Sometimes you have to take to the skies to find your passion on land. Régis Masson, 54, learned to fly planes while he was still a student at business school, and he became so addicted to the feeling of freedom he got when flying that he decided to build his career around business aviation as a result.
After graduation he started work with aircraft giant Dassault, but he soon struck out on his own to start his own independent light aircraft company, representing an American operation in France.
Although he still holds an ATP professional pilot’s licence, Régis only uses it for pleasure, to fly his own plane between days of managing his other business, which provides engine maintenance for the rest of the business aviation world. This technical expertise gives him extra insight when choosing a vehicle on land, too, although his passion for cars is a more recent development.
A young Régis’ love of aviation was so strong, cars didn’t really feature on his radar. “Like many young people I enjoyed cars and I watched Formula One or rallyes,” he says, “but I was completely focused on aviation.”
It’s only when a car manufacturer approached him with a collaboration idea to develop a limited edition version of a plane that he started looking more closely at terrestrial vehicles. “I suddenly realised that the people I was speaking to, who love aviation as much as me, love cars too,” he explains.
“It’s a similar connection – the engine, the sensation of speed, the feeling of freedom.” As their conversations veered away from planes, Régis’ customers started opening up about the cars they were keeping in their garages at home. “I realised that a lot of the people who had nice airplanes with us also had nice cars, and I started going with them to race on the track. That was the beginning of the end!”
Régis started adding more and more cars to his collection, which rapidly grew to include several race cars. “I don’t have time to race them all,” he says with a grin, “but I am like a boy with my toys!” The tendency to look for perfection that comes from his experience with planes (“In aviation, you cannot afford to be 50/50, everything needs to work perfectly”) has a big influence on the way he chooses his cars, even though he treats his hobby as a source of fun above anything else.
“If you asked me to choose between cars and planes, I’d choose planes, every time,” he says. “But you have to apply the same attention and care to the engine of a car as to a plane, and if you want to drive correctly, you have to be precise.”
In the beginning, Régis gravitated towards prototype cars, but as he spent more time on the track, he became more and more interested in Formula Renault. Two years ago he bought one of the first Alpine Renault and his bond with the brand has been sealed ever since. “I realised that Renault has a great history, a great heritage,” he says. “And a feeling of being part of a big family – I have never seen so many people give me a sign or a nod when I drive past. The cars’ quality is also very good, you can have a lot of fun with them on and off track. Plus, I’m French…”
Régis has been driving a Clio IV R.S. Trophy for a few years now. “That was bought by accident!” says Régis. Indeed, Régis needed a car while he waited for the delivery of a new Mégane R.S., and the only model available at the dealership was a Clio. The plan was to drive it for a year... “I ended up liking it so much that I kept it!” he laughs.
Régis does now have a Mégane in his garage, and it’s not any old model: he just received his own edition of the Mégane R.S. Trophy R. “I can’t use it right now,” he says, frustrated. “It only has 1,500 km on the clock, so I shouldn’t push it.” But the plan is to take it to the track as soon as possible, somewhere in France, or maybe even to Spa-Francorchamps, where the car recently broke the front-wheel-drive lap record. “I can’t break any records!” jokes Régis. But when you feel this free, it’s fun to try…