“I’ve been working on this project relentlessly since April last year,” Sausset told DSC’s Mat Fernandez. “I really needed to undertake another significant challenge after racing in La Sarthe in 2016. I also wanted to change the general perception of disabled people. I believe that taking the checkered flag at Le Mans has given me the legitimacy to do so.”
Every year the academy will choose 15 candidates from all over the world, test them, and select two to three laureates. Winners will then follow a three-year training programme and race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the final year.
Swiss watch-maker Richard Mille is one of Sausset’s main sponsors for this program, which is said to require 3 million euros per year from 2020 onwards. “We still need to secure more sponsors. I am confident that presenting our project at Le Mans will give it more exposure” says Sausset.
The Frenchman will put together a team of 20-25 members that will be based in Blois (in the Loire Valley). The academy will also have offices at the Bugatti track (Le Mans). Sausset will not be racing in Le Mans again anytime soon. “My priority is to make sure that a first driver line-up reaches Le Mans in 2020. Once this is done, I will consider returning to Le Mans as a driver in 2021 or 2022.”
Recruitment has started. Billy Monger was at Le Mans alongside Frédéric Sausset for the launch of the academy. The F4 driver had both of his lower legs amputated after an horrific accident at Donington Park. “I am recovering well from my injuries and I am looking forward to joining Frédéric in this academy” said the Brit.
15 candidates will be tested in November during two three-day test sessions at the Bugatti track. At the end of this series, the jury will announce a winning driver line-up. “Of course, we need to make sure that all these candidates are individually qualified to undertake such a program. We also need to make sure that their disabilities are complementary and compatible with our cars,” says Sausset. A car will be adapted in December and January.
The first round of tests are expected to be held at the end of January 2018.
Before that though Billy and Frédéric will share a drive in Sausset’s Ligier JS 53 CN car in the VdeV round at Estoril.