Reshad De Gerus granted us an interview this Saturday, October 21 in the afternoon before qualifying for the 4 hours of Portimao, the last race of the ELMS season.
You left single-seater racing very early for endurance. Are you satisfied with this decision?
It was a wise choice on my part. Let’s say that single-seater racing really teaches us the basics of driving.
I started with Formula 4, then moved to Formula 3, and then I really wanted to focus my career on endurance racing. So it allowed me to get into LMP2, the prototypes, with a very solid foundation and it’s why I’m doing well.
You secured pole position at the start of the season (Editor’s note: in Barcelona in ELMS), your teammates are very good and experienced like José María López, but did you get a surprise when they let you take the car?
It was a surprise for several reasons because firstly, I hadn’t raced or driven for 7 months because I had only done the first half of the ELMS season in 2022 with DUQUEINE Team.
I wanted to do the 24h of Le Mans to gain experience, that was my goal, and then I stopped the season. So I only went back to Barcelona with my new team Cool Racing.
Of course, alongside José Maria Lopez, I did not expect to have this role. But let’s say that his adaptation from hypercar to LMP2 took a little bit of time, obviously, he is an accomplished driver and he is very quick, so we thought it would be more sensible for me to do the qualifying.
It was a big surprise for me to have to do this task, but it showed that they had faith in me and the choice was good since we made the pole!
You are in contention for the top 2 in the championship. A place to qualify for the 24h of Le Mans 2024 in LMP2. Was the goal from the beginning to qualify or to win the championship?
The goal was to win the championship, obviously with the line-up we have, with the team we have, we had the potential for it! At present, we can fight for second place. So, we’re going to do everything we can to make it happen as it should, and it’s super tight and the level of competition is very high, everyone is capable of fighting for victory on each course so it’s very interesting, it allows me as a young driver to progress tremendously.
And then yeah, it’s a combination of several things that make some can manage better than others at certain times of the season. The goal was to win the championship, unfortunately, we are no longer in the race.
We are still in the race to finish on the podium and second. So, it would be really good for us to secure an additional spot for Le Mans, as Cool Racing already has a spot with their win in LMP3 (Editor’s note: the Cool Racing LMP3 #17 won the ELMS LMP3 2023 championship and thus the ticket promised to the winner of this category for the 24h of Le Mans 2024 in LMP2).
It would be good for the team to have two cars at Le Mans next year.
How do your collaborations with Simon Pagenaud and José María López go, do they give you advice?
I was fortunate to race with José in the same car as mine, there is Nicolas Lapierre who races in the #37 (Editor’s note: another Cool Racing car in ELMS) and the surprise of being able to race with Simon Pagenaud for the 24 hours of Le Mans!
These drivers have so much experience and they have given me a lot. I really try to learn as much as I can from them and it allows me to achieve rapid progression!
Honestly, it’s great to work with these people. Their careers, their different experiences in other cars in which they have been able to race, and the manufacturers with whom they have been able to race have allowed them to understand what these teams expect from factory drivers, and it’s my goal to become a driver for a manufacturer.
So this is really an incredible experience and we learn a lot every day and it’s very interesting.
And now, you give advice to the younger generation, Lorens Lecertua (16-year-old driver and newly Alpine Europa Cup 2023 champion) sings your praises in Auto Hebdo magazine #2434 of October 18th as a coach on mental, physical and driving issues. Is it important for you to give back advice in turn?
After my high school diploma, I had different options for the future, I wanted to do engineering school, but it was not possible with my busy schedule with the races, so I got a diploma to become a sports coach.
It was really something coming from Réunion when I arrived in mainland France, I would have liked someone to be there to teach me the basics and guide me.
So, it has always been something close to my heart to be able to pass on what I have learned to the younger ones. They have to be able to progress as quickly as possible, so I have been taking care of Lorens for two years and this year he won the Alpine Elfe Europa Cup championship.
So, it’s a big source of pride for me to have been able to accompany him and to continue accompanying him.
You accompany him on almost all levels. It’s not just about driving, but also nutrition, mentality…
People on the outside do not necessarily see the effort it takes to drive, we see the drivers driving on the track on TV, but we do not realize the preparation behind it to achieve this level.
There is physical preparation, mental preparation obviously, nutrition, sleep (especially on 24-hour races) so it’s important for me to teach this to the younger generation to allow them to progress as quickly as possible.
Nowadays, careers start earlier and earlier, a few years ago if we look at F1 the age range of drivers was much higher, now between 18 and 20 years old drivers, they reach the peak.
So, it’s very important for them to understand this as quickly as possible because I think it’s really a time saver.
You are the reserve driver for Alpine. What are your tasks as a reserve driver in endurance racing? We are getting to know more and more the role of the reserve driver in F1. Is the role different in endurance?
