10 minutes with Philippe Gache from SMG

10 minutes with Philippe Gache from SMG

Philippe Gache has a long history in Endurance racing stretching back 15 years. In 2013 he will solely concentrate on managing his SMG Challenge team with a Porsche 997 GT3R. We caught up Philippe as he prepared his team for next week’s big pre-season test at Paul Ricard.

-    Last year was your first season in Blancpain Endurance Series, what were your impressions?

From our point of view it is the best of the GT Series. We bought the Porsche three years ago, and before we decided to enter the Blancpain Endurance Series last year, we did some races here and there but soon discovered that we had to enter the Blancpain Endurance Series. We really feel good within the series, there is a great level of competition, the teams are really professional, there are a lot of cars and the organisation is really slick.

-    What are your feelings about the SMG team’s performances last season?

My assessment of last year is that we managed to reach the goals we set before the beginning of the season in this top-level GT series. Unfortunately, we are a bit disadvantaged by the fact that we are considered as a Pro car because of our Gold and Platinum drivers, but we also have an amateur, Eric Clement. So, the challenge is harder for us and we cannot really target a top ranking. To my mind, we are more Pro-Am than Pro, but it is the will of Eric to race with the best drivers. That is why it is so difficult for us to hope for excellent results but Eric is improving and the whole team is as well. We are looking good for our second season.

-    What can you tell us about the driver line-up of the SMG Porsche in 2013?

The SMG Porsche line-up will be: Eric Clément, Nicolas Armindo and Olivier Pla. The difficulty there will be to evolve in the Pro category, with Eric who is amateur, even if he is making big progress. Sometimes, he finds himself compared to professional drivers, and the challenge is not always easy for him but this is his choice to race with this ambition. He wants to progress as much as possible and working with drivers like Nicolas and Olivier will be a big benefit for him.

-    What are your objectives for the forthcoming season?

We would like to progress even more. We are running with Olivier Pla and Nicolas Armindo who are two reference, professional drivers and of course very fast. The aim is to boost Eric, the amateur of the trio, help him progress to get closer to the times of his team mates and to improve consistency to achieve the best results he can. Yet, we are not setting too ambitious or precise goals at this stage just yet.

-    You are a driver and a team manager, how do you handle that on the races?

Well I actually stopped driving last year. We had one car, Eric Clement and I know each other very well, so there was no pressure and we managed it the best we could. I am not as involved in driving as I was beforehand and I had other things on my mind like managing the team. I wasn’t really at ease doing both so I preferred being replaced by real professional drivers who only think about driving and do their best to be at a top-level. I am too much of a perfectionist to stand not being at my top level, so I prefer to focus on the management of the team and I am perfectly fine with this. Being a driver and a manager at the same time is possible, but it depends mostly on the objectives of the team.

-    The SMG team already entered twice the 24 Hours of Spa race without being able to see the chequered flag yet. Is that race your main objective this year?

Indeed, we were not able to cross the finish line because of technical problems. Last year, we had problems with our clutch in the 15th hour of race. Otherwise, we were within the top ten before that incident. So, we actually were at the place we expected to be and set for a very good finish.

This year, we hope that we will be able to see the chequered flag of the 24 Hours of Spa race. I think that Porsche is professional enough to rectify the clutch issues of 2012 and progress. Beyond this, the cars are very reliable so there should not be other issues and we are very much looking forward to challenge of Spa again.