David Perel

Professional GT racer

David Perel’s goal is to make South Africa proud by someday racing and winning the Le Mans 24 Hour, the world’s oldest endurance sports car race. Don’t put it past him. The 31-year-old has risen above numerous challenges to become a professional GT racer.

Perel started out in karting, racing professionally at the age of fifteen. At 23, he had five provincial and national championship titles under his belt, and progressed to racing single-seat vehicles. However, a lack of funding brought his career to a halt. Determined to continue, Perel co-founded a web company with his brother and worked twenty-hour days, seven days a week for four years, living on a couch at his office. He spent hours playing PlayStation every day to learn the corners and turns of the European tracks. Five years later, after saving enough money to continue, he began cold-calling managers across Europe, and was offered a shot at a GT3 race. (GT3 is a form of motor racing between high-end sports cars that are loosely linked to their road-going counterparts). Perel fared so well that he was offered the opportunity to drive the 2015 season with Lamborghini Bonaldi Motorsport in the Italian GT Championship, where he acquired more wins, pole positions and fastest laps than any other driver in his field.

In 2016, with help from his manager Alan Macdonald, he signed with Kessel Ferrari and ended the season with a win at the Gulf 12-hour endurance race in Abu Dhabi. He also finished first in the Hungary Blancpain Sprint Series and the Barcelona International GT Open. Perel was rewarded with South African colours in the special award category by Motor Sport South Africa for these and other performances. The sky is now the limit, with Perel recently extending his contract with Kessel Ferrari.

The fact that he completely loves what he does is likely to see him going even further: “When you’re racing at close to 300km/h you are entirely in the moment. Your mind is quiet, you’re not thinking about what you’re going to do tomorrow or why that thing that happened yesterday happened,” he enthuses. “You’re present, attentive and completely wired with adrenaline — there’s no better feeling. Knowing you can compete against the best in the world, and beat them… it’s amazing.”

— Fatima Asmal

Instagram: @davidperel