24h Le Mans
18/02/2018 15:01

Olivier Beretta (Ferrari): "24 starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be pretty great!"

Olivier Beretta is certainly credited with one of the greatest track records in endurance racing, particularly at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 22 participations, he has won the GT class six times. He even claimed the top step on the overall podium at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2000. Entered in the 2018-2019 World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) Super Season, he will be closing in on 24 Le Mans starts in 2019.

Olivier Beretta (Ferrari): "24 starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be pretty great!"

Olivier Beretta is somewhat emotional evoking his debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, back in 1996. "I came for the first time in 1995, with Courage actually. I was always drawn to the race and watched it on T.V., but it was outside of my purview because I was focused on Formula 1 (with Larousse F1 in 1994, 10 Grand Prix, Ed.). When I left F1, Le Mans became a real possibility for me. I got here and knew nothing at all, and discovered a magnificent circuit and this little team Courage Compétition who, with little means, was doing great things. Unfortunately, we clinched pole position (with Eric van de Poele, Ed.), but the car was subsequently disqualified due to a weight concern. So I competed at my first 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1996 with Viper (ORECA, Ed.) and I did that five times with them."

When his career was coming to an end in Formula 1, someone special came along to (re)lauch it in endurance. "Hughes de Chaunac simply saved my career. After F1, there was nothing on the horizon for me. One day he called me and asked that I come see him at his office, and it changed my life. The Chrysler Viper Oreca project got me going again, and if at 48 years old I'm still here today, it's thanks to Hughes for saving me. Naturally I had to work hard and earn his trust, and I think that I gave him what he expected of me."

Hughes de Chaunac and ORECA became a second family to the driver from Monaco. "I got to know a fantastic team, not without difficult moments given that in the beginning the car was truly far from what was needed to win. Meanwhile, with a great deal of team effort, we achieved some wonderful things. We won quite a few races including the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24 at Daytona overall (in 2000, Ed.). The experience with Viper was great. Later, still with ORECA, there was the involvement with prototypes, but that ended rather quickly as Chrysler was looking to go into NASCAR. Nonetheless, we did good races, finishing fourth and fifth! We were even contenders for the podium, but water pump problems came into play. Then on to Panoz. My three epxeriences in prototypes culminated in finishing in the top 5 three times!"  

The LMP chapter of Olivier Beretta's career ended definitively in 2003. At the end of that season, he was approached by a big American manufacturer. "I had been competing against Corvette with Chrysler. At the end of 2003, Corvette decided to switch out a few of its drivers, and as they were thinking of me, I was thinking of them. It was a great time in my career. It was a super team and 99.99% of the people in it were fantastic. I won a lot of races, championships and four editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with them. But I never regretted leaving Corvette. I was not getting along at all with one person in the team."

After eight seasons with Corvette, the Monaco native was contacted by yet another huge presence in motorsport. He is even visibly moved talking about it as he has traces of Italian in his family tree. "I joined Ferrari because it is legendary to me, the biggest marque in the world as far as I'm concerned. To work with them is a huge opportunity and I know a lot of other drivers would love to be in my place. When you go to Fiorano, you immediately understand, here things are different. My adventure in LMGTE Pro came to an end due to age, you have to bring in new blood and younger drivers are coming up. Meanwhile, in 2015, I finished second in the class. It's only second best, but it was satisfying to reach the podium with them. It's too bad we didn't win!"

In all, Olivier Beretta has participated 22 times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of his favorite races. With his involvement in the 2018-2019 Super Season of the World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC), he will take the start of his 24th 24 Hours. "I have been doing Le Mans for 22 years, and every time it's different! There is always a special something, a moment unlike the others. I have claimed a podium finish 11 times, all classes considered. I'm not aiming at any particular record though. I'm just trying to have as much fun as possible. Now there's this adventure in LMGTE Am kicking off, it's true that 24 starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be pretty great!"  

Since 1996, he has teamed up with some of the top names in endurance racing. So of course he's had the time to develop some preferences. "I have wonderful memories of people like Manu Collard who is an outstanding guy, in and out of the car. I also really liked Jan Magnussen who is very fast and straightforward. Also Karl Wendlinger, Dominique Dupuy, Pedro Lamy, Marcel Fässler and Andrea Bertolini. There are so many! I really had great relationships with them. The only things I can't stand are inflated egos and low blows."  

Now, he is an integral part of Ferrari and he is a happy man! "I am doing development for Ferrari working with the Formula 1 Client department. It's extremely professional. Also, I.m placed with teams at Ferrari's request. Last year, I did some Blancpain Endurance Series and Le Mans (with Spirit of Race, Ed.). Currently I'm with the MR Racing team for the 2018-2019 Super Season of the World Endurance Championship."

Olivier Beretta's track record at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

1996 : Chrysler Viper GTS-R (Viper Team Oreca) with Philippe Gache and Éric Hélary (21st, 12th in GT1)

1997 : Chrysler Viper GTS-R (Viper Team Oreca) with Philippe Gache and Dominique Dupuy (retirement: incident)

1998 : Chrysler Viper GTS-R (Viper Team Oreca) with Pedro Lamy and Tommy Archer (13th, 2nd in GT2)

1999 : Chrysler Viper GTS-R (Viper Team Oreca) with Karl Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy (10th, 1st in GTS)

2000 : Chrysler Viper GTS-R (Viper Team Oreca) with Karl Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy (7th, 1st in GTS)

2001 : Chrysler LMP (Team PlayStation) with Karl Wendlinger and Pedro Lamy (4th, 3rd in LMP900)

2002 : Dallara SP1-Judd (PlayStation Team Oreca) with Érik Comas and Pedro Lamy (5th, 4th in LMP900)

2003 : Panoz LMP01 Evo-Élan (JML Team Panoz) with Gunnar Jeannette and Max Papis (5th, 3rd in LMP900)

2004 : Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (Corvette Racing) with Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen (6th, 1st in GTS)

2005 : Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (Corvette Racing) with Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen (5th, 1st in GT1)

2006 : Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (Corvette Racing) with Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen (4th, 1st in GT1)

2007 : Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (Corvette Racing) with Oliver Gavin and Max Papis (retirement: transmission)

2008 : Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (Corvette Racing) with Oliver Gavin and Max Papis (15th, 3rd in GT1)

2009 : Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (Corvette Racing) with Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fässler (retirement)

2010 : Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (Corvette Racing) with Oliver Gavin and Emmanuel Collard (retirement: incident)

2011 : Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (Corvette Racing) with Tommy Milner and Antonio García (11th, 1st in LMGTE Pro)

2012 : Ferrari 458 Italia GTC (AF Corse) with Andrea Bertolini and Marco Cioci (22nd, 4th in LMGTE Pro)

2013 : Ferrari 458 Italia GTC (AF Corse) with Kamui Kobayashi and Toni Vilander (20th, 5th in LMGTE Pro)

2014 : Ferrari 458 Italia GTC (AF Corse) with Davide Rigon and Pierre Kaffer (retirement: engine)

2015 : Ferrari 458 Italia GT2 (AF Corse) with Davide Rigon and James Calado (21st, 2nd in LMGTE Pro)

2017 : Ferrari 488 GTE (Spirit of Race) with Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci (41st, 12th in LMGTE Am)

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