Jean-Claude Saada has been a decorated, championship winning Ferrari Challenge driver, and now he has been able to add GT World Challenge Americas champion to the list of accolades after a nearly perfect season in the Am category. Driving with his long-time coach Conrad Grunewald, Saada explains that he was looking for a new horizon to explore: “I was looking around at some different ideas. Driving the GT3 car for the first time was a bit like going from high school [in the Challenge car] to graduate school [in the GT3]. But I’m in this to learn and have fun and improve my skill set”.
As Saada himself admits, the first race in the new car had its challenges. The Sonoma circuit had not been on the Challenge calendar since 2016, which represented his only prior experience at the circuit. “It was a pretty steep hill. Sonoma could have been a lot better, but it was the basis for a progression”. From there, the team visited some of the most famous tracks in the country, with Saada’s confidence and comfort in the car growing each round. “By the time I got to VIR I was definitely more comfortable in the car. It’s a process. You need seat time and instruction to gain the experience”.
To that end, Saada has surrounded himself with the best. The team is none other than AF Corse, and Jean-Claude credits them and his coach, Conrad Grunewald, as critical ingredients to their success: “AF Corse doesn’t need an introduction from me. I can see why AF Corse is so successful overseas. It was a perfect marriage. And Conrad is someone where you can give him four tires and a rubber band and he’d make a race car out of it. He’s very analytical and very precise and we blend together very well”.
Looking to the future, Saada won’t close any doors, but has a clear-eyed perspective on what the future holds. “I’m a gentleman driver and I don’t have anything to prove. I have 488 GT Modificata coming and I want to have the most fun with that car because it’s the GT3 on steroids. I need to be quote un-quote the master of this car as much as I can before I say I’m ready for Le Mans or Spa”.