This week’s entry into the Fast Lane series is long-time Ferrari Challenge competitor Jean-Claude Saada (Boardwalk Ferrari). Competing in the series since 2014, JC has been a stalwart competitor throughout, starting in the Coppa Shell class where he was a champion in 2015 and competing now in the Trofeo Pirelli AM category where he currently sits second in the standings. We spoke with JC about what makes the Challenge series, and the new Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo special.
What is your favorite feature of the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo?
Well the car is certainly more planted and it has a lot more downforce so the Evo kit works in exactly the way an Evo kit should work. Its more responsive and it turns better. Even without the tuning options, just as a baseline car its more responsive and with better aero and more downforce.
What is your favorite circuit?
If I had one more day of racing, it would have to be at Spa. In North America, certainly Watkins Glen or Road America are iconic and all time tracks to me. They have their own rhythm and their own beauty and there’s something majestic about that. Laguna Seca certainly is a heck of a track, between the corkscrew and going up the hill its really challenging to get it right. And it is not forgiving either, you have one bad mistake here and you’re done for the day.
How did your passion for racing begin?
When I was a kid I used to draw every race car known to mankind, I used to know every statistic on Schumacher and Fangio. And then you know life happens and things get shelved in the back of your memory and if you’re lucky enough, as I was, I got invited to a track day and got to sit behind the wheel of a Challenge car and took one lap with a coach. The coach said I need to do something else, but that is all it took to challenge me and I committed to doing the series. Two years later I won the championship with that coach. It was gratifying to take on the challenge and say well you told me I couldn’t do it, so I’m going to go do it. But I have to say, it took a lot of work, I lost 40 pounds and worked out every day. The sport keeps you young because every little bit counts inside the car. From there I caught the bug and its been a tremendous ride since.
What do you think are the keys to a successful weekend in Ferrari Challenge?
Well over time I’ve mature in the sport, and I realize what is important and what isn’t. You make your mistakes in the first two or three years, maybe there are a few accidents, and then you sort of realize that its all about precision precision, precision. And to do that, you have to be super focused. I’ve really tried to practice precision, not just doing the same thing over and over again. You need to really listen and really be careful and hit your marks. Use every inch of the track. I went out this morning, thinking about that and my times improved by .5 of a second. It tells you that precision and accuracy is the most important thing. And second, you have to be fit. You cant do this for 30 minutes and expect to be OK if you’re not in shape.
What are your passions when you’re not at the race track?
Well its really limited to my business, which I have a passion for and work 24/7 on, and certainly my family. My kids are grown and working now, so it’s a nice time in my life where I can enjoy the things that I really enjoy and it’s a good place to be. I went thorugh a pretty nasty year and half with a variety of medical proceedures and I was told not to ever sit in a race car, so of course that was the challenge to get back. I got alternate treatment and now I work out 6 days a week and here I am vying for the championship so we’ll see what happens. Its nice because it focuses a lot of skills in one place. You do a lot of things to get behind the wheel and hten you cant control all of it and there is so much you cant control, the track, the other drivers, a mistake from a mechanic, etc. and despite that you go out there and win. Its risk management at its best.