Interview with Franck Perera

He was a big star in karting, earning him a contract to the driver development program of Toyota. After some succesful years in single seater in Europe and the United States of America, his career had a break. But Lucky enough, the fast French driver Franck Perera returned to the world of racing in 2012. After his break, he became a succesful driver in GT's and he is still on top of that game currently. spoke to Franck Perrera about his past and current career.

Franck PereraHello Franck, some of our visitors will be familiar with the name of Franck Perera. Unfortunately, some of them may have never heard of you. Could you give a brief introduction about yourself?
I am a French driver, born on the twenty-first of March 1984 in Montpellier, France. I started racing in 1994 and finished third in the French Champion in 1995 and became the champion in 1996 and 1997.

I won the World Championship in the Junior-class in 1998 and the World Championship in Formula A in 1999. I also finished Vice-World Champion in Super A, which led to receiving a contract by Toyota F1 to be into the young driver program. I have signed that contract at the end of 2000. I did one more season in karting in 2001, finishing 4th at the World Championship.

Then, I started racing in Formula Renault for the team of Prema and I won the Italian title in 2003. I drove the Formula 3 Euroseries for Prema too and finished as Rookie Champion and 4th in respectively 2004 and 2005.

I raced in GP2 for DAMS (becoming second at the Monaco Grand Prix) and after that I became the Vice-Champion in Champ Car Atlantic with Condor in 2007. I spent some races in Indycar and Indy Lights in 2008 with some victories and podiums. Finally, I came back to Europe to race in Superleague Formula for AS Roma, Flamengo and Bordeaux with some victories, pole-positions and podiums in 2008-2009, before stopping my career until 2012.

The 2012 season was the beginning of a new chapter in my story; a new part in my career became racing in GT-cars. I spent three season with Pro GT by Almeras with the Porsche, finishing two times as fifth at the French GT Championship and got two pole-positions in the Blancpain Endurance Series. I changed teams, to race for TDS racing and BMW, winning the European Le Mans Series in the GTC-class in 2015.

This season, 2016, I was supposed to race for TDS in the GTE-class with an Aston Martin. I would drive the European Le Mans Series and 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the bronze driver left us one week prior to the official test. After all, I was able to race for ISR Racing and Audi finishing as Vice-Champion in the Blancpain Endurance Series. We got four pole-positions in the Blancpain GT Series, this season.

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 the opportunity to test a go-kart when I was seven years old. Somebody from the track saw me and decided to help me, until I started competing. My father was very motivated and passionate. I was lucky to win many titles in karting, because racing in car was too expensive for my parents and people involved.

You have started your career in karting, like many other drivers, and have been very successful in this part of racing by grabbing the World Championship in 1999 and being the vice-champion of the 2000 World Championship. Do you think karting will be an essential step in the career of a race driver?
Karting gives you the basics for racing craft and the opportunity to show your capacity, before you switch to racing open wheelers.

As I said; karting was so essential for me, but also for many drivers in my time. I was racing with Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen, Loïc Duval, Lucas di Grassi, Augusto Farfus, Giedo van der Garde, Ryan Briscoe etc. and so many young driver programs of F1 teams have started between 2000 and 2002. I was the first one with Lewis Hamilton, to be involved in such a program.

During the first years of your career, you have been racing single seaters in a very successful way. You won the Italian Formula Renault 2.0 championship in 2003, became a test driver of Toyota F1 a few years later and became vice-champion in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in 2007. Why did you made the switch to racing GT’s?
I switched to GT-cars, because after my career break I got opportunity to make a comeback in those type of cars. I decided, together with my family, to give my career another change and to show something to everyone.

Perera racing the Audi R8 GT3 LMS UltraEvery 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 many good moments, for example the world titles in karting, my contract with Toyota and my first time in a F1 car at the end of 2004 at the track of Jerez. But, my first race in GT’s in 2012 after a long break, and without testing, finishing with a win was a very special feeling after such a long time.

I like my career, so there is nothing I should forget.

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 was lucky to train at a very good training centre and with a very good trainer; Beppe Sebastiani and Formula Medicine. I have gained good experience by training there, so I can do it myself now. I love to do many different sports; cycling, running, squashing, swimming, skiing and I do a lot of tennis.

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 at being a racing driver. The only problem is that your dream can be finished the next season, depending on factors that you have no control about. If your team decides to stop, if someone with a lot of money wants your seat etc. your career can be finished within a very short period of time.

So, you never really know how long your career will be and that can be difficult in your everyday life. Every end of season can be difficult, sometimes you do not know the program of the next season until the season starts in March.

I do not earn enough money to put myself safe for the future. So, you have to take life from day 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?
Never give up; when you are passionate and you have the right motivation and determination, there is not a limit for the dream.

 Picture of Audi R8 GT3 LMS Ultra by Gary Parravani /