One-to-one with Dragon Racing’s Leon Price

Dragon Racing chairman Leon Price was one of many amateur drivers who made their Blancpain GT Sports Club debut this year Here, the South African explains why he’ll be recommending the series to more clients in 2017.

What made you enter this series in Europe?

“We had been asked by some of our clients in the UAE if Dragon could run them in Europe whilst the hot summer months preclude track activity in the Middle East. Having personally participated for a few years in various championships in Europe, e.g. GT Cup and the GT Trophy for three years, and thereafter in the Blancpain Endurance Series for two years, we felt that these type of mixed Pro and Pro-Am class races would be too competitive as an entry level championship in Europe.

“Under the SRO’s organisational banner, the Blancpain GT Sports Club had run very successfully in 2015. It was limited to bronze ranked drivers and was being run on some of the best circuits in Europe. We are not the type of company to recommend anything to our clients without having first-hand experience of it so I became the proverbial guinea pig.”

Did it live up to your expectations?

“Very much so. The ethos of the racing and the driving standards is that all the racers are in a ‘Club’ rather than a ‘Race Championship’. Having said that, it’s very competitive probably at three levels; the front 6-8 are very quick – they feature some up and coming young guns mixed with older experienced drivers. The middle pack are quick but race in their own group, then finally the back runners seem to race amongst themselves as well.

“SRO divides the field into two main classes: ‘Open’ for anybody wanting to race in that class and an ‘Iron Cup’ for all racers over the age of 60. The racing is generally clean and whilst flexible the race directors running it will step in and discipline offenders very quickly but always fairly.”

Were the facilities up to the standards you enjoy in the UAE?

“They were different to what we are used to. Being the support event at all the tracks we raced at we were not in the main pits at any track – so the first race meeting we were in a sealed off tented area with each team having its own dedicated area and tent and that felt a bit strange initially. But one soon got used to it as it lent itself to everybody getting to know each other, almost like a close knit family – at least that’s how it felt by the end of the season.

“What pulled it all together of course was the most amazing K-Space hospitality unit designed and supplied by Kessel Racing. This portable upscale F1 type hospitality unit had a constant flow of all the various teams drivers, sponsors, guests, instructors and team managers through it – to cap it all off the food and beverages were simply sublime throughout the season.”

You drove a Kessel-run, Dragon-liveried 458 GT3. Why didn’t Dragon run its own car?

“Dragon has a long standing and close relationship with Kessel Racing, and Ronnie Kessel is a personal friend, so it was an easy decision as I just wanted to arrive and drive and not have the logistical issues of moving our cars around Europe and preparing them outside of our own workshops. Besides in our big races we always hire in some of Ronnie’s best engineers and technicians and they become an integral part of our own Dragon crew, so really it’s all one big family.”

Will you be recommending the Blancpain GT Sports Club to your clients in 2017?

“Definitely. Particularly for those clients wishing to have an entry level championship in Europe but, like I did this season with Dragon’s Racing Director Rob Barff who coached me all season, if we tied up certain clients with Kessel Racing technical support we would enlist the services of Dragon’s own instructors to provide the one-to-one care and the highest level of instruction required. Helping to maximise both performance on the track and the social elements away from the circuit.”