Jules Gounon says he feels “proud and thankful” to be able to keep up a busy and diverse schedule, amid a seven-week period of consecutive races.
The Bentley factory driver will be contesting his tenth race over the last six weeks in Sunday’s Indianapolis 8 Hour, sharing the wheel of K-PAX Racing’s Bentley Continental GT3 with fellow Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli championship leaders Maxime Soulet and Jordan Pepper.
Gounon started his busy stretch of racing in the six-hour Nürburgring Langstrecken-Serie (NLS) round on Aug. 29 in a Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, followed by the triple-header GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint round at Magny-Cours with Bentley customer team CMR the following weekend.
The 25-year-old Frenchman then took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Risi Competizione’s GTE-Pro class Ferrari 488 GTE Evo followed by being one of seven drivers to undertake both the Nürburgring 24 and GTWC Europe Sprint rounds at Zandvoort on the same weekend that required a helicopter ride to the Nordschleife.
All told, it’s added up to a total of more than 70 hours of potential racing for the second-generation driver, with a triple-header GTWC Europe Sprint round in Barcelona still to come next weekend, followed by a weekend off prior to the Total 24 Hours of Spa on Oct. 24-25.
“It’s a crazy period,” Gounon told Sportscar365. “I think with the calendar changes because of COVID it’s complicated for guys like me that are doing a lot of championships.
“I’m not complaining. It would be a lack of respect for all of the drivers that are dreaming of the life that I have.
“I’m proud to be able to live this life. I have no kids or a wife so I have no problem at the moment. I’m only enjoying my life.”
Traveling amid the pandemic has also proved to be challenging, with Gounon having had to take three COVID-19 tests over a four-day period last week alone due to local government laws in The Netherlands and Germany.
“That was crazy,” he said. “We’ll need a COVID test after this weekend in order to come back to Europe.
“It’s been pretty difficult with Jordan, Max and I. We were flying from Brussels [to the U.S.] and they didn’t want us to take the flight.
“We stayed at the airport for more than two-and-a-half hours.
“They had to call the [U.S.] CBP to make sure we were on the list. Without the help of SRO I don’t think we would have ever gotten here.”
Gounon said he’s been grateful in being able to keep up such a busy schedule at a time when a number of drivers are on the sidelines altogether.
“To be honest, people see it like a hard time but for me this is my dream. This is my passion,” he said.
“To have made my job my passion. You never feel like you’re going to work anyway.
“For me I’m just having fun every weekend. On top of that I’m paid to do that, so it’s just unbelievable.
“I’m really proud and thankful to be able to live this.”
Bentley Trio Focused on IGTC Championship
Gounon and Bentley co-drivers Soulet and Pepper head into this weekend’s second round of the IGTC season in the lead of the drivers’ championship, courtesy of their win in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
While having initially been the victim of M-Sport’s withdrawal from IGTC, Bentley has managed to keep the three drivers together for the remainder of the season, with customer squad K-PAX running them in the next two races.
Owing to the current COVID-19 challenges, they are the only points-scoring drivers from Bathurst that are on the grid this weekend in Indianapolis.
“We are really proud that Bentley and K-PAX have done the effort to bring us here,” Gounon said. “It’s a lot of money involved and really hard in these days.
“For Bentley and every manufacturer in IGTC, it’s one of the biggest championships in the world. For sure the field is a bit limited here in Indy because it was tricky with the Spa test and the travel restrictions.
“I’m really proud that K-PAX could do the effort to bring us here. We are leading the championship and the main target is to bring back the maximum points from Indy to arrive in Spa with a comfortable lead and see how it goes to Kyalami.
“I’m really proud to be back with Max and Jordan. We haven’t driven together since seven months.
“With the direction of Bentley going to customer racing we have been split between teams and with different teammates.
“We are coming from three years of a full factory program and only driving together to now driving with customer drivers next to us. It’s always a bit different.
“Now to be back in a full factory effort is really nice.”
Gounon said this weekend’s race will help put them in good position for Spa later this month, a race which the Frenchman won in 2017 in a Sainteloc Racing-run Audi.
“In Spa you have 25 cars that have good chances,” he said. “It’s good for us to do a full race with our engineer here, Sebastien Constans, to again work with Jordan, Max and I so we arrive in Spa [well prepared].
“We know each other really well. This is one of the best [driver] relationships I’ve ever had in my career between three drivers.
“Everyone has his own role in the team and we don’t have any egos.
“Jordan is always starting. Max is always in the middle and I always finish, so it’s really good because we know our role.
“K-PAX has been unbelievable since the beginning of the season. I’m super impressed with the team, with Thomas [Blam], Darren [Law], the engineers and mechanics.
“I feel really proud to be in the team.”