Today, Fast Lane hears from Fons Scheltema (Kessel Racing), a paddock veteran with sixteen seasons in the Ferrari Challenge. His fuel is his passion for Ferrari and motorsport. His livery is one of the most recognisable on the grid, and we often see it engaged in a duel for victory, a podium or a position.
Sixteen years in Ferrari Challenge: how has the championship changed since your first race?
“It’s now a much more professional series. The level is higher. Indeed, when I set out in 2005, we drivers were amateurs. We probably looked like ordinary guys with a passion for racing. Today, however, we are like real professionals. We have instructors who follow us, and the level is definitely higher. You can tell by the track times. The top drivers in our category set times similar to those in the Trofeo Pirelli and could easily compete with them”.
After so many years on the track, what motivates you to still drive a Ferrari in this category?
“I think of it like this: life is short, and my dream since I was a child was to drive a Ferrari. Therefore, as long as I can, as long as my health allows, I want to enjoy it. And anyway, I love the environment, the atmosphere in general: we’re one big family. Moreover, every year we have the chance to try new circuits. Next season there will be a round at Indianapolis. Three years ago, we raced at Daytona, and then we went to Abu Dhabi. I mean, as you can imagine, it’s all this that keeps me coming back every year. I love the North American series, and my first experience was four years ago in Montreal. It was exciting, something special.”
What was your best season? Not only for the results achieved, but perhaps other aspects too.
“In the beginning, you’re not fully aware of what you’re doing. You just drive as fast as you can. Then, over time, you realise that certain things are possible. You see that you can get into the top positions. And in fact, I think my best year was 2012: I finished second in the standings and was up among the leaders from start to finish. That year one of my teammates won: every race was neck and neck. It was a continuous challenge until the end. This situation also created tension and led to some squabbling, but we were still great friends at the end of it all. On the other hand, that’s the beauty of the Ferrari Challenge: fierce challenges on the track, rivalry, but in the end, away from the circuit, you become friends again, a family.
Your car and helmet feature shark motifs. How did this come about?
“When I was a kid, I used to read comics featuring Buck Danny, a US Air Force pilot. He had a drawing of the snout of a shark, with loads of sharp teeth on the nose of his plane. I actually think it was the snout of a tiger, but I was young, and it looked like a shark to me. In 2007, I decided to adopt the same style for my Ferrari.
What is your favourite circuit?
“Without a doubt Mugello. Then, of course, I love Imola and Brno. However, Daytona is the most significant for me: it’s been incredible to race on this circuit. In general, though, every circuit offers something special.”