Saintéloc Racing will run two cars this year in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe (formerly Sprint Series) with Simon Gachet and Christopher Haase, and Steven Palette and Markus Winkelhock. A third car is under consideration with Stéphane Ortelli who was testing the car with the other drivers during the Blancpain GT pre-season tests last week.
We met with Steven Palette during the pre-season test at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet to talk about his new project in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe.
“The Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe is new for me this year, I’m very pleased to join Saintéloc racing and to have a team-mate as experienced as Markus Winkelhock.
“This year, I will be racing in Sprint with Markus. My goal is to complete a full-season in the Endurance Series too. The endurance programme still needs to be defined but it is going to allow me to make many kilometers and obtaining precious experience. Clearly, my main objective will be the sprint, I am going to try to build the maximum on the experience of Markus and the team to be as quick as possible.
“I am particularly glad to be in the Blancpain GT championship, it has been 18 months of work and my objective is to make every effort and finish the season with the feeling that I have done my best during the year.”
Having experienced the Audi R8 GT3 EVO for the first time, Palette is happy with his first impressions.
“I’ve raced with Porsche Cup in France and in Supercup. The new Audi R8 EVO is a car, like all GT3s, that has much less load transfer and much less car body movement.
“You have to get used to it, it is closer to a prototype. The car is relatively easy to take in hand, but to go very, very quickly with it and catch the last tenths, there are things to understand and do well. In the quick parts, the car is very good with superb downforce.”
Strong winds dominated the test session in the south of France, creating particular difficulties to get the car set up.
“The wind really affects the behaviour of the car with the aero, it’s necessary to pay attention in high-speed parts in particular. It’s important to analyze and to know if it is the wind that unbalances the car or the evolution of the set-up. That was the bad point of this Castellet pre-season testing.”
Despite the wind complicating things, Palette still likes testing at the circuit but prefers to race where the margin for error is reduced.
“I prefer the largest 5.8 kilometre version of the Castellet circuit, but I find it’s a pity not to take the chicane in the Mistral straight. During races, in my opinion, it is an opportunity to overtake or intimidate the driver in front of you and be able to pass after the turn.
“I think it is a very good circuit to develop cars without pressure and discover the car without risks. Unfortunately, the downside of the circuit is the track limits that often create controversy. Personally, I prefer the harsher circuits like Monza where there are very few spaces between you and the barriers and where it is often hot at the track. Nevertheless, the Castellet circuit has many good qualities.”
As a debutant in the Blancpain GT championship, Palette is happy to to race in what he considers the worlds premier GT championship.
“As long as there will be many manufacturers who are prepared to invest both financially and with personnel by sending drivers and official engineers, the championship will stay at a top-level.
“Today we see that the higher the level goes, the higher the number of entrants is. It is clearly the greatest GT championship in the world. I think we must absolutely keep the involvement of the manufacturers to retain the young drivers, the championship also attracts quality gentlemen drivers. There are no bad teams in the Blancpain GT series, the level is high everywhere and the difference is often made in the pit-stops.”
However, he certainly isn’t over-awed and is looking forward to a positive season with Saintéloc Racing.
“My ambition is to take the races as they come, to get back home and find that I have maximized my set-up. For the moment, the endurance programme of the team still needs to be defined so I haven’t set a fixed goal for now, we’ll see what happens during the season. I really want to give everything, I know that I will have references in the team to find out where we are. Now it is up to us to do the work.”