Kévin Estre is a French professional Porsche works driver, knows Nürburgring like his the back of his hand and he is seriously fast. Here’s his exclusive interview on a greek automotive portal amid Covid-19
Born in Lyon, Estre began his racing career in karting, contesting the 2001 French Cadet Championship and taking his first title. In 2004, he won the European ICA Championship, beating Jon Lancaster in the title competition
Joining Porsche works team
Contesting his first season as a Porsche works driver in 2016, Kévin Estre has come full circle. The Frenchman honed his craft as a race driver in the Porsche one-make series in France and Germany.
After netting two junior classification titles, he finally took home the Carrera Cup France trophy in 2011 – with an impressive track record: ten wins, ten podiums, ten fastest race laps.
After switching to the Carrera Cup Deutschland the following year, he immediately scored a victory and ultimately clinched “Rookie of the Year” honours. A year later he was ready for overall victory: With nine race wins he eclipsed the opposition.
In 2015 he passed his baptism of fire in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC with flying colours when he crossed the finish line at Spa in third place (GTE-Pro class) at his first outing in the 911 RSR together with Sven Müller.
In 2018, Estre celebrated his greatest achievement to date: victory at his home race in Le Mans.
A Top Gun on endurance racing
And if you would like to see the overtake of the year, have a look on the legendary pass, with two wheels on the grass, during the 24h-Race Nürburgring (2019). J
Just watch this.
4Drivers – When you review your career now, what was an area in which you excelled as a driver, where maybe you had an advantage compared to most others?
Kévin Estre – I would say Porsche 997 Cup (2012-2013). I felt really confident with this car and had a lot of victories racing in Carrera Cup in France, Germany and Super Cup. If the question is about my own driving skills I think it’s my ability on full wet, changing weather conditions, areas where I am really strong from the beginning of my career.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Definitely the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in 2018. Winning the GT Pro category has been a personal goal for a long time. Especially driving the famous ”pink pig” Porsche among other 17 cars fighting really hard with each other
What is it like to be on the Nordschleife? What is different here than on the “normal” racetracks?
You definitely feel more adrenaline. It involves more risk than other tracks, it is old-school, with high speeds and really limited run-off areas, so you know that if you make a mistake and get off the track, you will have a collision. This creates tension. Also, you can’t make a perfect round. Every time you want to do another round, just to improve something different every time.
There are so many changing conditions that make Nordschleife difficult. On the other tracks, you pass the same turn every two minutes or so. In contrast, in Nordschleife you spend about eight minutes on every lap. A lot can happen in these eight minutes. Especially in VLN races and 24 Hours, where you have 150 to 200 cars in each lap.
Skills amid Covid-19
Which specific driving skills are a must for a successful racing driver?
You need to have good car control and be a hard worker. It was always the case, but even more so now, with the elements of telemetry and videos. Having also a good relationship with the team and the media – it’s part of the job. And of course, it’s important to know when it’s time to take a risk. Instinct remains a very important element – If it’s the right time, the right lap.
Do you have a specific routine before a race?
I don’t have any specific routine, I’m not superstitious. But I have to drink enough fluids before I get in the car as I get cramped quite easily. In general, my routine is to go two or three times for peeing before the race.
Porsche is involved in a lot of different racing series. Is the future of racing electric?
I’m not sure if the long-term future of racing is electric. However, Porsche, like other manufacturers, definitely needed to be there. Surely Porsche will continue to research on greener solutions. But I’m not sure if electricity is a long term, especially on endurance racing with frequent refuelling
What is your goal in racing?
First of all, keep racing as long as possible. Hopefully for the next ten years, when I will be about 40 years old. It is a long-term goal. In a shorter time frame, my goal is 1st overall at Le Mans and on the 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
Driving on a new era
What is your opinion regarding the new era of virtual games among Covid-19?
I think it’s useful keeping drivers busy while living with the Covid-19. It’s good to keep fighting. Of course it’s something completely different from the real races.
How does the feeling of taking a podium compare to winning in a game?
It’s completely different. For me, racing is not a game. It’s my job, my passion. But definitely it’s not a game. Being on podium requires really hard work, a lot of money and time investment. You need the whole team doing a perfect job, about 15 to 20 people behind you. In virtual racing most of the time you are alone. It’s quite a difference.
What do you think of the racing simulators the teams have versus games like F1 2019 or Project CARS? How does it compare with what the team has?
The above games are very worthwhile and very similar to reality. However, they remain far away in terms of the details that we have with racing simulators. If I look at it in relation to the equipment we have in Porsche or Formula 1, the team has exactly the same car we drive in reality. With the same aero, the same weight distribution, the same stiffness, the same ride height.
Obviously you can’t have these on the console games. These are informations that are kept secret by the teams. So in the end, a game will never be as accurate or professional as the racing simulator. However, the gap is getting closer and closer year by year.
What do you find toughest about virtual racing?
I find it difficult to take virtual racing seriously, as I do in real racing. Although I want to win, it is not the same commitment. And there are no risks, too. Let’s say if you drive through Eau Rouge, in Spa-Francorchamps, and a friend of yours tells you to go flat-out from the 1st lap, you will do it in the digital race. But, of course, you can’t go through Eau Rouge flat-out on your 1st lap during a real race.
Out of the track
What are your hobbies?
I really enjoy playing golf, tennis. But also hiking and skiing during the winter.
Imagine the hypothetical scenario where you are running out of fuel and you have a range of just 100 km, with one car to one and only destination. What would you choose?
I think I would take a Porsche Carrera GT (type 980) on winding roads in France. It would be a joy to hear the great engine sound while pushing a little more on the hairpins
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
That’s a tough question. Personally, having a healthy family life and being successful in racing
What is your greatest fear?
I would say I’m afraid of becoming a slower driver as time goes by. I don’t know when that will come but it will definitely come at some point. And hopefully the later the better.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Respect and trust.
What is your greatest extravagance?
If I put it financially, we are currently trying to build our dream house in Austria. It’s probably the biggest project for my wife and myself for the next ten years.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could have the talent of a professional skier and being able to take a corner on a slope with 100 km/h. I’ve tried it but I’m not good enough, so I slowed down a little bit.
What is your greatest regret?
Also a difficult question because I have a good life and I am happy. But if I had to find something to regret, I would say it was when I was missing those three points, in 2012, that would give me the Championship on Mobil 1 Porsche Super Cup.
What is your motto?
It’s nice that you’re asking me because I didn’t have any so far. But since the question was asked, I thought about it and I would say that it is “if you don’t have enough room to pass, put your two wheels on the grass”.
Finally, it is worth watching the in-car video from the record for the fastest lap with a production car, at Nordschleife, with the Porsche 911 GT3 RS (2018). Kévin Estre was in the driver’s seat. Stunning lap
Date of Birth: 28th October 1988
Place of Birth: Lyon (F)
Residence: Höchst (A)
Marital Status: Married
Height/Weight: 1.84 m/72 kg
Hobbies: Badminton, skiing, all types of sport
PS Acknowledgements to Grigoris Grigoriadis for his contribution into conducting this interview
Photo: Kévin Estre archive
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