Home Formula RegionalEurocup-3 Sainteloc planning expansion up single-seater ladder to F2 after first title

Sainteloc planning expansion up single-seater ladder to F2 after first title

by Roger Gascoigne

Photos: F4 Spain

A hectic first full year in single-seaters for Sainteloc Racing resulted in a Spanish F4 title and solid progress in FRegional. But the team’s planned expansion is only just beginning says managing director Morgan Caron

“Our global strategy is to have the full pyramid,” Morgan Caron, the managing director of Sainteloc Racing, tells Formula Scout over a coffee in his team’s transporter.

“The goal is to find the best drivers in karting, to try to keep them and then to make the move with them to Formula 4. Then the last two steps in this pyramid are for sure Formula 3 and Formula 2 and this is something we would like to jump to, so we are working on it.”

In October 2023, Sainteloc announced a partnership with karting team Jana Racing to put in place the entry level of its junior racing pyramid. While Sainteloc makes no secret of its plans to expand at the upper end of the pyramid as well, Caron acknowledges that there is no easy doorway to the F2 and F3 paddocks.

“What is clear that no new team will be added in the current field. So, the only possibility for us for sure is to take over an existing team. So, this is something we are working on but it’s a long process and we need to get green lights from all people and organiser involved in this championship,” he says.

“I’ve already had some meetings with [F2 and F3 promoter] Bruno Michel to explain him our strategy and also to understand what it could be for [making it] possible.”

The team is naturally keen to get everything in place at the earliest opportunity and is “actively working on it”, but Caron recognises that “it’s not only related to us, we have also to be a bit patient maybe”.

While working on its grand scheme, Sainteloc is looking to expand rapidly in multiple series between karting and F3.

Photo: Trophee Andros

The French outfit – best known for its exploits in GT racing, rallying and the Andros Trophy – joined Spanish F4 halfway through the 2022 season for its first venture into single-seaters. By the end of the 2023 season it already had a title to its name, as its driver Theophile Nael became champion in the final round in Barcelona.

“Theophile has learned a lot last year and [the 2022/23] winter in the UAE. He was already fast, but sometimes he was making small mistakes or being a bit impatient. He has learned from this and now he’s becoming a proper racing driver and what he has shown since the beginning of the season he deserves the title,” was Caron’s assessment of Nael’s achievements.

“Being able to fight for the championship against Campos Racing or MP Motorsport is also good for the championship overall because a few years ago, everybody said ‘okay, if you’re not part of Campos or MP, you cannot win’. Now we have the best example that if you do the job well and you are fully dedicated to the F4 programme it can happen.”

Further expansion in Spanish F4 is out of the question because “unfortunately, we cannot run more than three cars” there, but this winter the team is busy with a bigger line-up as its ran four cars in the F4 United Arab Emirates season opener last weekend and three in Formula Regional Middle East. It has already announced its three FRegional European Championship drivers and another trio for Eurocup-3.

Sainteloc joined Eurocup-3 for the second half of last season as a one-car operation, while in FREC had two full-time cars and a third car that did four rounds. Its reduced programme in Eurocup-3 with Dario Cabanelas at the wheel was due to “facing difficulties to get the material” to compete in the new series, while its move into FREC was brought about by purchasing the entry “and some materials” from FA Racing. In effect though, Caron says “we had to start from scratch”.

With two rookies and the third car not being used until round six of 10 and only being entered once more after that, the FREC season got off to a slow start with the team failing to score in the first seven races.

“It’s not always easy to start in such a competitive championship. So, as a new team, it was quite challenging, considering we were also starting with two rookies.”

Under the leadership of technical director Julien Simon-Chautemps, who engineered Kimi Raikkonen at both Lotus and Alfa Romeo, the team worked to catch up ground, “applying the same process we have implemented into the team since we created the single-seater department at Sainteloc”.

Putting 2021 French F4 champion Esteban Masson in its third car, with his first appearance coming in round three at the Hungaroring, also led to a turnaround in the team’s fortunes.

“Once he joined the team, he was able to go straight to the top. For sure Paul Ricard was a good highlight for us, because he has done the pole position of his group and finished P2 in the race,” Caron stresses. “I wouldn’t say that was a surprise but mainly greater satisfaction for all the crew who had all been working hard since the beginning of the year. And this was a good time to share between all the team members.”

Above all, having a series sophomore driving provided the team with “some validation [of] what we have done”.

“We had implemented a lot of working processes and it was the final point to show that we were on the right path,” explained Caron. “Step by step as soon as he joined us, he helped us to improve. So now we can consider we are in the game. [He showed us] just to keep going on the various works we have in our plan to prepare as best as possible for the next year.”

Lucas Medina was set to drive the team’s second car full-time but left after round six due to “facing some financial issues”. GB3 regular Tymek Kucharczyk then drove the car at Monza. While he was dogged by bad luck, Masson and Sainteloc’s full-time driver Emmo Fittipaldi scored the team’s only double points finish of the year.

Photo: Niels Broekema / DPPA

Sainteloc’s agreement with Masson meant his title-winning Eurocup-3 campaign with Campos took priority when there were clashing events, “so [for us] to keep the same momentum it was important to have another very experienced driver”.

Cue a return to FREC for a Pierre-Louis Chovet, a race-winner back in 2020, who joined the team at Zandvoort having not raced a single-seater for five months since he was competing in International GT Open.

Sainteloc had “been in touch with Pierre-Louis since the beginning of the year” as it sought an experienced driver.

“He has done F3, FRegional Asian Championship, and some FREC races with Race Performance Motorsport [in 2022] with good results so I think it was a good profile for us. All planets were aligned so it was a good time to make it,” said Caron.

The tricky weather conditions meant Chovet struggled to adapt on his return as “it had been a while since I had driven in the rain in a single-seater”. He said over the weekend Sainteloc hadn’t “always been in the right operating window, but there is great potential in the team”.

Sainteloc’s rapid expansion plans necessitated a “huge recruitment process” for engineers and mechanics. With no personnel being transferred following the acquisition of FA Racing’s FREC entry, Sainteloc tapped other teams to bring in experienced staff on permanent contracts for its arrival into FRegional.

“As we are growing, we need more staff. It’s something very challenging but not only for us, for all teams. Today we are facing the same issues to be able to recruit good people. Finding mechanics is possible but finding good mechanics is another challenge.”

Caron is confident however that Sainteloc will be able to recruit the resources needed to compete and to continue to grow.

“People are watching what we are doing, how we are expanding, and we have good CVs coming to us. We will be ready with a strong technical team of mechanics and so on for all programmes,” he states confidently.

Nael is at the forefront of the team’s 2024 plans, racing in FRME and FREC. Spanish F4 race-winner Matteo De Palo joins him in doing both series, while French F4 runner-up Enzo Peugeot completes the team’s FREC line-up. Can Sainteloc challenge for title honours there in its second season?

“Yes, definitely, otherwise it’s better to stay in bed!” Caron laughs. “If we wake up in the morning, it’s to be a winning team.”