This winter’s Ferrari Challenge World Final saw a ProFormance alumnus advance to the podium.
It takes some luck, some talent, some top-notch training, a ridiculous amount of practice, and an insanely fast car. Even then the stars don’t always line up right. But when they do, you’ll find yourself in a select group of three, spraying Champagne on a crowd of cheering spectators. Recently the stars aligned for Yahn Bernier, ProFormance stalwart and Ferrari enthusiast, who reached the podium at the Ferrari Challenge World Final in Mugello, Italy.
“I didn’t have any expectations,” Yahn says of his first time competing in November’s World Final. His only test day had been a rainy one, with lots of red flags, making it hard to get in a clean lap. But he ended up qualifying in the top third of the field.
Luck came his way during the race when, with just a couple of laps to go, one of the front runners overreached and spun his car, allowing Yahn to move up. “That’s racing,” he says. “You’ve got to get to the end in your spot.”
Off the Starting Line
Yahn Bernier’s association with Ferrari began in 2013, when he was running in local events. “At some point you start to wonder whether driving your street car at 150 mph with just a 3-point harness is such great idea.” A racing machine – just for track days – seemed a sensible purchase, so he picked up a 488 Challenge Car.
Ferrari knows how to make enthusiasts out of drivers and racers out of enthusiasts. Yahn signed up for a program called Club Challenge, designed as a gateway drug for owners of his particular machine. “It’s genius on their part,” he says. “If you have a Ferrari Challenge car but aren’t ready to go racing, they have events where you’re treated as if you’re racing. You can bring friends and family, enjoy their hospitality, and experience what it’s like to run in a series without the stress and commitment of a race.”
Moving On to Racing
It worked. “I thought, ‘If I’m going to race, I should do it now.’” The next stop was the Two-Day Accredited Competition Race Licensing at ProFormance Racing School. Since Yahn was involved years back with The Heart of Racing, the ProFormance charity team, he and ProFormance founder and Chief Instructor Don Kitch, Jr. were already friends.
Yahn did some racing, including Daytona, and had a great time with it. “I got a drive-through penalty on my first race, for aggressively passing someone. You learn your lessons the hard way sometimes.”
A Ferrari Enthusiast
The car Yahn drove in Mugello is a descendant of the 488 GTB car. A very capable 670 horsepower turbocharged rear-wheel-drive race car, the Challenge “can come around on you pretty fast. Overall it’s pretty balanced though; as long as you’re not overly aggressive it’ll treat you fairly.” Yahn praises its safe driver compartment and other safety features, which come in handy as “it’s ridiculously fast.”
Apart from the Challenge, Yahn owns “a bunch of Ferraris,” including the 1000 horsepower SF90, an 812 GTS (a V-12 convertible), the limited-edition F12tdf, and a Monza SP2. He also keeps a 911 and, for daily driving, an Audi RS7. “They’re not museum pieces,” he says of the cars in his stable. “They’re meant to be driven.”
Like many people in racing, Yahn finds that the best part of racing is not the machine but the interaction with the other drivers and crews. “It’s a brotherhood and sisterhood of people with common interest,” he says, noting the varied and fascinating backgrounds of the people who run the series. “If you can get past the initial high-testosterone chest-thumping, you find out that the people are pretty interesting, and you have a good time with them. I’ve gotten to know all the drivers in the paddock, in my class and outside, and I’ve found them without exception to be fun to be with.”
Vital Elements: ProFormance and Coaching
Many Northwest race drivers have ProFormance Racing School woven into their motorsport DNA, and Yahn is no exception. It started when his co-worker Gabe Newell took his 16-year-old son to the Teen Driver Street Survival clinic, and got interested in track driving himself. “He brought a lot of us onto the scene,” Yahn says. The first time he got into a race car Don Kitch, Jr. was his coach.
“He has so much knowledge about racing,” he says of Don. “He’s a valuable resource for people in the Northwest, and he’s also a terrific evangelist for the sport. Getting my racing license with him was icing on the cake.”
Yahn also mentions ProFormance’s Curtis Creager and Manfred Duske as mentors who made a big impression on him. “Even when I drive my street car I think about things Manfred told me. He was the one who said, ‘when you get out of the race car I want you to keep doing these things, and do them forever.’” Other coaches he hails for their positive influence include are Alex Riberas, Ian James, and Daniel Mancinelli.
On the Agenda: More Racing
Yahn Bernier has penciled in a return to the Ferrari Challenge in 2022. This year the largest single-make series in the world will take place in Imola in northern Italy, at the racetrack appropriately named for Enzo and Dino Ferrari. “When you have a race car, you feel like you should go racing,” Yahn says. “I’m in the right class. It’s not in the beginner class. It’s gentleman driving – I’m not going to be drafted by F1 anytime soon – but its super fun.”