Stéphane Perrin: maiden GT win in Mugello “a bit unexpected”

News | March 31, 2023

Victory in only the third-ever race start for Haas RT and only the second GT race for Stephane Perrin may have been “a bit unexpected,” but the recent TCR transfer is adamant that their recent win at the 2023 Hankook 12H MUGELLO was no less richly deserved.


Words – James Gent

Images – Nico Mombaerts

Stéphane Perrin has admitted that both his and Haas RT’s maiden win in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook was “a bit unexpected,” given that the 2023 Hankook 12H MUGELLO was only the second GT race for the 2021 Overall TCE Drivers’ runner-up, and only the third ever for the Haas Racing Team. 


Perrin made the transition to GT3 at January’s Hankook 6H ABU DHABI, an event at which Haas RT took its first-ever podium finish. In spite of its lofty ambitions to fight for further podiums and even victories in its maiden 24H SERIES campaign, Haas RT nevertheless had to overcome former and/or reigning series champions Herberth Motorsport, CP Racing and Hofor-Racing, and perennial series frontrunners SPS automotive performance and Saintéloc Junior Team to take its first-ever win at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello. 


A victory that, while “a bit unexpected,” Perrin believes was no less deserved. 


“Such a result so quickly is a bit unexpected," the affable Frenchman explains in an official statement. “Thanks to Sandrine Haas and Kris Dedoncker, the founders of Haas RT, for their trust! 


“You should know that for a typical 'Bronze' pilot like me, to join a crew in 'Pro' is not an easy task. Compared to the GT3 cars in the ‘Am’ category, our Audi GT3 is 50hp less powerful, it is 30kg heavier, and it carries 10 litres less fuel during pit stops. Consequently, on-track, getting an advantage over the GT3-AM [entrants] and even over the very fast Porsche 992 GT3 Cups is not easy! I am therefore continuing my process of learning about the [Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II], but in a highly demanding and delicate context. The objective for now is to bring my share of work to the crew to allow us to shine in the overall classification. Mission already accomplished with this victory at Mugello!”

Ironically, the Hankook 12H MUGELLO did not get off to the best of starts for Perrin. The Frenchman could only manage the 18th quickest time during his 15-minute Q1 qualifying slot after two of his fastest lap times were deleted for track infringement issues, ‘encouraged’ by a spinning Porsche in front of him. Both teammates – Audi factory driver Frédéric Vervisch and long-time TCR teammate Mathieu Detry – setting the third fastest laps in their own 15-minute qualifying sessions did at least mean Haas RT could salvage 7th on the overall grid.


Across a flying opening stint, Vervisch had already worked his way up to 2nd overall before the #21 Audi R8 LMS pitted for the first driver change shortly before the first hour ticked by. Unfortunately, just over 10 laps later, the first Code 60 of the event was flown to retrieve the Heart of Racing by SPS Mercedes from the gravel trap, relegating Haas RT to 9th. Brutally, three hours in, the exact same thing then happened during the team’s third driver change, Detry this time pitting just two laps before the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 hits the barriers hard at Correntaio, and while the Antiguan team did manage to retain 2nd place overall when the frontrunners pitted under the purple flags, new leader CP Racing had already established a two-lap advantage. 


A rare error for the American team however saw the #85 Mercedes hit the barriers hard at Paralagio just over 4.5 hours into the race, promoting Haas RT into the lead. The Antiguan team thus went into the event’s overnight intervention at the head of the field, albeit by less than 35 seconds over the Saintéloc Junior Team. 

Scintillating laps from Frédéric Vervisch on Sunday – the 2019 Hankook 24H DUBAI winner set four of the five overall fastest laps of the entire event during ‘part two’ – and an impressive double stint by Detry on old rubber meant Haas RT had already established a two lap gap to Saintéloc heading into the final three hours of the event (a cushion the French team believes would have been lower had it not been for poor luck in the pits). Thereafter, consistent runs were all that was needed for Haas RT to collect the chequered flag and secure its first-ever motor racing win. A result Perrin attributes in large part to the performance of his teammates.


“Frédéric Vervisch is an official Audi Sport Customer Racing driver, and Mathieu Detry displays a burst of speed that I continue to describe as stratospheric! It’s a great reference, and proof also that the presence of a factory driver like Fred helps us to progress a lot in a short amount of time. He is by no means stingy with advice, and he pulls the whole team in the right direction.”


The victory marks the second outright win of the 2023 season for Perrin, who also took overall TCE honours at the Hankook 24H DUBAI in January in his last TCR race with AC Motorsport. Impressively, Stephane Perrin thus becomes the first driver since Rik Breukers in 2019 to take an overall win in both the GT and TCE division during the same season, Breukers having done so in Dubai (an overall GT win with Car Collection Motorsport) and Spa-Francorchamps (TCE with Red four years ago. 

Haas RT now shares the joint lead in the overall GT European Trophy standings with fellow class winners Heart of Racing by SPS (GT3-Am), Land Motorsport (GT3-Pro/Am), Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors (992), Centri Porsche Ticino (992-Am), Vortex V8 (GTX) and Atlas BX Motorsports (GT4) heading into the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS on 6-7 May. Despite the team already boasting a win and a podium from its first three race starts, Perrin believes increased competition in Belgium will make replicating its Mugello win all the more difficult. 


“At the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, we can expect competition that’s even more ferocious… For us, it will be a question of demonstrating that the victory in Mugello owes nothing to chance. The challenge promises to be even greater, especially for me, but the motivation is enormous, and being able to be part of this adventure is pure happiness! I can't wait for more.”

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