Home Featured Why a French racing empire is joining single-seaters with big ambitions

Why a French racing empire is joining single-seaters with big ambitions

by Ida Wood

Photos: Sainteloc Racing

French sportscar and rally team Sainteloc Racing will move into single-seater racing this year, starting with the Spanish F4 series. Ida Wood was the first to speak to team manager Morgan Caron about its plans

If you’ve seen the name ‘Sainteloc’ in motorsport, it’s most likely been adorning an Audi GT3 car or in the service park of a World Rally Championship event. But last month it appeared in a single-seater paddock for the first time in a pre-season Formula 4 test at Spa-Francorchamps. Curious to find out why, Formula Scout quickly got on the phone to the French team.

Morgan Caron was the man who picked up. He will be the team manager for Sainteloc Racing’s entry this year into Spanish F4, having come to join the team after a career that began as a kart driver (racing against Sainteloc’s founder and chief executive Sebastien Chetail), then included 15 years working for the French motorsport federation directing its national teams in karting, rallying and single-seaters. During that time he worked closely with the nation’s WRC legends, helped Pierre Gasly’s path to Red Bull backing and worked closely with future Formula E and IndyCar champions.

After that he moved to the FIA, then spent six years with Nicolas Todt at his All Road Management company where he was responsible for Charles Leclerc as he raced in Formula 2 with Prema and in Formula 1 with Sauber and then Ferrari.

Following his decision to leave All Road, Chetail contacted Caron. What followed led eventually to today’s F4 announcement.

“He was talking to me ‘I would like to move to single-seaters because I would like to expand my business’, so we have discussed together, and then step-by-step we set up the project,” revealed Caron. “And now we are here.”

The here in question is a cold Spa, where Sainteloc is running one of the new Tatuus T-421 cars for French junior karter Theophile Nael. It’s the first outing for the car, with the team having been able to secure an order of one of the chassis but awaiting the arrival of two more because “as you know it’s quite difficult to get Tatuus Gen2 cars”.

Sainteloc will start its Spanish F4 campaign mid-season with one car, once Nael reaches the minimum age of 15 years old, then plans to add its other two before the end of the year. For 2023 it will contest the F4 United Arab Emirates championship and Spanish F4 in full, then “maybe some one-shots in the ADAC and Italian series”.

“In parallel this year we will have a small karting team,” Caron adds.

The single-seater and karting programmes add to a packed schedule for Sainteloc, which is an official Audi customer team in GT World Challenge Europe and the French and European GT4 series, as well as being a busy car preparation firm (and entrant in its own right) on the European rallying scene and in winter competes in France’s Andros Trophy ice racing series.

What’s more, Caron reveals that for 2023 the single-seater efforts will go further.

“The plan is to also enter Formula Regional European Championship for 2023. This is for the short-term and mid-term, and long-term, and I mean in the next two to three years, is to enter Formula 3 and F2.

“We have expanded a lot [our racing]. We need to build the team, to have the staff, the technical team and so on. But we have already signed an interesting name on the technical side, and I think it will be surprising for many people in this business.”

That name is Julien Simon-Chautemps, who will be technical director for Sainteloc’s single-seater efforts. In F1 he was Kimi Raikkonen’s performance engineer at Lotus, and his race engineer at Alfa Romeo Racing until both left at the end of 2021.

The hiring process is underway for Sainteloc in Spanish F4, and with an eye on its planned FRegional expansion too.

“Today this is the biggest topic on our side, to find new engineers and new mechanics, because our current rally and GT programmes are already fixed with all the mechanics and engineers and we need to hire new ones,” Caron explains.

Photo: SRO/Patrick Hecq Photography

“And for sure we are discussing because it’s not easy [to fill a team]. We’re discussing with engineers in general, already engaged with some teams in single-seater championships. This is the point we have to sort [right now], because it’s not an easy task.”

Then it comes to the topic of filling the cars once Sainteloc’s garage is fully populated with people to run them.

“One car will be driven by Theophile Nael. A young French driver who was very talented in karts.

“And we are now discussing also with some drivers, but as we are starting, we don’t want to sell dreams, you know. We want to be well organised, and that’s why once the announcement will be done and so on [then we talk to them more extensively]. For sure in Spa I have already discussed with many parents and drivers, and they look interested about us. I will think we will announce which drivers will join the team before the end of the year.”

Sainteloc will be the first ever French team to race in Spanish F4, while its contemporary R-ace GP has focused on Germany’s ADAC championship and the Italian series as they use identical cars while Spanish F4 has different tyres.

“Why Spanish F4? Because since two years this championship is growing quite well,” says Caron. “I think it’s well organised, the tracks used are nice, and we don’t close the door to Italian or German, but we find more interest to go to Spain. Nothing against the others, but considering how this championship is growing, we feel more comfortable to go there. But also because in terms of testing and so on, at the end we are able to deliver at a reasonable price a full season, compared to a top team of Italian F4. Because this is something we have to be really careful to keep as low as possible the price of the season.”

Between its first test at Spa and its second at Barcelona last week, Sainteloc met with Alpine to discuss its desire to enter FREC in 2023. In a month’s time it plans to meet F2 and F3’s promoter Bruno Michel to talk about putting its name forward to be one of the teams competing in the two F1 support series when the next three-season cycle for both begins. If Audi’s rumoured future F1 entry comes to be, then Sainteloc’s partnership with it in sportscars and ice racing may prove useful.

Photo: Trophee Andros

“We will have different rungs in our company, and I mean also having the possibility for a driver who doesn’t have the budget after F4 or FREC to move to F3 or F2, to propose to them a good pathway and a good move to become a professional driver and to race in GT. And that’s why he could stay with us through our GT programme.”

The same applies for its off-road activities, which frequently attract circuit racing stars. Sainteloc has even used the Andros Trophy paddock as a recruitment tool for its lead car in GTWCE.

“For sure we will have many opportunities to propose to the drivers if it could be interesting to make a move [off-road],” adds Caron.

But also for our rally drivers, it’s interesting having the single-seater programme in place because, for example, when I was at FFSA and Sebastien Ogier made the move from his first years of rallying to the WRC, in order to prepare the asphalt rallies he was coming to Le Mans to make some test days in F4 at the Bugatti track to make himself more comfortable with asphalt. So also it’s going to be that the single-seater programme has a good added value for our WRC drivers.”