Ask Martin Berry what sparked his passion for cars and his answer is a simple “it’s just something I was born to love”. But unlike other motoring enthusiasts, the Singapore-based entrepreneur fans this fervour by taking on the 2017 Ferrari Challenge Asia-Pacific race series.
“I’ve always wanted to race GT cars, and when I was evaluating the various race series around Asia, the Ferrari Challenge stood out for me. The series is run by Ferrari, and drivers get access to ex-F1 engineers and mechanics who support us in between supporting iconic races such as Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championships. Having access to this knowledge and experience is invaluable,” enthuses Berry.
The Ferrari Challenge is a single-marque championship created in 1992 for Ferrari owners to race each other on some of the world’s greatest racetracks. There are three official championships in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific. Berry first raced in Abu Dhabi, UAE in April, before competing on the racetracks of Shanghai and Zhejiang in China, Fuji in Japan, and Sepang in Malaysia. He has won five out of eight races so far in the seven‑round series. From September 15 to 17, the Australian will be navigating the Marina Bay Street Circuit in his 458 Challenge Evoluzione, before heading to Mugello in Italy next month for Ferrari’s 70th anniversary.
On how he hopes to finish the race series this year: “I’m out to win the Singapore race as well as the overall Trofeo Pirelli 458 championship this season.” Berry’s passion for cars is matched only by his enthusiasm to give back to the community as an ambassador of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore. He tells us more.
What was your debut race like?
Martin Berry (MB) I trained hard for the start of the season, and to qualify P1 [the leader on the starting grid] and win my very first race was such a fulfilling experience, made even more special by the fact that my wife and eight-year-old son Josh were there to support me. Josh attends most of my races. He helps me get ready, kisses my helmet, and tells me on the radio how I’m doing and my current position—it’s such a special experience.
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Tell us about the 458 Challenge Evoluzione.
MB The car is amazing and a great way to understand the link between Ferrari’s road and racing cars. Stiffer suspension, slick tyres and racetrack aerodynamics are matted to the sensational gearbox and engine used in its standard cars, resulting in a car that’s familiar but with a whole new level of performance. It makes for a less scary learning curve. Call me crazy, but every time I see it for the first time in a while over the race weekend, I touch and talk to it as if it were a person. If I’d to single out one aspect that I love about the car, it would have to be the sound. That multi‑award winning naturally aspirated V8 engine is a thing of beauty in an era that’s moving towards turbocharged engines. Even after 14 laps, I never tire of the screaming in my ears.
How do you prepare yourself for race day?
MB I have a personal trainer who works me really hard on a race-specific programme. Given that it’s my first time racing on a majority of the racetracks in the series, putting in time on the simulator really pays off. On race day, I try to get myself into a relaxed state, just visually running through the circuit, brake and turn-in points so that when it’s time to get out on the track, it’s largely about execution.
How do you share your passion with the children of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore?
MB Make-A-Wish is very dear to me, as I’ve personally seen the benefits of granting wishes to terminally ill children. With the support of Ital Auto [the official Ferrari dealer in Singapore], we have granted wishes that include a Ferrari Day Out. We’ve also worked with a five‑year-old boy, Primus, who helped design my helmet and car livery this season. It serves as a strong motivation for me every time I race.
What is next for you?
MB This year, there are 14 races across seven rounds in six different countries. I hope to do more next year and I’m looking forward to racing the turbocharged 488 Challenge. I would also like to participate in some endurance races in Asia.