A four-time winner in the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup, 32-year-old Frenchman Jean-Karl Vernay has joined Team Mulsanne to drive its Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce by Romeo Ferraris in 2020.
A new season, a new challenge. How excited are you by this opportunity?
“I’m super-happy and super-proud to stay in WTCR. That was my priority and I can’t thank enough all the people for their effort. I’m impressed with the car and I like the presentation of the team.”
Were you worried that you might not get the chance to continue your WTCR adventure?
“I wasn’t stressed but I was slightly anxious during the summer. I did my best for the last three or four years on the track to show my potential so I was trying to stay confident [that I would get a drive] but we are in a really, really difficult period. I’m just super-happy to get this opportunity. A lot of people made a lot of effort to make this programme happen.”
Last season wasn’t quite as good as your first season in WTCR. Is there a sense of unfinished business in your mind going into 2020?
“Last year we didn’t have the performance but that’s all. We always tried to do our best and we always did a good job. This year I’m not expecting to be half a second quicker than Kevin Ceccon or Ma Qinghua, because they did a really good job last year. What I’m expecting with my experience is to be a little more consistent. I will really try to work on that like I always did for the last two years. When we have the performance to make some podiums or the win then of course we’re going to try to do it.”
You won’t have a team-mate to work with in 2020. Is that a problem for you?
“I always like to have great team-mates and I always push to have the best team-mates, to have somebody quicker. For sure it’s a dangerous strategy but it always pushed me further but I’m always better with somebody great around me. It’s a one-car programme but I’m super-happy that it’s me in the car.”
What convinced you that driving for Team Mulsanne would be a good move for you?
“It was always difficult to know exactly about the car but I’ve been testing it and I’ve been impressed and I just like the presentation of the team. I like the engineer, my relationship with Michela [Cerruti] and with Mario [Ferraris] and the fact they are confident in me. To be able to make this programme happen means there are a lot of people believing in me and that’s also great. Of course, I will do the best job I can to thank them.”
Michela Cerruti actually said she would not give the car to any driver, it had to be the right driver. That must be good to hear?
“When you are always working for a factory team and having good results, always the best of your brand and suddenly nobody rings you and all the doors are getting closed, at some point you are asking yourself some questions. But this confidence they are putting in me and the team makes me more confident. I am sure we are going to do a great job. I have been to class for 60 hours to speak perfect Italian. I will do again more classes to be really at the top with great Italian, which is not easy with the grammar and the verbs and everything.”
Do you plan to communicate with the team in Italian?
“All the engineers are Italian, also for the communication with the mechanics. I always try to put all the people around me at 100 per cent so you need to have a great relationship with your tyre man, your mechanics, everybody has to cheer for you if you want 100 per cent of everyone. If I want to do that with Team Mulsanne then of course I need to speak Italian. I will try to recreate what I had in the last years with WRT, having all the people around me working 100 per cent, 150 per cent sometimes. You need to give everything to the team and they are going to pay you back.”
What do you think of the car following your initial test?
“I did one day and I’m going to do another day with the Goodyear tyres. Obviously, we are super-late compared to the others, especially when I look at Honda and Lynk & Co, they have been testing like hell. But it is what it is. We just need to be super-productive in the test days that we will have. I need to learn the car and also make some changes to understand how the car reacts to different set-ups. The Alfa is different to the Audi and I have to understand that to be sure I will be ready for the first qualifying. The car has great potential, I checked everything since I knew I would be racing with the Alfa, I checked all the qualifying and race results for the last two years to understand why sometimes it’s working and sometimes it’s working a little bit more. I’ve been analysing everything, but I’m confident. If we have some luck, if I do my job and bring all the experience that I have for 15 years now I think we can do a good job.”
You get a ‘home’ race to look forward to. What do you think of that prospect?
“My fiancé is from Treviso and Treviso is only one hour from Adria. I wish for it will be open to the people because I will have many friends coming and supporters, depending on the situation of course. Before that we have MotorLand. I was testing a lot when I was in LMP1 with Peugeot. I did a lot of 36-hour simulations there.”
What can you achieve this year?
“I don’t know the car enough and it’s difficult to have targets now. I need to do FP1, FP2 to have a better idea. For sure being in the top 10, a result that Team Mulsanne never did, would be an achievement. I’m quite confident that we will be able to score a few podiums then I need to be super-consistent like I’ve always been. The top five would be fantastic, that’s the target I have in my mind. A lot of brands are putting in big efforts, it won’t be easy, there are great drivers in the championship again so we will just do the best we can and we will not be far from something good I think.”