Ronnie Kessel, owner of the Swiss team Kessel Racing, is the first guest of the new Fast Lane section, where drivers and team principals share their experiences in the Ferrari Challenge.
The son of Loris Kessel, founder of the dealership and the Scuderia that bears the family name, Ronnie took the company’s reins and has competed in many Ferraris. His sporting CV features a host of impressive results in many championships, including the Prancing Horse one-make series. In addition to driving, he has also shown his skills at the wheel of Kessel Racing. The Ticino-based team competes on circuits around the world with many drivers, not only in the Ferrari Challenge but also in the GT championships.
A new season on the track is beginning. What are your feelings and expectations?
“This will certainly be an extraordinary season, starting after a very long winter, a break that lasted twice as long as usual due to the Covid-19 emergency. In terms of feelings I’m sure it will be a good season anyway. Talking to our drivers, in fact, I feel there’s a lot of desire to get back on track and have fun again. Being gentleman-drivers, they want to switch off, free their minds and spend time with others doing what they love, in their Ferraris. I think that for this year the only real expectation should be to have fun, enjoy some time out, and to forget, even just for the race weekend, everything that’s happening in the world around us”.
Which of your drivers should we keep an eye on this year?
“We certainly should keep an eye on Fons Scheltema, our top driver, a Ferrari Challenge veteran in that he started his adventure in the Ferrari world with the 360. He joined Kessel in the era of the F430, and we have him with us today. TV commentators nicknamed him the Flying Dutchman, and he stands out in the middle of the group for his car with a shark mouth on the front bumper”.
What organisational challenges are you facing?
“This year, the challenges won’t just be on track but also off, dictated by all the limitations and regulations introduced to prevent the spread of the pandemic. What is really complicated organisationally is to adopt rules that are good for all countries. We come from Switzerland, and we have a border to cross as the Ferrari Challenge championship takes place in various countries. We know that Italy alone has different regulations to Spain and Portugal, to which we need to pay attention. Let’s say that our sports directors and logistics managers will certainly have many challenges to face”.
Your team also races 488 GT3s in the main continental championships. Which of your drivers in this year’s Challenge is ready to compete with this car?
“Our presence at this year’s Ferrari Challenge will feature four drivers, two of whom have previous experience with the 488 GT3 in some spot races or at the 12 Hours of Abu Dhabi. We are obviously talking about Fons Scheltema, who has been with us for a long time, and our Turkish driver, Murat Cuhadaroglu, who has also been part of the family for several years now. Last December, Cuhadaroglu had the chance to try his hand at the 12 Hours of Abu Dhabi, while this year he is thinking about including a few races in the GT3”.
Kessel Racing and Ferrari have a very long history together. Is there a particular episode you’d like to share with us?
“This year Kessel Racing will celebrate 20 years of activity. We began back in 2000 with the Ferrari Challenge and the Ferrari 360 Challenge. It was my father, of course, who founded the team. His idea was to focus on the dealership’s sports department, which today has its own identity. In these twenty years, we have only raced with Ferrari, always starting with the Ferrari Challenge. In 2006-07 we also had a wonderful opportunity: to take part in the GT3 project together with Ferrari, a project that at that time was all in the making, something new whose development we couldn’t predict. Ferrari gave us the chance to develop the 430 and then market it worldwide, creating the first-ever Ferrari GT3. Since then we have always been involved in GT races: we have always raced in GT3 with some presence in GTE, the old GT2, participating in the historic and famous 24 Hours of Le Mans”.