August is motorsport’s traditional summer break, a period of the year where drivers and teams – especially mechanics and support staff – take a well-earned rest after a gruelling time on the road around Europe.
But not everyone is taking it easy. Lamborghini GT3 Junior driver Glenn van Berlo has arguably been just as busy off-track as he has been on it over the past month.
And that’s just how he likes it.
The down period has, in fact, allowed the Dutchman – who currently leads the Silver Cup standings of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with Grasser Racing team-mates Clemens Schmid and Benja Hites – to take the next step in his university studies which he combines alongside his racing.
“From the start, I always wanted to go to school,” says van Berlo. “I know there are a lot of drivers who stop going to school when they start racing because they want to have racing as their main focus.
“But from my point of view, it keeps me really sharp, because I can build my network of contacts and I also think it helps with my racing career too. I don’t see any disadvantages of combining the two. Three months ago, I graduated in International Business Management in the Netherlands, which is quite a broad economic study, and throughout the course, I did several internships for real estate companies and then I did my minor abroad in Aberdeen in Scotland.
“So, I got interested in real estate management and project development and that’s the reason why I decided to do a master’s in real estate investment, in London. And I’m moving to London this Friday actually! I always like new environments, it really challenges me, you learn new things, meet new people. I need the flexibility to be able to combine my racing with my school and as long as I get that flexibility, it is good thing.”
The idea of racing on two continents while studying at the same time doesn’t necessarily sound like an achievable balance, but with the right approach it has proven successful among many drivers.
It’s also an area that many more high-level sportspeople are embracing due to the volatility of the professional sporting arena.
Like so many of his peers, van Berlo isn’t thinking of throwing in the towel any time soon but knows the value of his studies can have far reaching benefits further down the line.
“On one hand, it’s a plan B,” he says. “For example, if you don’t get to the point in racing where you want to be, but there’s already the positive influence it can have on racing anyway in terms of sponsorships and meeting the right people, marketing yourself correctly.
“In economics, you learn how to approach people, how to negotiate and how to think analytically, and all of these things can help in racing as well. Analysing the data, knowing what you can do to improve your driving but also to get new sponsors, they all correlate with each other.
“There are a lot of young drivers who think that sponsors will approach them, especially in the beginning of their career, but it’s actually the other way around. And I am surprised by how many current sponsors I got to know through my school studies actually. So, my studies had a positive influence on that side at least.”
With such a clear outlook on the academic and business sides of his life, it’s little surprise therefore, that van Berlo has equally bold career ambitions in the medium-long term with Lamborghini.
Having climbed the motorsport ladder through national and international go-karting from the age of seven, the Dutchman then moved into single seaters, competing in the Spanish Formula 4 championship and then Euroformula Open before jumping across to GT racing.
With manager Facu Regalia – a former racer himself – van Berlo’s decision to move into the one-make Super Trofeo Europe championship in 2021 was not a coincidence.
“We specifically chose to do Super Trofeo because I wanted to build a long-term relationship with Lamborghini, so the aim is to focus on GT3 racing and to grow within the brand, with the ultimate aim to become a Factory Driver.
“For now, it is just with GT3 racing, but longer-term I would love to move into the LMDh project, which is a long way away for the moment, but I believe it is important to set long-term goals as a racing driver.
“And then, ideally, racing both in Europe and the US as I like the markets and the tracks, which are so challenging and different.
“I’ve raced in LMP3 in IMSA this year and I really love the circuits, they are so old school, especially Sebring. You don’t have run-off, no room for error and then with a prototype, they are generally quite stiff cars, so you feel every bump in your ass.
“But I really enjoy racing there and it’s a good training ground for my long-term goals of racing top-level prototypes in the future.”
That’s the future plans, but right now van Berlo and his GRT Grasser Racing Team colleagues have a more pressing concern as the summer break comes to an end.
Currently atop the Silver Cup class standings with one more Endurance Cup round to run at Barcelona at the end of the month, the crew of the #85 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 are riding the crest of a wave.
Back-to-back wins in class – at the Spa 24 Hours and the Nürburgring 3 Hours – plus a second place at Paul Ricard have contributed to an almost perfect season so far.
And van Berlo is keen to end the year on a high.
“Joining Grasser for this season proved to be a really good choice for me, I’m really happy with how the season has been,” van Berlo says.
“I missed the first race at Monza due to a clash, and it was unfortunate that the guys retired from that one, but to get back-to-back wins at Spa and Nürburgring, and take a small lead in the points has been really good for us.
“[Team principal] Gottfried [Grasser] has built a really good car this year, everyone in the team is so determined and dedicated, my race engineer Giulio [di Lorenzo] has also done an amazing job this year too, so the ultimate aim to finish off the season with the Silver Cup title.”
But before he gets back to racing in the second half of the season, don’t let the affable Dutchman fool you into thinking this summer has been competition free. No, no, quite the opposite, in fact.
“Outside of racing, it’s obviously really important to stay fit and I always wanted to do an Ironman, so I did my first one this summer,” says van Berlo.
“As part of my training, I do a lot of running, cycling and swimming as a hobby, so the idea of doing an Ironman was always spinning around in my head. So, after graduating, I had six months to fully focus on training for the Ironman, which required a 25-hour training week, every week.
“It was quite tough, but once I achieved that, it was a big thing for me. So, I will do it again I think, as just like with my studies, it keeps me sharp and it’s good for the body and the mind to be able to stay as fit as possible.”