Julien Piguet, racing driver and founder of Driving Evolution

Paris, France

Julien Piguet lives life in the fast lane. Alongside his career as a professional racing driver, he created Driving Evolution, an event agency that specialises in test drives and automotive experiences serving the major car brands. We met him at his premises in Vélizy, in western Paris, to chat about his professional and sporting activities, as well as his penchant for USM furniture.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Julien Piguet and I’m 37 years old. I run an event agency called Driving Evolution, but I’m also a racing driver, a precision driver and a stuntman for films.

How did you get into the world of car racing?

I followed a very conventional path, just like all racing drivers: I started karting at the age of 12 – an obligatory step – and I gradually worked my way up until I managed to join the French karting team. I then made the transition to cars and I won my first races at the age of 16. In fact, for a long time I was the youngest French car race winner. I got as far as Formula 3, which is two levels below Formula 1, but I clearly wasn’t able to move up any higher. Many drivers would blame it on a lack of financial resources or sponsors, etc. And of course that has something to do with it, but I’m not afraid of saying that it’s also due to a lack of talent, because I’m very clear-headed about my career. I therefore became a GT driver instead, and I’ve been racing in French and European championships ever since. For example, I raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, and I won the Le Mans Classic in 2016… I’m therefore still a semi-professional racer and I take part in 6 or 7 races per year.

Julien Piguet au Circuit Paul Ricard 2021
© Photo Mathieu Diribarne

What’s your favourite competition memory?

Taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year was a childhood dream come true. I had already done the 24 Hours of Spa and of Nurburgring several times, as well as the Dubai and Barcelona races, but the 24 Hours of Le Mans truly remains the greatest and most legendary endurance race in the world. Part of it takes place on a circuit, but some of it is also held on public roads that are usually open to traffic. It’s an incredible race! And to wrap things up, my next objective is the 24 Hours of Daytona!

Tell us about your career as a stuntman…

Cinema is another medium that I’m passionate about. You feel an incredible sense of freedom on a film set where roads are closed and you can drive at 300 km/h on a ring road or at 150 km/h on the Champs-Elysées… That’s when you get the maximum adrenaline rush!

I also find the artistic side of things very interesting, as you can learn how a film is put together and how to carry out a stunt scene or a car chase scene... One day, you’re a “cop”, the next day you’re a “thug”, it’s different every time. I’ve had the chance to be the stunt double for many actors, such as Jude Law, Guillaume Canet, Gérard Depardieu and Dany Boon… All of whom were very nice and passionate about cars.

Alongside your career as a racing driver and stuntman, you created Driving Evolution around 12 years ago. How did the transition go?

In the midst of my career as a racing driver, I realised that I was never going to become the next Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher. As I told you earlier, there are many drivers who are frustrated at not having made a success of it, but I never thought of it that way. For me, setting up this company was a natural follow-on from my sporting career. Sport is an excellent school of life and there are many correlations between everyday life in the worlds of car racing and business.

“I really appreciate the universe of artistic creation and USM also allows me to stage lots of objects: the helmets that are in my office, works of art, books… so the same piece of furniture allows me to tidy up certain things and to stage others. This versatility is great! "

You say that going from a sportsman to an entrepreneur is quite natural, but what qualities do you need to succeed?

People often think that car racing is an individual sport because the driver is often alone in his vehicle, but in actual fact it’s a real team sport. You have the mechanics, the engineers, a whole team around the car who help you to make it run! And this “team” aspect also exists in businesses, with a management team, a community, a hierarchy and a great deal of rigour. But I think that what pays off most is having the desire to work and make an effort, and to learn these values there’s no better school than sport.

Tell us what Driving Evolution is all about?

We are an event agency that specialises in test drives. In the past, test drives weren’t very common: you would go to a dealer and buy a car without necessarily having tried it out. Today, experiential marketing has developed enormously. For example, before you buy an iPhone, you go to an Apple Store and a Product Genius in a blue T-shirt will tell you how it works, let you take hold of it to see if you like it, if its ergonomics are right for you... Well, the same goes for the automotive sector. Nowadays, cars are more and more technological: there are hybrid and electric versions, infinite options in terms of on-board technology and connectivity... Our job is to allow future customers to experiment with all this, as well as journalists and sellers during training sessions. We operate in many different terrains: roads, circuits, 4x4 tracks and mountainous areas. Our main objective is to offer a top-quality UX, or user experience, that matches the DNA of each brand.

