Hugo BAC: GT4 driver and student at IÉSEG

Hugo BAC is not only a 2nd year student of the Grande École program at IÉSEG on the Paris campus, but he is also passionate about motor sports since he was a child. We met him to talk about this quite uncommon sport and his life as a driver in addition to his studies.

Hugo, how did this passion for motor sports come about?

My case is a little bit special because, very often, this passion is transmitted from one generation to the other within a family. As far as I am concerned, my parents are absolutely not from this world, and that makes me a driver a bit “apart” today, in the sense that very few drivers come from parents who are unknown in the field. For example, in my category, GT4, I drive with Nicolas PROST, the son of the well known Alain PROST, as well as Anthony BELTOISE, the tester of Automoto.

When I was little, my parents took me to karting, I liked it and so they enrolled me in the driving school of Salbris. I did training courses during the vacations and at the age of 10, I started to compete. So, I did karting for 8 years. Then, I started to drive at the age of 15, which allowed me to start to get familiar with cars. For a long time, my parents didn’t want me to really get into motorsports to become a professional driver because they didn’t want me to get disappointed. Like any sport, there are very few places at the top level, it is difficult to break through, and all the parameters have to align. Moreover, in motor sports, the financial aspect has to be taken into account. They finally understood my desire and accepted that I try. I did a first year of tests with different cars, then I joined the French GT4 championship at the beginning of 2022.

How does motor sport work in concrete terms?

As it is a sport that requires a lot of financial support, we seek funding through sponsorship. What is the most difficult today is that this sport is sometimes “badly considered” in the sense that, for some people, we pollute just for pleasure, at a time when we talk a lot about energy saving and sustainability. It has therefore become almost impossible to be sponsored by large corporations because they do not wish to associate their image with this sport, which is perceived as harmful to the planet. What I try to make companies and individuals understand is that we are the laboratory of the automobile of tomorrow. Indeed, it was at the 24 heures du Mans that we were able to discover the windscreen wipers and the hybrid car. On the racetrack, manufacturers can test their latest innovations more easily before looking at how to make them accessible to the general public. In fact, Porsche is currently testing 100% synthetic fuel on race cars.

Why is this sport so expensive? You have to pay for renting the car, the tires, the brakes, the racing suit… On the other hand, you have to pay for a personal insurance for the eventual physical damage (which is very expensive), but it doesn’t cover the material part… So, if I have an accident with the Aston Martin I’m currently driving, I’ll have to pay the reparation costs which can be very high. So you have to think about all that when you start.

This year, I am supported by Aston Martin because I am part of the Aston Martin Racing Young Driver Academy, which is the Aston Martin driver training program, which helps us in terms of performance, sport and finance. In order to be selected and to join this program, you have to pass driving tests. The goal for the manufacturers is to spot their future talents, and for the drivers to be spotted by the manufacturers.

How do you prepare for the championship races?

First of all, the tracks have to be available, because there are not many in France, it requires a lot of organization. I also use a simulator to train more easily and frequently for the races. I also have a physical preparation in the mean time. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I spend 2 hours with a coach who helps me to prepare myself specifically for motor sports. Indeed, people don’t necessarily realize what motorsport implies physically, but as a driver, we absorb all the moves of the car, which weighs more than a ton, especially in the turns. So you have to find the balance between having enough muscles to resist throughout the race and not being too heavy because it requires more energy to fight against your own weight in the car. I am also followed by an osteopath and some drivers consult a nutritionist. Many drivers also get help from psychologists specialized in sports because it is an emotionally intense sport. There can be a lot of frustration, especially linked to technical problems with the car. We can take the example, in recent years, of a driver at the 24 heures du Mans who was leading throughout the race and whose engine broke after 23 hours and 52 minutes of racing. Of course, he had to give up and lost the race.

What do you like most about this sport?

My coach sometimes tells me that I am almost too passionate! I am always amazed when I arrive on a race set. Generally speaking, this sport provides very intense emotions. I think in the end, one of the things I like most is the teamwork. It may seem surprising because we often imagine a driver alone in his car, but this sport is not just about that. The sharing side with the team is very important, both in the victory and the disappointment. The work that everyone does to make sure that the race goes as well as possible is quite incredible. As a driver, we share our feelings about the car during testing, and the engineers are there to understand it and to adapt the car according to what we tell them. I also love the strategic side of preparing for a race. I think this sport brings a lot in terms of stress management as well, because sometimes you are a victim or a spectator of extreme and dangerous situations and you have to manage to keep calm. On the other hand, it is a sport that teaches us humility, because the team comes before personal victory. I also like the relational aspect: I am in contact with many different people to whom I have to adapt in terms of communication (international drivers, managers…).

Regarding your studies – does this sport help you in any way?

I think especially of the team spirit that I developed thanks to sport and which is very useful today for the numerous group works that we have at school. Team spirit also means knowing how to accept the mistakes of others without blaming them if the expected result is not achieved. The human side is very present in motorsports, and knowing how to take the lead in certain situations is important. At IÉSEG, it is the same thing.

And what do your friends and family think about your practice of this sport?

It is true that the risk factor is higher than in many other sports. So, they are quite worried in general, but they have accepted my decision and support me a lot.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m aiming for the World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24h du Mans race, and the idea is to become a constructor driver. It is a “standard” employee status within a manufacturer, just like an engineer could be, except that in this case our job is to be a driver. It’s still only a “dream” for the moment, but that’s also why I’m still studying at IÉSEG. I am realistic and I know that the chance is tiny, even if it does exist! Overall, I try to combine my studies and my passion as well as possible. It is not always easy because, as an athlete, I am a competitor and I also try to do well at school. I don’t just want to be present in class. Sometimes, I have a paper to prepare for IÉSEG and a race to come at the same time, I have to juggle both, but generally I do well. The school is also understanding and quite flexible.

IÉSEG's 60th Anniversary Badge