Under the Lid – Stéphane Perrin

News | November 29, 2020

He’s been a familiar face on the 24H SERIES scene since 2017, but even before that, Stéphane Perrin was no stranger to the motorsport paddock. During the mid-1990s, this Dijon native worked with both Larrousse and Ligier in Formula 1 before taking up a near two-decade tenure as a Race Director with the FIA. His time as a racing driver began in earnest in 2001, and he even won the much-respected 12 Hours of Spa, the headline round of the Belgian Touring Car Series. One day, he hopes to be in the lead GT pack at the circuit’s 24-hour race too. 

Name?

“My name is Stéphane Perrin.”

Age? You can lie about that if you want…

“I’m 24 years old” – Cue questioning look from CREVENTIC. –“You said I could lie!”

Where and when was your first ever car race, and how old were you?

"It was at Magny cours, a qualifying race for the Audi Endurance Experience in 2011. I was a race director back then, and I drove the safety car from time-to-time and a person from Audi told me, 'you know Stéphane, you should try and drive. I'll register you with everything.' We finished 3rd and qualified for the final. It basically started like that."

What is the best moment of your racing career so far?

“Probably my best moment, it wasn’t as a driver actually. It was as a strategy manager for Freisinger Motorsport when we twice won our class in the European Le Mans Series in 2004, and our two wins at the Spa 24 Hours*. And in Formula 1 when I worked for Ligier, Olivier Panis’ win at Monaco in 1996 was incredible!”

 

*Stephane is actually being pretty modest. In 2003, Freisinger Motorsport took the overall win at the Spa 24 Hours and swept the N-GT class podium at the event a year later.

Which is your favourite circuit and why?

“Well, I was born only 10km from the Dijon circuit, and I still live around there, so I’d say that’s my home circuit. My second home is Spa-Francorchamps. I’ve been driving with a Belgian team for a while now.”

Describe the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a motor race …

“Probably Panis’ win at Monaco. We never thought we would win because Ligier at that time was not a top team, so when you see every leader retire – Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, etc – and your car takes the lead with just 10 laps to go at a race everyone wants to win, it’s just an incredible sensation.”

Describe your helmet design to us, and what it signifies…

“It’s very easy. It’s the logo of my company, ‘SP Consulting’, and it’s purple and silver. I only ever use those colours. Plus I have Audi’s four rings on the front.”

What is your greatest strength?

“ ‘Never give up!’ That’s good advice for anyone. In endurance, every up and down is emotional. But whatever happens, you always have to stay strong and focused to get to the finish line. A good example is our race at the 12H SPA with AC Motorsport, when we damaged the car during free practice. The mechanics repaired the car overnight and we finished the race on the podium. Just incredible!”

If Hollywood made a movie about you, who would play you and why?

“Maybe Maverick in Top Gun! It’s all about competition with that guy, he stays focused on his target, and, yeah, he never gives up!”

What would you like to achieve before retiring?

“Winning the [Hankook] 24H DUBAI. This year we led for almost 20 hours before we had a fire in the car. We hope to do that again. And after that, it would be great to take part in the Spa 24 Hours in a GT car. That’s a goal of mine.”

Tell us a random fact about yourself that your fans might not know…

“A lot of fans don’t know that I have a long history in motorsport. I started as a marshal. I’ve been a race director for the FIA [from 1996 to 2016]. I’ve worked in marketing in Formula 1 for two teams, Larrousse [’93 to ‘94] and Ligier [’95 to ‘96]. I’ve done quite a lot.”

Finally, what do you enjoy most about competing in the 24H SERIES?

“I love endurance racing. It’s just fantastic, because it’s a great adventure. You’re not alone, you are a driver with mechanics, with strategy and teammates you have to work with. It’s very emotional, like life, there are a lot of ups and downs, but I really enjoy it.”

Stéphane Perrin was speaking with CREVENTIC and James Gent at the 2019 Hankook 12H BRNO. Images courtesy of Petr Frýba.

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