Olivier Beretta, a racing driver from Monaco, is one of the most successful drivers when it comes to 24 hours of Le Mans. In 21 participations, Beretta scored six class victories and added five more class podiums, but he never reached a top podium spot in the overall classification. He also took five wins in the American endurance classics, at Daytona and Sebring.
During his career, Beretta collected many championship titles in GT category, for instance, FIA GT Championship (two times), American Le Mans Series (five times) or European Le Mans Series. Earlier in a career, Beretta also tried Formula One, participating in ten races in 1994 with Larrousse F1 team.
Beretta's career started in the Formula 3
Olivier Beretta was born on November 23, 1969, in Monte Carlo. He started a racing career in 1989, driving Dallara-Alfa Romeo in the French Formula 3 Championship.
After finishing his debut year without wins and podiums, Beretta improved his performance in 1990, winning one race and scoring two more podiums. He finished third in the points. He also reached the podium at Monaco Grand Prix, finishing third. He spent one more season in Formula 3, competing in the French and the British championship in 1991.
Driving for Nelson Piquet's team in the Formula 3000
In 1992, Beretta joined Nelson Piquet's team to compete in the Formula 3000 International. After a disappointing season, with a ninth place as the best result, the team didn't return for the 1993 season, so Beretta moved to Italian Forti Corse team.
He won the season-opening race at Donington Park. Later in the season, he had no more wins or podiums. He finished sixth in the points.
Shortened Formula One season with Larrousse
For the 1994 season, Beretta joined Tourtel Larrousse F1 Team, to drive the #19 LH94-Ford, alongside Erik Comas in the #20 car. Beretta had Formula One debut in March 1994 at the Brazilian Grand Prix, retiring after just two laps because he had a crash. Two more DNFs followed at the Pacific Grand Prix and San Marino Grand Prix.
Beretta finally finished his first F1 race at Monaco Grand Prix in May. He was 18th on the starting grid but progressed through the field to the 8th place, two laps behind the winner Michael Schumacher. Three more retirements followed in Spain, Canada and France.
Seventh place at Hockenheimring as the best F1 result
At the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Beretta finished 14th. He scored his career-best F1 result at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring, finishing seventh, one place behind his teammate Erik Comas. Beretta's last F1 race was the Hungarian Grand Prix in August, where he finished ninth.
He spent his sponsorship money, so for the next round, he was replaced by Philippe Alliot. Beretta never returned to Formula One as a race driver, only as a test driver for Williams from 2002 to 2004.
Beretta switched to sports cars from 1996
After leaving Formula One, Beretta didn't race for almost two years, until June 1996, when he switched to the sports car racing. In the meantime, he participated in the prequalifying session for 1995 Le Mans race with Courage Competition team but didn't qualify for the race.
His maiden Le Mans participation came in June 1996, together with Eric Helary and Philippe Gache in the #50 Chrysler Viper GTS-R for the Team Oreca. They finished 21st overall and 12th in GT1 class. For the rest of the season, Beretta participated with Oreca's Chrysler in four races of the Global GT Championship, sharing the car with five different drivers.
1998 - FIA GT Champion and maiden Le Mans podium with Chrysler Viper
In 1997, Beretta's main competition was the FIA GT Championship. He scored four wins with Team Oreca's Chrysler Viper and finished third in the points of GT2 class. His teammate Justin Bell took the title. At 24h of Le Mans, Beretta was sharing the car with Philippe Gache and Dominique Dupuy. They retired after 263 laps because of an accident. In February 1997, Beretta debuted at Daytona 24h, finishing 15th overall and third in GTS-1 class.
Team Oreca's #51 Chrysler Viper remained Beretta's car in 1998 and it was the championship-winning car. With eight wins in ten races, he dominantly won the FIA GT2 title. His full-season partner was Pedro Lamy. At 24 hours of Le Mans, Beretta and Lammy were joined by Tommy Archer in the #51 car. They finished on the podium, second in GT2 class, five laps behind sister #53 car.
Two championship titles and Le Mans win for Olivier in 1999
The 1999 season was the most successful in Olivier's career, as he won everything he possibly could. Dodge Viper GTS-R was the victorious car in the American Le Mans Series, bringing the GTS title to Monegasque driver. In the FIA GT Championship, Beretta and Karl Wendlinger performed as a dominant couple, winning six races and taking the trophy ahead of three Chrysler drivers.
The highlight of the season was 24 hours of Le Mans. The drivers in the #51 Chrysler were Beretta, Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy. After twice-around-a-clock racing, they beat teammates in the #52 car by seven laps.
The season of 1999 is also interesting because Beretta had a one-off guest appearance in the NASCAR Truck Series that year. In August, he participated in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 275 race at Heartland Park Topeka, driving the #4 Dodge for Bobby Hamilton Racing. He started 10th and finished 17th.
