David Perel is having an intense 2020, despite all the difficulties facing the world of motorsport this season. The South African driver, twice winner of the Belgian 24 Hours, is involved in the European Le Mans Series and the Le Mans Cup where he is among the leaders. At Spa, Perel is flying the flag for Rinaldi Racing, the team with which he won the Pro-Am class in 2018. We met him moments after the race began.
The 24 Hours of Spa is a race you’ve already won twice. How do you see this race?
“Many drivers used to say that this race is a 24-hour sprint, but I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s a race that involves getting to the end of the stint without making mistakes or doing any damage. If, for example, you are stuck behind a car for five laps, you always lose less time than if you were stuck in the gravel or had to repair the car after an accident. I follow my own rule of passing at one point on the track, and unless I have a real chance at that turn, I wait. This has already worked twice previously, so I’m sticking with my idea”.
You’ve proven to have a great rapport with Spa. What’s your favourite part of the track?
“That’s not easy to say because this track has many truly fantastic and legendary sectors. Undoubtedly when you go through Eau Rouge and Radillon you think it’s fantastic. However, when you fit a new set of tyres and take on Pouhon, it’s an incredible feeling”.
There will be many competitive opponents in the Pro-Am class this year. Who’s the one to watch?
“I think Sky Tempesta Racing has a solid crew, with speedy Bronze drivers. Also, the Aston Martin has a good chance if it can stay out of trouble. However, I think the three Ferraris have the potential to mount the podium”.
This year the night will also play a key role due to the clocks going back, which will make for an extra hour’s driving in the dark.
“This will be my fifth 24 Hours of Spa, and on the two occasions I won it, it was because of nighttime stints, and I’m looking forward to it. Night racing offers unique thrills and it is difficult to explain to anyone who has never experienced them. Even though there’s noise, there’s silence in the car. There are you and the car and the two of you then become one. Your mind clears, you stay extremely focused because visibility is reduced and all your senses are much more alert. You don’t just use night vision, everything around you provides information. The silence and the bumps tell you where you are along the track. It’s fantastic”.
What sort of 24 Hours of Spa will it be this year?
“It is a different edition from every other, not only because of the world situation but also because of the time of year when it’s taking place, which makes it a decidedly cold and unique race. We’ll have to think about this race differently, especially in the Pro-Am class where there are less experienced drivers who may not like driving at night. This opens up some fascinating strategic avenues. The other thing to consider is that there are fewer cars than last year. Now, I think that’s perfect because in 2019 there were too many”.
After Spa you have a busy end to the season with the ELMS and Le Mans Cup races…
“In the European Le Mans Series, we’re seven points in front. We need to try and stop Porsche from taking pole position, and that’s something I’ll have to deal with personally as I will be qualifying. I also have to reckon with the recovery between this race and the next. ELMS starts as early as Wednesday with the first test sessions. Expectations are high, and the goal is to win even though, as a driver, the only thing I can focus on is what I can control, which is the steering wheel and pedals of my car. We have a very competitive team, and my teammates are really determined, so it’s up to us to avoid problems to give us the chance to fight down to the very end”.