Passionate about motorsport since his early years thanks to his dad’s career, International Rally Driver, Stephane Richelmi starts racing at the age of 12.Two races in “Minimes” (PACA region / France) at the end of 2002. For the next year, at 13 years old, he enters the French Karting Championship, in the Junior category, taking part in four of the five races on the territory and showing promising performances considering his low experience.
In 2004, Stephane is again taking part of this championship, but this time racing all the races. Results aren’t really there, in opposition to a race in Rotax Max Junior that he won in Essay. He gone there to learn the track because it was one of the Junior Championship and he scored his 1st victory. At the end of the year, he participated to the National Final in Rotax Max Junior where he classified himself 6th.
In 2005, the young Monegasque driver joined the French Rotax Max championship where he put himself as a serious championship contendant, being only 15 years old and battling with more experienced drivers. He finished third of the championship, despite having missed a race weekend. At the end of the year, he had the opportunity to race in his hometown at the Monaco Kart Cup, in Endurance category. Alongside Stephane Ortelli in his team and other friends, he succeeded to finish 2nd in Qualifying, behind Jules Bianchi and right in front of Jerome D’Ambrosio but then had some issues in the race.
2006 is an important change with his debuts in single seater, in the Belgian Formula Renault 1.6 championship, driving for the Thierry Boutsen Racing. A year to learn a new approach In Racing and in motorsport in general. Being still a student and not taking part to much test, Stephane showed some pace, but the season could have been better in general, he admits later.
In 2007 Stephane joined the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup championship with the same team. Both of them learned the difficulties of being new in a very racy field of more than 35 cars. A complicated season but at least, he got a better knowledge and more experience of racing.
Same championship but different team for 2008, this time with Epsilon. After good winter test, Stephane and teammates Matthieu Arzeno Tristan Vautier and Bastien Borget understood that the engineering wasn’t good enough. Some good results but the performance wasn’t there…
After a talk with the Team Director, the decision had been taken to stop Formula Renault during the summer to take part of the F3 Euroseries championship. Racing the last three meetings was the best way to get ready for the 2009 season.
As in 2007, trusting in the growth of the team, the native from Monaco followed Epsilon on the way to the British F3. For the engineers involved, it was a comeback in F3 after 10 year. The first part of the season was a disaster, Stephane was in the fog, not knowing what to do.
At the end of May though, a call from RC Motorsport, an Italian team which he made few test days with, asked him to race in the Italian championship of Formula 3. Straight away in the pace he regained confidence and decided to leave the British championship. With half of the meetings competed, he ended up 6th overall with three podiums. At the end of the season, he enjoyed his GT Race debut with a double podium at the “Circuit Paul Ricard”, winning in the GT1 Class.
In 2010, he joins the Lucidi Motorsport Team in the Italian F3 championship with the ambition to fight for the title. Winning four victories, four other podiums (three times 2nd and once 3rd), one pole position and two other “top3” in Qualifying and will succeed to finish 14 races on 16 in the points. He ended up second in the championship, only few points away from the title. In December the same year, having finished on the podium of the championship, Stephane is invited to test the Ferrari F1 (F2008) at Vallelunga, achieving a kid’s dream.
He climbed a step higher in 2011 to get closer to F1, Stephane joined the Team Draco Racing, operating in Formula World Series by Renault. A quite difficult season where Stephane and the team couldn’t get the best out of the car.At the end of the summer, his compatriot Stefano Coletti hurt himself during the GP2 race in Spa-Francorchamps. Trident team searched a driver to replace him for the final meeting of the season at Monza. Stephane was quickly confident in the 620HP car, making two good races, with laptimes only 5 tenths away from the leaders. When the budget is finalized after the research of new sponsors, he joins Trident for the 2012 season.
2012, supposed to be a learning year in a category with such a small time of test, shows two faces.
First, some good qualifying, with a third place in Barcelona or a 6th in Bahrain, but complicated races with too often, a really high tires degradation. Even with his clean driving style, it is only in Hockenheim that the car allowed him to climb on the podium of the Race1.
With those performances, Stephane could test two top teams at the end of the season : ART and DAMS. After sowing his skills he had the choice between the two of them, or staying in his old team. The decision has been taken to spend his 2nd year in GP2 with DAMS. Even if he admits he could have done better and that his expectations were not totally fulfilled, he still made a really good season, ending 8th overall, and was 6th before the last meeting, in front of his teammate Marcus Ericsson, whom will later sign in F1 for the following season. The 2013 season was exciting and very enriching.
Naturally and logically, DAMS and Stephane decided quickly to continue together for another year. 2014 should have been the year of the consecration for his third year in the category, but revealed itself frustrating. He recognizes he was not as sharp as he was at the end of 2013, and has had some bad weekends. However there are some shiny points such as a Pole Position at Barcelona, his second in GP2 after the one at Nurburgring the year before, and most important, the victory in Sprint Race in Monaco. With almost 20 points less than 2013, his carrier in GP2 and so in single seater ended up in Abu Dhabi, with a rather unjustified penalty.
For 2015 Stephane was looking for a factory contract and so he decided to integrate the ranks of WRT, leading team of Audi in GT’s highest championship, the Blancpain Series. With his Monegasque teammate Stephane Ortelli, he hoped his performances on the Audi R8 LMS Ultra of the Belgian Team will allow him to get in the Audi family. In the sprint championship, they finished 4th crew with Stephane, 2nd Audi. Unfortunately in Endurance the result is below the expectations, often driving on tracks not very favorable to this car. Stéphane and WRT couldn’t find an agreement for the 2016 season.
To be continued.