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Local Race Car Driver Wins Big in France

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Richert Crop 1
Richert had to navigate some difficult weather conditions on race day. Richert Racing

Former Niverville resident and race car driver David Richert recently achieved a major career highlight by placing second at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in France. The achievement comes after Richert signed a contract earlier this year with Inter Europol Competition, a Polish-owned racing team.

And even though COVID-19 travel restrictions decreased the number of races he participated in this year, Richert’s love for high-stakes sport couldn’t be higher.

Although Richert’s racing operation has recently relocated to Poland, for now he is back in Manitoba, finishing off his 14-day isolation period after travelling from Europe. He’d anticipated completing one more race this season but now says he’ll be in the province for a while given the intense travel restrictions, perhaps even until after the threat of COVID-19 has passed.

“This year everything just got disrupted with the COVID stuff. It makes it hard to travel back and forth too much,” says Richert. “The hardest part of travel is you have to quarantine when you come home.”

According to Richert, the European COVID response has been similar to the situation faced by Canadians. Even though things have opened up somewhat, people there are still avoid flying unless absolutely necessary.

“They shut down pretty much how we did, but then the European Union (EU) opened up some travel for some countries and Canada was one of them,” he says. “We can mostly travel to Europe without quarantine, but coming back to Canada is different because it doesn’t have any regulations currently to get around quarantine. So we need to self-isolate for 14 days each time we return, which is prohibitive to racing or doing business.”

To get from Poland to the recent race in France, Richert says his team chose to drive, to avoid unnecessary delays—and also to avoid high-risk areas.

The race in Magny-Cours, a racetrack that previously hosted Formula 1’s French Grand Prix, was the first time Richert drove a Formula Renault 2.0 after having taken a career hiatus. He was very familiar with the car from driving it a few years ago, though, and he’d been training with it again.

Still, he says it was a challenge to navigate the powerful vehicle.

“It was a difficult weekend because the weather conditions were not great,” Richert explains. “It was raining sometimes. Then it was sunny part of the time, but the track was still wet. It was hailing even part of the time, and bits of ice were pounding off my windshield… it’s such a fast car that if you haven’t been used to it in race conditions for two or three years, it takes a bit to get used to the speed and have your body process the information while driving. The visuals come at you so quickly; it’s a lot for your eyes to just process. So it’s about building up your speed and getting confident in how the car will react while you’re driving it. Every time you do a lap on the racetrack, you are learning your feel for the car in those particular conditions. But every lap, the conditions were different and developing, so it was very challenging.”

Richert has a keen, analytical mind for racing and really enjoys connecting with how the mechanics of a car respond to the actions of the driver.

Despite his appreciation for driving technique, he says racing is not an exact science and there is no secret to explain how he placed so well in the challenging race.

“Simply put, I didn’t crash,” says Richert. “And I think I had a bit more experience than some of the other drivers there. I didn’t take many risks on the track, but some of the other guys were really aggressive. They ended up spinning and sliding off the racetrack. I managed to make some passes because of that. I tend toward driving more with my head than my butt, which is the saying.”

Inter Europol Competition also made a last-minute decision to switch Richert’s car tires from dry to rain tires, which may have helped him finish races two and three in sixth and seventh positions, respectively.

Put together, the results were enough to secure him a second place finish overall and the Auto Hebdo trophy, an award presented by a French newspaper to a driver whose performance on and off the track has been judged remarkable.

Even though Richert wouldn’t describe the European racing circuit as overly lucrative, he says the finish will definitely help secure sponsorships and increase his team’s profile.

“In Europe, there are rarely any cash prizes, and if there are they are really small,” he says. “I got a bottle of champagne, which didn’t taste very good, but I drank it because I earned it. And I got a hat. It’s more the marketing side that is rewarding. I’ll be able to get some good deals with that win because it gets people excited. I need people to know about what I’m doing so I can raise support to fund what I’m doing. In auto racing, you could literally be the fastest driver in the world, but if you don’t have the backing to finance your entry to the highest levels of racing, you won’t even have a chance to participate… When you attract sponsors, you can simply do more.”

Richert’s continued success means he’s looking forward to entering one of the biggest races in the world, called the 24 Hours Le Mans. It can be compared to the Indy 500, which most people have heard about, but the 24 Hours Le Mans is one of the world’s oldest active sports car races.

Held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France, it is considered one of the most prestigious races in the world. One of the reasons Richert signed on with Inter Europol Competition is that the racing team has an entry into that championship.

It’s safe to say Richert has come a long way from the day he first remembers seeing car racing on TV as a child.

“I grew up thinking hockey was the greatest thing in the world, like most kids in our area, I guess,” says Richert. “Then I literally one day turned on the TV, saw a car race, and thought, ‘That’s so cool.’ Eventually, I got the opportunity to see Formula 1 racing live and I just fell in love with it.”

While his jet-setting lifestyle may seem exotic, Richert says following the opportunities presented to him in the racing industry has never been a career choice driven by the love of money.

“It has nothing to do with money. Truly, there are much better ways, safer and faster, to increase money and wealth if that’s what you’re interested in,” he says. “The fact that a human being has to control a machine at such a high speed intrigues me. I’m a competitive individual, so I enjoy a certain level of competition. I was always a shy and quiet guy, though, and I didn’t even promote that I got into racing when I started. I realized very quickly that if I didn’t learn to put myself out there, I wouldn’t earn the sponsorships that can help me progress. Day in, day out, putting yourself in slightly uncomfortable situations was something I learned to do. Everything was a bit of a stretch to achieve this career, but I’ve enjoyed it.”

Confidently negotiating sponsorships is a learned skill, as is speaking to the media. Public speaking induces fear in many people at the comparatively simple risk of saying or doing something embarrassing.

So how does someone who races at deadly speeds for a living control fear in the face of much higher risk?

“I think on the racetrack, I actually have very little fear. And it’s not because I’m crazy,” says Richert. “It’s because everything I do is a calculated risk. I trust the car, I trust myself, and I trust the other drivers. Accidents do happen, but the risk level isn’t what it used to be in racing. I get more nervous driving down the 59 Highway. In other areas of life, you start to get comfortable taking risks in life. You get comfortable speaking to the media, or speaking to a wealthy sponsor or business team, and eventually you start to get comfortable with that uncomfortableness. When your passion is so big for racing and pursuing success, it is motivating enough for me to push through my fear. And thankfully it’s paying off for me to take those risks.”

Richert may live abroad much of the time, but he’s never forgotten his roots. He loves coming home to Manitoba and is happy to stay put for the time being. He also is conscientious to send a message of thanks to his home community and supporters.

“I receive a huge amount of support from people in the Niverville area and in Manitoba,” says Richert. “Some people never forget you, and some people you never forget. It’s nice to be able to reach those people who have supported me as my career has grown and changed. I’m very thankful.”

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