Charles Pic became a Formula 1 driver because of a gift his godfather gave him on his 12th birthday, back in 2002. A go kart.
He was soon competing successfully in events around his home town of Montélimar, in the Drome departément, between Lyon and Avignon. His brother Arthur followed him into the sport.
Montélimar is famous for its nougat and because it sits beside the A7 motorway, known as the Autoroute du Soleil, which links the north of France with Provence. It was this strategic location that led Charles’s great-grandfather Charles André to pick Montélimar as the headquarters for his transport company, which was originally based in the more remote Ardeche. From the start, André specialised in transporting petrol from the refineries in Marseille to garages across the country. Groupe Charles André Transports (otherwise known as GCAtrans) is one of Europe’s largest transport firms and owns a string of other businesses, notably the Golf de la Valdaine in Montélimar, a hotel/golf complex and the Les Barmes de l’Ours resort at Val d’Isere, in the Alps.
When you own thousands of trucks, many of them fuel tankers, finding sponsorship is not such a difficult business. This meant that it was fairly easy for Pic to find money and his talent took him through the junior formulae and he arrived in F1 with Marussia in 2012. He would move on to Caterham in 2013 and became a Lotus test driver in 2014. His brother Arthur has raced in GP2 for the last three seasons and is still hoping to find a way to follow Charles into F1.
The family empire is today presided over by their mother Delphine André, the grand-daughter of the founder. She has run the business since her two boys were babies, having taken over the firm after the early death of her father Charles-Pierre in 1991. Before that, in the 1980s, when Delphine was a teenager, GCAtrans agreed to help the fuel company Elf with sponsorship of the Winfield Racing team in the French Formula 3 Championship. As a result, Delphine got to know the Winfield Racing drivers. She married GCAtrans managing-director, Jean-Christophe Pic, and when Charles arrived she asked one of her racing friends to be Charles’s godfather. Eric Bernard was by then a Formula 1 driver, having risen from Winfield Racing to F1 by 1989.
Small wonder he chose a go-kart as a birthday present for young Charles…