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The world of GT3 racing is, at its heart, built around amateur drivers. They are the very reason organisations such as Lamborghini Squadra Corse are able to compete each year. It’s often said that, without amateurs, the very basis on which motorsport is built, would simply crumble.
There’s a degree of truth to that statement, and Swiss driver Rolf Ineichen is proof enough. He’s an amateur through-and-through, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t serious about his racing. The 44-year-old is not only one of the fastest on the grid in his class, but he is also more than a match for some of the more established professionals.
A double winner of the Daytona 24 Hours, Ineichen has also forged a hugely successful partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse over the years. And what is it they say? Don’t change a winning formula.
So, what makes Rolf Ineichen tick? In the first of our Getting to Know features, we find out for ourselves…
Perhaps the most interesting thing about amateur drivers is that there is invariably a story to tell. After all, racing is their hobby not their job. Ineichen is no different.
Growing up in the small municipality of Sursee, on the banks of Lake Sempachersee just north of the picturesque city of Lucerne, a young Ineichen first discovered motorsport in his youth.
After admiring the sport from afar as a fan in his youth, Ineichen eventually took the plunge and entered his first race, initially a one-off appearance in the one-make Porsche Carrera Cup Germany in 2009.
By all accounts, that first weekend went well, but it was a three-year wait until he returned to racing. This time, though, was the start of a more permanent plan.
“I went to a kart track with my father, just renting a car there and having the first experience in driving I realised that I really wanted to do this,” describes Ineichen. “My father then said at that time that I could not do it, I had to focus on school. Until I was 18, I was not going to be racing. This was maybe my first contact with four wheels, and when I was 18, I got a car and a race license, and I slowly started racing.
“My first race was in a Lotus, and then I did some Porsche championships, racing in the gentleman class but after some years it became a bit boring to race that because I won a lot of times.
“So, I decided to move towards GT3 and quite early on, I got involved with Lamborghini and from there, I did most of my races in a Lamborghini.”
Getting the job done on and off the track
Like most amateur drivers, racing is Ineichen’s recreation, his hobby. It’s what he derives the most fun out of when he’s not a successful businessman away from the track.
It’s easy to understand how driving at some of the world’s most iconic tracks in the best machinery can be a relief from the arduous hustle and bustle of the business world.
For Ineichen, he races ostensibly for fun, but there is a serious element to his passion.
“I try to set goals that are reachable, I don’t want to dream that I would be somewhere and not be able to reach that dream somehow,” explains Rolf.
“In all these years of motorsport, it’s a very good experience for life. Because the moments where you win are really, really few, and the moments where you lose – whatever you mean by losing, it could be that you were not able to get the maximum you wanted – [make up] the most.
“But for the me, the point of racing is that you get stronger out of these moments where you lose, and I prefer losing from winning.
“Because from losing moments, I learned much more for my life than the winning moments. Even when we won the big races, we did not understand why we won. Sometimes it was luck, you were in the right place at the right time.
“I never celebrate victories, honestly. Even after some big wins, I just leave the circuit and go back to my normal work because racing is just a break and recreation. Whatever happens, I just do it and go back to work. Most of the time when you win, it’s done but when you lose, you think about why and this is what makes you better.”
Racing is, therefore, something of a release, an escape from the daily routine. As far as hobbies go, piloting a Lamborghini Huracán at break-neck speed alongside some of the fastest drivers in the world, takes some beating.
Ineichen is neither young, nor old in the world of GT3 racing, and that is the beauty of the discipline. And having won the GT World Challenge Europe Silver Cup title clean sweep in 2021, Ineichen lived out a childhood dream last season by competing in the DTM.
“Fortunately, in racing I have been able to develop some good friendships, like with Mirko [Bortolotti] and he convinced me to do DTM,” he explains.
“When I was younger, it was also my dream to one day drive in the DTM, but I never thought that I would have been able to fulfil this.
“I thought about it, and I didn’t really want to do because the competition is so high. But he told me: ‘just do it’, and I really respect his opinion and so I did it.
“It was hard, really hard. The level was high but there were also a lot of crashes; for sure the driving standards were not good last year.
“But the good thing was that, for the first time, I was driving solo, and I was able to develop the car around my driving style. Normally when you share a car, you find a compromise between all three drivers, but here the car was suited just for me.”
Ineichen is certainly one of the most experience amateur drivers within the Lamborghini ranks and the amiable Swiss driver will hope to use this experience in what will be a busy 2023 season.
Alongside a full GT World Challenge Europe Endurance campaign with Iron Lynx, he will also contest the Sprint Cup season for VS Racing as team-mate to Yuki Nemoto.