Having competed in series as disparate as German Formula 3, the FIA World Endurance Championship, the DTM, the Porsche Supercup and the International GT Open, Pierre Kaffer is also a class/outright winner in pretty much all of them.
In 2009, he took GT2-class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Risi Competition, and came fingertips away from securing the European Le Mans Series title in 2004 alongside future WEC champ, Allan McNish. He even added an overall win at Sebring to his tally that season. Daytona’s still on the to-do list though…
“My name is Pierre Kaffer.”
“I am 42.”
“1990, and I was 12.”
“[Laughs] Oh, no no, that was karting! My first car race was in 1994 with Formula Ford at Zolder.”
“Winning the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2019 was awesome!”*
*Pierre took his first win at the event alongside Frank Stippler, Dries Vanthoor, Frederic Vervisch in the Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi R8 LMS Evo.
“Easy. Nürburgring Nordschleife. It’s unique in the world, I grew up there and, again, I won the [24-hour] race!”
“[Pause] Okay, this goes back to German Formula 3 in 2001. I remember I was 6th on the grid at Sachsenring, and my boss said, ‘ah, don’t worry, we will win the race, because five cars will go into the gravel.’ I laughed. Then at the start, five cars went into the gravel at the first corner in front of me, and I went on to win the race! Everyone was okay but the whole thing was really funny!”*
* In fact, a total of nine cars went into the gravel in this mysterious pile-up, including polesitter Joao Paulo de Olivera, future Formula 3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim, FIA World Endurance Championship class winner Stefan Mucke, and future two-time DTM champion, Gary Paffett. Pierre emerged unscathed and went on to win the race for Team Kolles.
“I wanted to have a helmet where you know it’s me, and once I had one ready, I never changed it. So I’ve had this design since 1993. It has been slightly updated, but nothing major. I just like it.”
“I’m very focused. So I’ll keep this answer short!”
“[Pause] Maybe Tom Cruise. He made a good movie with Days of Thunder, so he knows what he’s doing with cars.”
“Maybe to win Daytona. I was pretty close a few years but the engine blew up with 90 minutes to go.*
*In 2014, Pierre and teammates Alex Popow, Kyle Marcelli, Martín Fuentes and Isaac Tutumlu suffered brutal bad luck during that year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona when the engine of their Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 expired. The prototype held a comfortable lead in the PC class at the time.
“[Pause]…you’re asking me this question after 23 hours?! [Laughs, followed by another pause] I like to run my road bike and I like being in nature. I have to say I’m an old schooler, so I don’t have a very expensive bike like some of my colleagues. I don’t care about my ‘average’ pace either. So long as I’m faster than my previous run, I’m happy.”
“I like that the series is very close to the fans. I was surprised, at Barcelona, just how many people were still there during the night. And these were fans, not crew members! I always enjoy being here as it always feels so special and different.
“It’s great that this is a series made for gentlemen drivers too, but one that’s still competitive. Combining AM and PRO drivers together, in my opinion, is a wonderful way to run things.”
Pierre Kaffer was speaking with James Gent at the 2019 Hankook 24H BARCELONA. Images courtesy of Petr Frýba and Audi Sport. You can also check out this story in the 2020 COPPA FLORIO 12H Sicily magazine, available for download at the link below.