Three years ago, South African driver David Perel watched the 24 Hours of Spa at his home in Cape Town, and could only dream of taking part. This past weekend, his dream came true in the best possible way – with a class win!
Perel’s week at the legendary Spa Francorchamps F1 track got off to a perfect start during the event’s first practice session when he ended up topping his class in wet track conditions. Qualifying wasn’t as easy, but with a heroic effort during the night session, Perel grabbed pole position for his team – the best possible start for the race.
Says Perel: “I was a bit tense during the first phase of qualifying and made a mistake during my lap, but we decided to give it another go during the night session and it worked!”
Each team consists of four drivers who take turns at the wheel during the event. In the 888 Kessel Ferrari, David was fastest of the four and was due to do most of the work, including taking the start late on Saturday afternoon.
“Knowing that I had to do between 10 and 14 hours of the driving this year, I was well prepared physically. These cars aren’t easy to drive, especially after 2 hour stints at the wheel!”
After a solid start, David maintained the lead in class while battling up to 34th position overall. From then on it was a case of avoiding incidents and unnecessary pit stops
“My co-drivers all did an amazing job, none of them made a single mistake during their stints and stuck to the plan of maintaining a decent pace which wouldn’t result in any mistakes.”
The next morning the 888 car was still in one piece and leading its class, which meant a win was on the cards.
“The saying goes ‘Survive the night, see where you are, and then start talking about wins and podiums’. Well, we survived the night and we were leading! It was around this time that the nerves started to pick up again.”
Perel’s main competitors couldn’t keep up though, suffering from mistakes and unreliability while trying to keep pace with the Ferrari. At the fall of the chequered flag, the Kessel team crossed the line with a massive 4 lap lead and just missed out on a top 20 finish overall – a dream come true for David.
“There are few words to describe how incredible it is to win a race you’ve been dreaming about most of your life. To not only take part, but actually win it, is a fairy tale for me. Despite daydreaming about it everyday, you never know if it could ever really happen, but it did and I’m hugely proud.
“I need to say a massive thank you to my team, Kessel Ferrari, and my co-drivers Jacques Duyver, Marco Zanuttini and Nicki Cadei. Everyone did an incredible job!”