Ferrari Challenge 2021, interview with Fons Scheltema

Fons Scheltema: the Dutchman with the heart of an Italian 01

Fons Scheltema is a charismatic entrepreneur who sees the positive and an opportunity in everything. Exactly the same philosophy applies to his racing.

What do you do in life and how does that match up to your passion for racing?

“I’m an entrepreneur – I’ve had a lot of different companies in different industries, from shipping to office contracting – and actually it’s a bit similar to racing: you’ve got to compete and push to the limit to try and win! But in the end, whatever I do – whether it’s racing or business – I do it with passion. It’s not always easy, especially now in these Covid times, but I love to try and create something out of nothing. In the end I’m just a happy person and I like to do everything to the full!”

You’ve got 232 races behind you: how important is that experience?

“It’s a lot of experience – or it sounds like a lot – but the truth is that it’s never enough. You never really get used to the speed and the performance so there’s always more to learn. Experience carries with it a bit of seniority and of course a lot of extra knowledge: unlike the rookies you know a bit more about the tracks and the car, which often helps.”

What’s the race you remember with most emotion and why?

“It was Monza many years ago; my first podium. I remember it because I was with Kessel Racing, and Loris Kessel – who taught me everything I know – was seriously ill. I said to Loris that whenever I got a podium, it would be for him. And in Monza I got it, so I was able to dedicate that to him. He died not long afterwards so it meant even more to me because of that; especially as I wasn’t even able to go to his funeral, because of the volcanic ash cloud that grounded all the flights.”

Fons Scheltema: the Dutchman with the heart of an Italian 02

When did you decide to go racing and what was your first race?

“It actually happened more or less by accident, because it was a while ago now. I sold one of my companies, and that meant that I could follow what had been my childhood dream: to become a racing driver. My first race was Hockenheim in a Ferrari 360 and it wasn’t easy. I’d qualified somewhere in the middle of the pack but then when the lights went to green, everyone was suddenly gone! I was five seconds or so down the road and I thought it wouldn’t be too much of a problem to catch up. But then I learned that five seconds is a lot in racing…”

How would you describe the atmosphere that surrounds motorsport?

“It’s really like a family of people with a shared passion. I love it, there’s nothing else like it in the world. And as well as being a fascinating place socially, it’s also a great place to work. Motorsport gives you all sorts of great connections: I’ve met people from all over the world.”

What’s the hardest thing about racing?

“Letting go. Sometimes you have a bad race, or you’re not in the right frame of mind, or luck’s not with you, or it just doesn’t work out for whatever reason. You’ve just got to learn to let that go, get over the disappointment, move on quickly. That’s probably the hardest part of the whole thing. Especially for me, as I’m an emotional guy: quite Italian in spirit!”

What would you like to do that you haven't done yet?

“Race in a 24-hour race, specifically Le Mans. I did the Abu Dhabi 12 Hours and I loved it, but I would love to do some other races.”

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