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There’s a popular saying in the motorsport world about a driver being born with a helmet on their head.
I started racing at the age of 15 in the Western Province Karting Championship and won five Province and National Championships by the age of 23.
At the age of 24 I progressed to Single Seaters, however before the season hit the halfway mark I had to stop due to a lack of funds – a common occurrence in the world of racing.
Unable to find a solution I turned my attention to the web company that my brother and I co-founded when we left school, called Obox Themes, with the intention of saving up as much money as possible in order to make a comeback in later years.
Twenty hour days and five years later I had eventually saved up enough money for one more GT race in 2014. The race ended up going so well that I was offered a drive for the 2015 season with Bonaldi Motorsport in the Italian GT Championship.
The end result was an incredibly successful season which netted me 2nd in the Championship and included more wins, pole positions and fastest laps than any other driver in the field.
My performance in my first European season led to an offer from Kessel Racing Ferrari, a well known and hugely successful GT3 team based in Switzerland. After a two day test I ended up on a similar pace to their professional drivers and was offered a contract 2016.
With the help of my manager Alan Macdonald, I signed a two year deal with Kessel Ferrari to represent them in the Blancpain Endurance Series. It has always been a dream of mine to compete in the series but I didn’t expect it to happen in only my second year of GT Racing.
After signing with Kessel I went on to win the Total 24 Hours of Spa twice, Blancpain Sprint, Endurance and Overall AM Championships as well as other major GT racing events.
In 2018 I was upgraded to a Silver ranked driver and moved to Rinaldi Racing where I competed in various championships across Europe, including the Blancpain GT Series, VLN, Creventic and Italian GT, driving a Ferrari 488 GT3.
Having established myself as a competent Silver ranked driver more opportunities started to come my way, I eventually becoming a professional driver – earning a living from racing – and got the chance to race in the European Le Mans Series with Iron Lynx.
Things went well enough that I was offered a driver for the 2020 European Le Mans Series with Kessel Racing. We battled hard for the championship and finished tied for first place.
My performance during the season resulted in me getting a call from AF Corse for the 2021 season, which included the option to race at… Le Mans.
From the day I stopped karting I dreamt of getting into a GT car and competing at Le Mans. I would dream about it non-stop and worked as hard as possible during my time at Obox to get to a point where I could give that dream another shot.
When I finally left pit lane to start my first flying lap of the Le Mans Circuit I could not believe it was actually happening. It was a dream come true and it lived up to the hype and then some.
My drive and ambitions are not over yet as I hope to get more chances to race at Le Mans and continue to chase the dream of being on the podium one day.
Until then, catch you around the next lap.
Without the help of some incredible people I would not have made it as far as I have today. This journey has not been a one man show. I have these people to thank…
He was the man who is responsible for getting me to a race track. If Claude never existed it’s unlikely I’d ever be a racing driver. He got me to the track and then continued to help me at every test and race weekend for over two years.
My first real coach! Mark was a fast 24 year old who also had a big passion for racing and a very high intensity. He taught me about attention to detail and the effort required to go climb up the grid.
When Kartsport SA was launched in Cape Town it took the local racing culture up a few notches in terms of professionalism. Nick was kind enough to offer me a seat on his team and I continued to race for KSA long after Nick moved on to bigger things. However during his time at the helm I learned an indescribable amount from him when it came to how to succeed in life. Nick has been a major inspiration for me when it comes to dedication, work ethic and business sense.
After Nick sold Kartsport it was Claudio who took over the company. He arrived in Cape Town as the reigning Rotax Max World Champion and I instantly looked up to him. Fast smooth and a racing brain like no other. A year later I joined his team and he became my mentor for many years to come. Claudio is the guy who taught me how to think like a racing driver and his influence still affects me to this day. We travelled the world together during my karting days as I tried to learn as much as I could from his approach. Claudio has one of the sharpest eyes I’ve seen in this game and is a genius when it comes to mechanical setups.
Though Claudio was the main protagonist in my karting career I also need to thank his brother Paolo and his father Giovanni. Both racing legends in their own right, they gave me a place to stay when I needed one and, in the case of Giovanni, some incredibly fast kart engines which propelled me to a South African Championship.