Winning Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans in the same year
One more highly successful season with Chrysler/Dodge followed in 2000. The season was opened with a victory at Daytona 24h, with Beretta, Wendlinger and Dupuy in the #91 Viper GTS-R. The trio then scored a class victory at Sebring 12h. With nine wins during the season, Beretta was American Le Mans champion for the second year in a row.
At the 2000 Le Mans 24h race, the winning crew from the previous year was again on the top podium spot. Beretta, Wendlinger and Dupuy scored their second Le Mans win, beating teammates in another car by five laps.
Switching to prototypes in 2001
In 2001, Beretta was a part of Chrysler's not so successful LMP program. He was driving the Chrysler prototype in just two races, finishing 21st in the ELMS race at Donington and fourth at 24 hours of Le Mans.
At Donington, Beretta's co-driver was Yannick Dalmas. At Le Mans, the #16 Chrysler LMP was the only car that finished the race. Beretta, Wendlinger and Pedro Lamy were fourth overall and third in LMP900 class.
Beretta's wasn't racing so much again in 2002. He participated in only three races with Team Oreca's Dallara-Judd prototype (including Le Mans) and one FIA GT race with Team ART's Chrysler Viper. At Le Mans, Beretta's partners in the #15 car were Pedro Lamy and Erik Comas. They finished fifth overall. Before Le Mans, Beretta participated in two rounds of the FIA Sportscar Championship with the same car, finishing 2nd in Barcelona and winning the race at Estoril.
2003 - ALMS season and Le Mans podium with Panoz
In 2003, Beretta continued to drive prototypes, participating in the American Le Mans Series with JML Team Panoz. In nine races with Panoz-Elan prototype, he scored six podiums and finished fifth in the points.
Three consecutive Le Mans wins with Chevrolet Corvette
The major change followed in 2004, when Beretta moved to Corvette Racing, to compete full season in the American Le Mans Series. His new winning machine was Chevrolet Corvette C5-R. With four wins in nine races, he and Oliver Gavin finished second in the classification of GTS class.
In June, at Circuit de la Sarthe, Beretta scored his third class victory at 24 hours of Le Mans. His partners in the #64 car were Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen. They became the most successful GT racing trio of the mid-2000s. They scored two Le Mans victories in 2005 and 2006, driving the Corvette C6.R.
Three consecutive ALMS titles with Corvette Racing
Beretta and Gavin added two ALMS titles on their accounts. In 2005, they won six out of ten races. In 2006, they were the race winners four times. The third consecutive ALMS triumph for Gavin and Beretta followed in 2007 when they were victorious in nine races.
The same year, their winning streak at Le Mans came to an end, after just 22 laps of racing.
Sixth Le Mans victory with Corvette
Beretta stayed four more seasons with Chevrolet Racing, collecting numerous wins and podiums. He was the ALMS runner-up in 2008. At Le Mans, Beretta partnered Oliver Gavin and Max Papis in the third-place finish with GT1 class Corvette C6.R.
Beretta became Ferrari driver in 2012
The Italian AF Corse became Beretta's new team in 2012, in the revived FIA World Endurance Championship. Beretta was sharing the #71 Ferrari 458 Italia GTC with Andrea Bertolini. At Sebring 12h, Marco Cioci was the third driver, and they scored the only victory of the season. At Le Mans, the #71 Ferrari finished fourth in GTE Pro class
For 2013, Beretta switched his focus on the American Le Mans Series, driving Ferrari for Risi Competizione. With one victory in nine races, he finished 8th in the points. At Le Mans, he was again in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari, sharing the car with Kamui Kobayashi and Toni Vilander. They finished 5th in GTE Pro class.
2014 European Le Mans Champion with Ferrari
As a Ferrari driver, Beretta joined SMP Racing customer team in the 2014 European Le Mans Series. His co-drivers were Russians Anton Ladygin and David Markozov. With one victory in five races, they won the GTC class championship. Besides winning the ELMS trophy with SMP Racing, Beretta participated in major endurance races (Daytona, Le Mans, Petit Le Mans) with Risi Competizione and AF Corse, but without notable results.
In 2015, another customer team was paying for Olivier's driving services with Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. It was the R.Ferri Motorsports in the Pirelli World Challenge. With three wins in 20 races, Beretta finished second in the points, behind Johnny O'Connell.
2015 - last podium at Le Mans 24 hours
In 2015, Beretta also participated at Daytona 24h with Risi Competizione and Le Mans 24h with AF Corse, scoring one more Le Mans podium in his last appearance there. Beretta, Davide Rigon and James Calado were second in the #71 Ferrari, behind SMP Racing's #72 car.
In 2016, Beretta participated in two endurance classics, at Daytona and Spa, missing the race at Le Mans. He returned to Le Mans in 2017, driving a Ferrari 488 GTE for Spirit of Race in the GTE Am class, finishing in 12th place.
His main job in 2017 was to drive the #51 Ferrari 488 GT3 for AF Corse in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, but without notable results. On the other side, he was successful in DH Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 in the Asian Le Mans Series, finishing second in the GT standings.