for Formula Renault in China, which was at that time around 65K in Euro’s and it was already very tough! Formula 3 or GP2 was really too far from the budget I had. You had to bring a budget that multiplied my budget about five times.
In endurance races you share the car and you can find good opportunities if you are fast and a good driver. Michelin Asia helped me the first season and I did the job. Prototypes are amazing cars and I am proud to drive them.
In 2016 you will race in the European Le Mans Series with the TDS Racing and you are also racing again with the team of Rebellion in the World Endurance Championship. What was the main reason of this decision?
I will race the ELMS Championship and the 24 hours of Le Mans in LMP2 and will race FIA WEC in LMP1 after Le Mans. When I had the opportunity to drive LMP2 again in ELMS in a top team, I could not decline. For the 24 Hours of Le Mans the choice was hard between LMP1 and LMP2.
I am racing Le Mans since 2013 in LMP1 privateer class and we had great results, finishing 4th overall, winning our class, etcetera. Now the gap with the factory hybrid cars is huge and there is no way we can fight on track, which is a shame. Hopefully that will change in a near future, but now; it is more about going steady and waiting for a mechanical issue to expect a podium.
On the other hand; LMP2 has never been this strong, with 22 cars as an entry in Le Mans this year! It is like a Formula 1 grid! As everyone has a very similar pace, I expect that this is the most competitive class for a driver, and I think that I can win.
I talked with Rebellion to create a partnership with Thiriet by TDS Racing and they accepted it. The target is clearly to win. This is a great challenge for Rebellion, and for me. It also allowed me to keep my racing craft alive and carry on improving. I bring my LMP1 experience in LMP2, but I’m sure I will also learn from it and that will help the team in WEC.
When you look at your further career; is there anything you still would like to achieve? What are your expectations for the 2016 season?
I want to win Le Mans overall! But for that, you need a factory car.
For 2016; the target is to win ELMS and Le Mans in LMP2 with TDS Racing and to help to win the LMP1 privateer class again in WEC with Rebellion.
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?
My best memory so far is 2012; my first time in Le Mans. I was driving the LMP2. We had a mechanical problem at the start and it costed us about 7 minutes. Then, we had to drive the full 24 hours flat out and brought to car back in 2nd position. We finished only thirty seconds behind the winner. I drove almost 13 hours, and that was a very emotional race.
The moment I would like to forget? I can’t tell you, because I really forgot it...
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 work very hard to improve my fitness every season. I do around three to four hours of sport per day, every day when I am not racing. Two years ago I did a long distance Nordic ski race and last year I did half an iron man. Every driver is different and needs to learn about himself and to know what is really good for him.
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?
There are no negative points really! I live my dream. You need to be at your best all the time and carry on improving, but this is an interesting part.
The only problem is that your dream can be finished the next season, depending on many external factors where you have no control about. If your team decides to stop, if someone with a lot of money wants your seat, etcetera. So you never really know how long will it be and that can be difficult in your everyday life. If you want to plan things, like building a family, having kids, buying a flat, etcetera. I don’t earn enough money to put myself safe for the future. So, you have to take life from days to day, enjoy the moment and carry on working to keep the dream alive.
What would you like to say to everyone that is dreaming of a career in racing?
If you dream big, accept to work big. It is lots of sacrifice, especially before being professional, but it is worth it. If you do not have the finances, it is still possible. But, you will have to work twice as much and catch all the opportunities and provoke luck. Then, you might have a chance. If you think you are talented and ready for that; just trust in yourself, you will succeed.