The Racetrack Days were back on track on 13-14th June at the Circuit Paul Ricard, with a fantastic entry list featuring cars from LMP2 to road cars and everything in between, without forgetting about the gorgeous historic racers! Racetrack Days stands firm as a leading organiser of track and test days in France and we had the opportunity to talk with Philippe Naniche, head of Racetrack Days, about his business and gauge the state of motorsports post-lockdown.
“Racetrack Days was launched ten years ago,” Philippe Naniche explains his company’s origins. “Our first event took place in November 2009 at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Some current customers were already with us ten years ago. For me, that is very important because it shows that we built some good relationships with them and it is a pleasure to see them with big smiles on their faces.”
The establishment of Racetrack Days was not totally a linear path, as Philippe summarised it.
“We started with a single track day in 2009, then two in 2010, before we had five painful years. I personally had a serious health accident in 2014. After hitting the bottom in 2014, the company really took off in 2015. Today, we are so proud to gather 260 cars, combining quantity and quality. We have three priorities: the quality of the provided services, the friendliness, and above all the pleasure of driving.
“As much as we can,we try to bring things around track days to satisfy customers as much as possible, and that they have an enjoyable weekend with us. For instance, we provide a full assistance in terms of mechanics and tyres, so that people can focus on driving pleasure alone.”
The business plan was clear from the start: attract road cars and their owners and offer everything they need.
“We first focused our business on private GT owners, with a high quality requirement for the cars, even refusing some cars that were not in line with what we wanted to do. This selection could be badly perceived, but that positioned us as an organizer who organised quality track days. Gradually, the owners of GTs began to attract professionals, and today we generally welcome 60 percent of road cars owners, and 40 percent of professional racing teams. We can qualify our track days as ‘premium’ – it’s not just a marketing term, we’re trying to do something qualitative.
“Safety was the first priority from the start. We are working with the Paul Ricard circuit which is perfectly structured to secure all drivers, whether they are beginners or experienced. Before 2014, we were going to other circuits as well, but since then we have been exclusively operating on the Paul Ricard Circuit because it corresponds to our customers’ needs.”
Remy Bouresche is one of the regulars of the Ractrack Days with his team JMB Classic. He explains what the attraction is from a customer’s point of view: “JMB Classic is a loyal visitor of the Ractrack Days because the organiser is very concerned with safety on the track and this is very important for us in order to protect our drivers and cars. For example, the sessions are limited to 35 cars on the track and the safety rules are reminded during the briefing.
“The second important point for JMB Classic is the fact that track days take place on weekends, which allows gentleman drivers to come and drive with us. Furthermore, the time and format suit us because we can have fun and also the necessary time to repair the cars if needed between the four 45-minute sessions scheduled each day. Finally, the friendliness of the organisation allows our team to spend a pleasant time together.”
As we know, the 2020 motorsport season has been badly impacted by the pandemic, but Racetrack Days and Philippe Naniche were capable of keeping the vessel afloat.
“We managed to reduce the impact of the pandemic. We did a weekend just before the crisis, and the reopening of the circuit in May allowed us to keep our initial dates without a single weekend cancellation! The first track days after the French lockdown was done in very dressed-down conditions but we were able to do it… We adapted our track days to match with the required safety measures by distributing a mask to everyone and the strict respect of the social distancing in the paddock.”
2020 is also the beginning of a new adventure for Philippe and his organisation.
“This is a pivotal year for us because we will become the organiser of the ROSCAR championship and this will bring us to other French circuits, such as Magny-Cours. Usually, the championship had its final races at Le Castellet during the same weekend as our track days. This collaboration with the ROSCAR Challenge went well, and Christian Rossi, the championship’s boss, offered me to take over the championship. Christian remains with us as an important partner and adviser.
“We offer to race at affordable costs on the most beautiful French circuits. For example, registration for the seven events of the year costs € 5,800 excluding tax, which is cheaper than a single race in some championships. We are going to maintain these prices that made the championship a success to allows people to have fun with cars like GT4s. Originally managed by the ‘911 Club Ile de France’, this racing championship was initially only composed of Porsche Cup cars. Little by little, the championship has evolved with a wide entries variety; for example, the last race was won by a Renault RS01 in front of a Ferrari 458.
“Unfortunately the season could not start in March as planned. The real start of the championship will take place on September 18 and 19 in Ledenon. Instead of seven dates, there will only be four race weekends.”
On the question of the global future of motorsport after the pandemic, Philippe answered us as a passionate without political cant.
“I see the progressive slide to electric mobility. In my opinion, this is not a solution for the future because the problem of oil pollution has been moved to batteries pollution.
“Secondly, we talk a lot these days about virtual racing. I don’t think at all that virtual racing can really replace real racing. Motorsports is an activity where emotions, physical sensations, are brought to the forefront. Virtual racing is a temporary alternative only, in my opinion.
“Most important, I think the championships, whatever they are, must permanently question themselves in terms of cost reduction, otherwise they will hit a wall.”