There are just two points separating newly-crowned Porsche Carrera Cup Germany champion Sven Müller and Matteo Cairoli heading into the final round of the Porsche Supercup championship at COTA this weekend. But that doesn’t mean that third in points Mathieu Jaminet should be overlooked – particularly after he has enjoyed the strongest campaign from a rookie since Earl Bamber won the title in 2014. James Newbold went to meet him.
Few would dispute that single-make Porsche racing is one of the best schools for any young driver to develop their skills. It’s often said that if a driver can master the car’s unique weight distribution and total absence of electrical aids then they can drive anything and a glance at the list of Supercup champions over the past decade would testify as much. Richard Westbrook, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Rene Rast, Nicki Thiim, Earl Bamber and Philipp Eng have all gone on to make successful careers for themselves at the highest level of sportscar racing, with victories at Le Mans, Spa, Daytona, Nürburgring, Sebring and Petit Le Mans among their glittering list of honours.
It has forged a reputation for being a discipline that is tough to win, let alone for newcomers to come in and make an instant impression in the way Mathieu Jaminet has managed this season. The Frenchman, who turns 22 on Monday, came within a whisker of winning the French Carrera Cup as a rookie in 2015, so impressing Porsche in the end of year shootout that he was added to the junior team programme and placed in Supercup.
Despite running with the unfancied Martinet by Almeras team, Jaminet has consistently managed to mix it with his more experienced fellow juniors, taking pole at Silverstone and a first win at Spa, with further podiums coming at Catalunya and the Red Bull Ring. Sure, there have been low points; after losing pole at the Hungaroring due to a ride-height failure, Jaminet blotted his copybook with a first-corner crash which resulted in a ten-place grid penalty for Hockenheim, but no rookie is ever going to be a polished diamond straight out of the box. More significantly, his statistics compare favourably with Müller and Cairoli’s rookie seasons, which bodes extremely well for next season.
— Porsche Motorsport (@PorscheRaces) August 28, 2016
Müller’s first Supercup campaign for Project 1 in 2014 was particularly impressive, as he came straight from Formula 3 with no prior experience of racing with a roof over his head. The German finished seventh with a single win at Monza, before establishing himself as the man to beat in the second half of last season with Lechner Racing, vaulting up to second in points with four wins from the last six races.
Jaminet can be more easily compared against Cairoli, who also came into Supercup with a season already under his belt in the Italian Carrera Cup – which he dominated. Taking Müller’s seat at Project 1, Cairoli struggled in the opening rounds and it wasn’t until the penultimate round at Monza before he really came into his stride, a pair of seconds enough to narrowly pip Come Ledogar for seventh in the standings. After joining Fach Auto Tech this season, the Italian managed to find another level, winning four times to Müller’s three.
Having crushed the opposition in the French Carrera Cup and made his Blancpain debut with IMSA Performance, can we expect a similar step-up from Jaminet next year?
“I don’t know what I will do next year, it’s Porsche’s decision,” he told Racing.GT. “I cannot say if I will be in Supercup, it will be a surprise at the end of the year, but if I am in Supercup next year for sure I will be one of the favourites. But there is no pressure, I am enjoying what I am doing so I will just continue this way.”
It’s been quite some turnaround for Jaminet, having bounced back from a year on the sidelines due to that age old issue – budget – following a quiet season in the French GT championship in 2013 to suddenly become France’s next big hope. Jaminet has already been taken under the wing of Patrick Pilet – the man Nick Tandy rates as the fastest driver he’s ever seen in a 911 – but importantly he has the humility to recognise that he still has a long way to go before he is the finished article.
— Patrick Pilet (@PatrickPilet) July 9, 2016
“I came really from nowhere!” he admits. “Porsche France sent me to the Porsche junior programme shootout with ten drivers from all over the world, I was pretty quick there so they chose me, but it was kind of ‘who are you?’
“I think I have a good feeling with the car. Straight away at the beginning of the season I was there, but I’m still improving because I don’t have so much experience in Supercup and also it’s only my second year with the car. Even if I am winning a race in French Carrera Cup by 10-15 seconds, I am still learning some little things and at the end it makes a big difference.
“If you want to win a championship, you have to work as much as you can and always try to learn as much as you can as well. It’s not like I think ‘I’m at this level, so now I stop working – I know I’m good.’ No, no, no! The more you learn, the faster you go.”
Jaminet won both races at Le Mans in the French Carrera Cup this year and unsurprisingly harbours hopes of conquering the 24 Hours proper in future.
— Porsche Motorsport (@PorscheRaces) June 16, 2016
“The only thing I want in my career is to win Le Mans with Porsche in the GT class and one day I hope like Romain Dumas in the overall classification,” he added. “The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a really special event and even more for a French driver.
“I was there during all the weekend, I came to say hello to the GT guys and I thought ‘this is really cool!’ When you are behind [the screen] you want to jump in and drive, but you have to work for it and wait for it.”
If he continues to impress the bosses at Weissach, he may not have to wait too long.