My mechanics during different phases of my karting career but all legends who were willing to die on the battle field for me. We spent many days working together with broken equipment, tasting defeat and victory. Given that I mostly had to make do with my ‘two left hands’ it was these guys who always made sure my wheels didn’t fall off the kart.
Technically Andy was already a big influence during my karting days after he joined Kartsport as their guy on the front desk. A retired racing driver himself it was Andy who re-ignited my self belief after some difficult years in karts. He was the first guy I met in my life who had absolutely zero doubt about me becoming a professional racing driver and that reinforcement motivated me in a massive way. A legend. RIP my friend.
This guy was crazy enough to give me a free seat in a new single-seater series called Formula VW. Lee was the owner of one of the founding teams and based on Claudio’s recommendation he decided to give me a shot, despite the fact that I couldn’t even rub 2 cents together. I am super grateful for the gamble he took, because even though my experience was short lived (4 races), it left an impression on me that lasted until my return to GT racing in future years.
Owners of the Intrepid Karting team in Durban I chose to race with these guys for a one-off Trophy called the African Open. The winner got a free ticket to the Rotax Max World Finals. We finished 2nd. The following year they needed a driver for the entire SA Championship and were crazy enough to choose me. These two guys were as tough as nails and never ever complained about anything. They gave me a fresh perspective on how to “make it happen” and definitely inspired me to give my dream of becoming a Professional another shot.
After all my cold calling had yielded zero results Claudio introduced me to a South African living in the UK called Alan Macdonald. Apparently this was the guy to speak to when trying to get into the European Racing Scene. It proved to be true. Very quickly Alan was able to get me into a GT Racing car in Italy and has continued to manage me ever since. Trying to become a professional with almost zero money is a tough ask but it was Alan who was able to talk his way into teams and me into racing cars. Nothing but respect for this man’s tenacity and gratefulness for his belief in me. A major, major player in my career.
One of my luckiest breaks was having Gianfranco as my race engineer for my first ever GT Race. It turned out that he was one of the most experienced guys in the paddock, commanding a huge amount of respect from his peers, and he saw enough ability in me to recommend me to his son Marco… who then…
Our relationship didn’t get off to a great start when I headed towards a wall at 250kph in one of his cars (brake failure… and broken leg). But despite this Marco decided to give me another shot and so began my first official season in GT racing. Marco gave me enough time and string to hang myself as I searched up and down for enough money to pay for the season, which was very kind of him and also quite uncommon. Without his offer and his patience I wouldn’t have made it more than 4 months into my revived racing dreams.
It’s a freezing cold day in Rome. I’m about to get my first taste of a GT3 car and Giacomo is the benchmark driver that Kessel has sent to the test as a reference. I get close to his times but he still had more left to give on the track. However as soon as he gets back to Kessel HQ he recommends me for the seat in the 2016 Blancpain season. This guy has continued to back me and provide advice whenever I need it. Not only that but he is dangerously fast in a racing car. Unbelievably so. Without Giacomo to call on I would have many more off-track mistakes than I have up till now.
The owner of one of the biggest Ferrari teams in the World. Ronnie Kessel is the young but brilliant CEO of Kessel. He went a long way to help me stay in GT racing, investing in me when I didn’t have the budget and putting me in cars (based on Giacomo’s recommendations) when I had nothing else. I owe a huge amount to Ronnie to taking such a big financial risk on me.
Before the 2016 season was over I had no seat to speak of after a series of unfortunate events on and off the race track. Stephen Earle was my team mate at the time but he barely knew me. Yet he decided that he wanted me to join him for a couple of end-of-season races. We won both events and in so doing managed to keep my dreams alive. Stephen and I have continued to work together, winning the Blancpain Sprint Series once and GT Sports Club twice. No one is as positive as this man. Thanks Doc.
It’s simple, Michele gave me a chance when no one else could. After being ‘upgraded’ to a Silver driver in 2018 I had nothing on the table and faced the very real risk of having to pack it all in and head back to SA. But Michele decided to give me a shot despite having never met me. His growing faith in me lead to a second win at the Spa 24 Hour and the breakthrough jump to becoming a real Professional Racing Driver.