We offer our customers comprehensive solutions: before the test drive, we design and organise the entire event, we take care of the invitations and all of the logistics, including the transport and preparation of the vehicles... The digital aspect has also taken on a crucial dimension and we developed it considerably during the Covid crisis.

Talking of which, Covid put a big stop to events, so what alternatives to physical events did you come up with?

At the start of the first lockdown I watched the chef Cyril Lignac cooking from home and breaking viewing records. This gave me an idea. We could no longer run test drives on circuits or bring customers together because this was administratively prohibited, so I figured that we would digitise things and bring cars into people’s living rooms! We had a garage on our premises that we completely transformed into a recording studio. We fitted out this area with designer furniture and started filming training videos in which, for example, a brand director or a marketing director could present a car in detail. We also created some live videos to launch new models and some more playful videos.

We really had to stretch our limits during the Covid crisis because, as was the case for restaurant owners, our activity had ground to a halt. We had already thought about the digital aspect in the past, but at the time we had so many physical activities that took priority: this crisis gave us the kick-start we needed to take this turn.

How many people work with you?

Our team is made up of about 20 permanent employees, which I feel is a nice size because I want to keep a friendly and family feel. Our motto is to be “serious without taking ourselves seriously”.

But if you take into account all of our partners, freelancers and independent drivers, there can be up to 250 people on site during major trade fairs and big events. We have 80 key account customers with very different profiles, such as sports car brands, top-of-the-range brands, general manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, tyre brands... It’s a very diverse ecosystem. This diversity is a real asset and we learn something new at every event.

What made you opt for USM in your offices?

I knew USM products very well as I had seen them in many places, especially on several film sets. USM units catch the eye as they are really unconventional and unique with their steel tubes and metal doors.

When I was 15, I would have been delighted with Ikea furniture, but over the years I have gradually learned to appreciate beautiful things and I’ve developed a taste for designer furniture and contemporary art.

With USM furniture, you can keep things looking tidy and uncluttered, and I appreciate this a lot because I like my papers to be filed and hidden. At the same time, I also like to add colour and atmosphere to a room. I am a big fan of artistic creation and USM helps me to showcase loads of objects, such as the helmets in my office, works of art, books, etc. So the same piece of furniture can be used for both tidying away some items and showcasing others. This versatility is fantastic!

How did you choose your colours?

Colours are very symbolic for us, so the colour code we chose for many of our furniture items reflects Driving Evolution’s DNA, i.e. red, black, white and grey. On the other hand, as cars are turning towards electro-mobility via hybrid and electric power, I decided to add some small blue dots to other USM units to symbolise these new technologies.

If USM was a car, which model would it be?

In terms of their authenticity and iconic nature that never goes out of fashion over time, I’d draw a parallel between USM and the Porsche 911, which has had the same shape and the same headlights from the outset. There’s also the fact that Porsches can be customised and tailor-made to create a unique object, just like USM furniture units. These items aren’t mass-produced, and every USM fan can come up with a unique furniture unit that looks nothing like any other.

Julien Piguet au 24 Heures du Mans 2020
© Photo Jules Benichou

As you said earlier, the automotive sector has undergone some huge technological developments. What do you think the future has in store for it?

Everyone needs to make an effort for our planet, and the automotive sector is one of the industries that needs to make a particular effort, just like the aviation, maritime transport and fashion industries, etc. I think it’s unavoidable when you witness the ecological death of our planet. I’m neither an industrialist nor an engineer, but I strongly believe that a clean synthetic fuel, such as bioethanol, could have some really interesting benefits over the coming years.

What type of vehicle do you drive in your everyday life, and what kind of driver are you?

I’m a real car lover, but like any self-respecting racing driver, my shortcoming is impatience... So I can’t stand traffic jams! I’m also hyperactive in my professional life, so I ride an electric BMW scooter, which is ideal as I can sneak my way through traffic jams and be on time for my appointments. That way, I can easily increase my number of appointments without generating any emissions at all!

Call us

We’re ready and waiting to work with you on your dream furniture designs. Call us during office hours for additional product information or to arrange a design consultation.

+41 31 720 72 72

Find us

Enter your postcode to find your local USM showroom or dealership. If we’re not in your area, we can get in touch to talk about the best way for you to get USM.