Our contributor in France, Lucian Sonea, recently conducted an interview with Mathieu Jaminet, one of Porsche’s Young Professional Drivers. You will find the driver’s comments enlightening, and see just how many different racing series drivers have to race in, at the start of their career.
Mathieu, what is your racing programme for 2018?
I have been racing in the Dubai 24 Hours in January, and at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, then I did the 12 Hours of Sebring in March and I will continue now with the ADAC GT Masters, the German GT Championship. I will be also doing the 24 Hours of Nürburgring and did opening rounds of the VLN, in order to prepare for the 24-hour race on the Nordschleife. We will probably do one or two rounds after the VLN 24-hour race, but we will see.
In parallel with this European programme, I also race in the Pirelli World Challenge Championship in the US, in the Sprint X (two driver endurance races) with the GMG Racing team. I have been racing with the Wright Motorsports, the American Porsche team, in a Porsche GT3 R model at the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours.
You are racing in all these championships with the Porsche 911 GT3 R. You have raced and won races and championships with the Porsche 911 GT3 CUP. Are there big differences between these two cars?
The main differences between the 911 GT3 R and the 911 CUP are the Traction Control and the ABS, which are absent on the CUP car. There is more aero on the GT3, with a bigger front splitter and rear wing. I would say that the GT3 R is a race car conceived for Endurance racing, while the GT3 CUP is more a sprint racing car (30 min races). Nevertheless, in terms of driving they are quite close; the philosophy of the cars is pretty similar, the engine power is nearly the same (GT3 R has the same engine position and a little more power). The GT3 R has more electronics and more driving aids – these are the main points of difference.
What about the Porsche GTE? The concept is quite different (engine position, different weight distribution).
I only did a few laps with the GTE, therefore I cannot say too much about the car. The engine has changed its position, the balance of the car is therefore different, we have a more responsive car, but this also means that the driveability and the traction (for which the Porsche models are well known) make the modern car less efficient than the older model, particularly in wet conditions. The GTE car has no ABS but has Traction control, therefore it is a mix between the GT CUP and the GT3 R. We also have more aero, with a genuine diffuser to create downforce, a special rear wing and different splitters. It is a step upwards, the GT3 R, with a little more engine power also.
What is it like for you being an official Porsche Driver?
First of all, at the end of 2016 I became a Porsche Junior Driver which allowed me to race in the Mobil 1 Porsche Supercup. This championship is the top level in the Porsche sprint pyramid and it has allowed current works drivers like Earl Bamber, Richard Lietz, Romain Dumas to take a step forward and earn a reputation in their professional careers. Actually, eighty per cent of the Porsche works drivers raced in the Supercup. Porsche offered financial support to participate in the Supercup and should the results follow, then you can advance to the Porsche Young Professional Driver Programme, which is my current status.
For me being a Young Professional, means I have a contract which allows me to race and to be paid, so I also have the chance to have a company car (a Porsche of course!). I am currently racing the GT3 R and the RSR for different customer teams and championships around the world, so Porsche will send me to these races during the season. We (Young Professionals) are not yet involved in the official works Porsche programme with the RSR (like Daytona, Sebring or Le Mans). We have a coach that follows us (this is Sacha Maasen). We have different training sessions, physical training together with the Junior and the Works drivers, other marketing and communication training, and mental coaching. The program is very intense and is supposed to give us all the means and support that we could need in order to advance to full works driver status.
Do you feel more pressure than in the past, now that you are a Young Professional Driver for a such reputed factory like Porsche?
Obviously, our performances and results are controlled and analysed and we therefore have to prove, and to deliver performances, if we want to stay within the team. I don’t feel more pressure, I am quite satisfied with my results so far, but I try to stay focused on my driving and not think about the pressure or the environment. I know that if I do my job correctly, the results will come naturally, therefore there is no reason to put myself under more pressure.
How is it for you, as a European, to race in the US, where the race tracks and the races are different from what we have in Europe?
Racing there is different, very different from in Europe. As for myself, I love the US. I enjoy racing there a lot, and should the opportunity present itself, I would like to race there on a regular basis. The race tracks are ‘old school’ because in Europe, we only have few tracks like this left (Zandvoort and the Nordschleife). In America, they have very fast circuits and bumpy, with concrete walls very close, you pay for any little mistake quickly. Other than the circuits, I particularly like the ambiance and the environment in the US.
How was Daytona for you?
Not very good. We had a crash at the beginning of the race (one of my team mates), therefore we had a long two and a half hour stop to repair the car, and we lost any chance of a top result in our class. We managed to finish the race and to grab some points which is good for the championship, but I was quite disappointed because I had high expectations for that race. But that’s racing, we will do better next year.
Tell us about your physical training.
This is very important, and a few times per year we have physical training and tests which is supervised by Porsche. We need to be fit, particularly for the 24-hour races. But I can’t say I have a daily training programme because I am travelling a lot. Let’s say if I was at home for one week, I would train four to five times and if I was travelling between the US and Europe, I would go jogging every two days. But this programme could vary a lot depending on my racing schedule.
Are you close to the other French official Porsche drivers?
We have a good relationship between French drivers within Porsche. We are a good community, and France is actually the most represented country among the drivers, so we help or give each other advice. I am particularly close to Patrick Pilet, he offered me a lot of support and helped me to integrate into the Porsche Programme. Although I have a good relationship with the other French drivers, Patrick is different, because we knew each other before.
You are passionate about SimRacing, is this your hobby or you can find a real link with racing and driving training?
There are some drivers using the SimRacing like a training tool. For me it is just fun, I do it to relax and play in a network with friends or other drivers when they are connected. For me it’s more a game that I play during the winter. But I’m not that impressed by it, to use it in place of training, because nothing can replace a real testing day with a race car on a track.
Do you keep in touch and follow the French Carrera Cup?
I am on good terms with Philippe Almeras and his team. I follow the Carrera Cup because I do coaching for the team Team Bourgoin and their young drivers Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer and Jeremy Lesoudier. I follow them and their development, but because of my racing schedule, I cannot go to every race.
Which is your favourite ever Porsche (road or race) car?
I had the chance to drive Porsche GT1 model (1998). The Porsche Museum brought the car during a Porsche Carrera Cup meeting, and I had the chance to do ten laps with it. This was a great opportunity, because there are Porsche works drivers that haven’t even driven the car, because it is used very rarely on track. The car is a monster, it has a fantastic grip! It is really powerful and brutal (basic) because it has still the sequential gear box and three pedals.
After that test drive, how do you view your predecessors who used to do 24-hour races with all that manual shifting with heel/toe driving?
I have huge respect for those drivers and that period. There is a big difference between now and then in terms of comfort of driving, electronic assistance, the driving environment and the race tracks. As a matter of fact, when the drivers did the Le Mans 24 Hours in a team of only two drivers, with speeds approaching 400km/h, I take my hat off to them!
Written by: Lucian Sonea
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto, Martin Raffauf