A new force established itself at the forefront of the Blancpain GT Series this season as AKKA ASP and its fleet of Mercedes-AMG entries secured race wins and titles across three classes.
Jerome Policand’s squad ended the year by taking the biggest prizes of all: the overall teams’ title, and the drivers’ crown courtesy of Italian ace Raffaele Marciello.
AKKA ASP also clinched the Sprint Cup drivers’ championship, a brace of Silver Cup titles, and race wins in the Am Cup. Pending an appeal by the disqualified Black Falcon entry, AKKA ASP might yet add two Endurance Cup titles to that haul.
It is the culmination of several years’ hard work: the team began life in the Pro-Am ranks, gradually becoming a contender for outright victories.
Though a relatively recent arrival at the very top of international GT racing, the team has been competing and winning across Europe for almost 20 years. Established by long-time racer Policand as Auto Sport Promotion – usually shortened to ASP – the French squad has developed a small crew known for its racer’s spirit and total commitment to the cause.
In that respect, it is a team modelled after its founder.
Life behind the wheel
Policand’s life as a racer began when he was just six. His elder brother was a Jackie Stewart fan and Jerome started following Formula 1 on TV. Soon enough he was travelling to grands prix across Europe to watch his heroes.
The story thereafter is a familiar one: Policand began competing in go-karts, then entered a racing school to earn a move to single-seaters. He won a scholarship to race in Formula Ford and continued climbing the ladder.
« It was a very good system, » says Policand, acknowledging the changed landscape that young drivers face today. « You knew you had a chance, with very little money, to get quite a big budget and start in racing. »
His ultimate goal was Formula 1 and Policand came close, moving through French Formula 3 and eventually International Formula 3000, the main F1 feeder series at the time.
« But you know the story: I spent my time with borrowed money, trying to find sponsors. »
Along the way Policand went up against the best French talent of his generation: Eric Helary and Olivier Panis were F3 rivals, while Yvan Muller was a teammate in F3000. A few emerging international stars caught his eye, too.
« I drove against Schumacher and Hakkinen and they were in another league, » he recalls. « You could see that these guys were special. »
Reaching his late twenties, Policand switched to international GT and prototype racing, including stints in the U.S. and Asia and several starts at Le Mans.
Though he never quite reached F1, the Frenchman has « no regrets. I loved my life as a racing driver. »
But, in truth, he has not fully left it behind.
« Sometimes I miss it, but only during the winter. When I am at the track and I have to take care of the drivers, the mechanics and the engineers, I don’t miss it. But you miss the adrenaline of motor racing and the feeling of driving the car.
« For sure I will come back at some point, » he confirms.
From cockpit to pit wall
Policand established Auto Sport Promotion to support his own career and was quickly able to achieve on-track success. Nevertheless, he sees AKKA ASP’s recent triumphs in the Blancpain GT Series as the result of a long learning process.
« In the beginning I set the team up around me to do the Renault Clio V6 Trophy, » he explains. Policand won that title in 1999 and was given a budget to field another driver the following year, which began to shift his approach.
« At the very beginning I was running the team like a racing driver. This was the wrong way to do it, even if we got results.
« I thought I would buy a trailer, put the car in it, buy tools and then go racing. Forget it! It’s easy to buy things, but it’s not easy to organise. »
Today, Policand sees the organisation of people as one of his key responsibilities. Finding employees who match his team’s ethos is especially important.