It’s a bit different because generally in endurance, you don’t really have a reserve driver. But let’s say that for very particular reasons this year.
Alpine wanted to hire me as a reserve driver because I was racing with the Cool Racing team, that facilitated communication since Nicolas (Editor’s note: Nicolas Lapierre is an official and development driver for the future Alpine Endurance hypercar and also races for Cool Racing in ELMS) and it allows Alpine to have all my data and have feedback on me and my performance in races.
My tasks as a reserve driver are firstly to be present in case of any issues with a driver, if one is injured or sick, I can step in the car (Editor’s note: take over in LMP2 in WEC).
I take part in meetings, debrief from races, and we try to prepare for the future together, even though nothing is done yet, next year they are taking the step, Alpine is going back to Hypercar in WEC with their new car, which is going to be a big challenge for them.
And yes, it’s a goal for me to be part of this team someday for sure.
Does this position also allow you to take part in the development of the new Alpine Hypercar which is currently running on different tracks?
Right now, it’s true they’re in full development. So for now, they’re really focused on that with their confirmed drivers who have experience in the top category in hypercar, very professional drivers.
I’m really a young driver, it’s my first full season in endurance in LMP2 so Alpine is betting on me for the future, for now, I’m focusing on my training with Nico, with the Cool Racing team and if it goes well I hope to become one day (Editor’s note: become Alpine Hypercar official driver).
Already two participations in the 24h of Le Mans at 20 years old, does it help for experience and driving?
Doing the 24 Hours of Le Mans is like doing a whole season. In one week because for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we are on a circuit for a whole week.
We have tests the Sunday before the race, it’s a super long week. We have changes in conditions day after day, so you have to adapt, work well with the team. It’s really the time when you form strong bonds with everyone, spending a week with a whole team is something. And I have been lucky enough to have done it twice already.
So, I was not even 19 years old when I did my two participations, it’s really exceptional, it allows you to learn a lot! We also learn how to manage a 24-hour race because in the ELMS we only do 4-hour races, these are really “sprint” races whereas managing a 24-hour race is completely different in Apoproach. Even in the settings of the car etc. We are going to be much less aggressive in driving during these races. It’s very enriching. Also, I’ve had the chance to drive with Pagenaud as we’ve mentioned. It’s all positive and I hope to be there again next year.
Coming from Reunion, do you find it more difficult to make your name, to get noticed, you also have to leave the island quite young to come and race on the old continent, has all this been difficult?
I think nothing is easy in life, after that, it’s about knowing what you want. I think that from a young age, I started karting when I was 5 years old in Reunion and I’ve always loved it.
I tried other sports and it never appealed to me as much as cars. In 2017, when I was 14 years old, I had to make a decision. I was aware of that, either I stayed in Reunion, on my island and stopped motor sport or I came to mainland France to try my luck and continue what I love and try to become a professional driver.
I joined the FSA Academy and moved to Le Mans, so I moved. I came to live alone here and it changed me a lot. It was not easy. The first winter was hard, but when you look at the journey and where I am now, I did not steal anything, it is earned. It really makes me happy to be able to drive at this level and show good performance as I’m doing.
It’s a real pride for me to represent Reunion at this level at the 24h of Le Mans in 2022 and 2023, we fly the flag of Reunion on the starting grid, it’s quite something!
Many people didn’t know me, for example, this year at Le Mans and I took part in the hyper pole, there are professional drivers on the starting grid, I started next to Kubica and Kvyat, very big names, and these people, they come to me and say “where do you come from? Where do you come from? What is this flag?” and that’s where I explain Reunion and I show them on Google Maps the small island, I zoom in a lot and show them.
And they tell me “respect” because there are not many who could do what you did. When you get this kind of feedback from such experienced drivers, it’s nice!
Do you get to go back often with your busy schedule, and do you have any projects on the island to help other Reunionese drivers?
I try to go back quite often, at least once a year, usually for the end-of-year festivities, if I have time, I also go back for the July/August holiday. For now, I don’t have any projects there because I’m really focused on my career and the coaching job I have to do with Lorens, it’s already a lot.
Afterwards it’s sure that why not in the future be able to help people there, it would really be a goal because I started from nothing, so to be able to guide these people who would like to take the leap as I did, it would be something I would like to do a lot, I would like to undertake.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, one last on a lighter note, did you drop your driver’s CV on Bruno Famin’s desk (Vice President “Motor Sport” of the Alpine F1 and Endurance team) to drive in the Hypercar in WEC next year?
Obviously, being a reserve driver for them this year, I had to drop my CV, so we’ll see what’s feasible going forward, the goal would be to keep contributing and working with the team. So, I hope to answer your question better by the end of the year!
They are still currently finalizing their official driver for next season, so there will be some heavy hitters, the only thing I can say is that there will be big names!
Thank you very much Reshad de Gerus for answering our questions.