IHe got to Le Mans early yesterday afternoon. He left his bag in his team camp and headed for the garage to greet the mechanics. Olivier Beretta, who will be 50 in November, has been doing this for a while. “My first Le Mans was in 1995 and I have only missed one since, in 2016. I’m lucky in that I’ve always been with slick operations like Chrysler, Panoz, General Motors and Ferrari, driving in both prototypes and GT and I’ve finished in the top 3 at Le Mans with each make. It’s not easy to get a seat for Le Mans and it’s even harder to get one in a car capable of winning. I’m very lucky."
It’s not easy to get a seat for Le Mans and it’s even harder to get one in a car capable of winning.
Beretta has Oreca boss Hugues de Chaunac to thank for his career in endurance. “He gave me a chance,” he says, his gratitude apparent. “I had just lost my Formula One seat [after 10 Grands Prix with Larrousse in 1994] and he had just joined Chrysler. I plucked up the courage to call him. He asked to see me two weeks later, and that’s when he told me about the Viper project. We turned a troublesome car into the outright winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona. Then we won Le Mans, Sebring, Petit Le Mans, ALMS and FIA GT. I had the time of my life!”
He has spent the last decade fulfilling a childhood dream. It was only a matter of time before our paths crossed. He joined the team in 2011. “I was 43. I had won everything with General Motors and Ferrari offered me a Pro campaign and a seat with Corse Clienti. For the next four years I raced with AF Corse and we managed a Le Mans podium. Since 2015 I have had the privilege to regularly drive the greatest Formula Ones, including Gilles Villeneuve’s and Fernando Alonso’s cars, and at the same time I’ve had fun in Pro/Am with MR Racing, a spin-off of AF Corse.”
This weekend, the Monaco-born driver will be at the wheel of the 488 GTE, fielded by MR Racing, lending professional support to his amateur teammate Motoaki Ishikawa. “I enjoy sharing my experience,” says Olivier, who sees himself doing another two Le Mans runs. Just to finish on a round figure - 25 - in 2021.
PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES DU MANS, TEST DAY. 2019. 23rd edition for Olivier Beretta, the most experienced driver in the field.