It’s now only three weeks to go until the first official session of the 2013 ALMS season and we’ll get an idea of how things stack up in the GT class – just as in Formula 1, no one gives much away in testing.
There’s been lots of good news in GT racing over the last month or so and I can’t wait to get out there to start defending our GT Championship title. Our Corvette C6.R will be up against Aston Martins, BMWs, Ferraris, Porsches and Vipers plus some really strong driver line-ups so I reckon it’ll be a massive challenge from start to finish but I can’t wait to get started! The 12 Hours of Sebring kicks off the season on March 16 and, just like last year, I will be teamed in the No.4 entry with my American team-mate and co-champion, Tommy Milner. Richard Westbrook will join us for the endurance races and, as a new parent, he’ll be really looking forward to a few nights in a hotel to catch up on his sleep. We reckon we’ll just have to nudge him awake when it’s his turn to drive – he could be asleep the rest of the time!
Developing the new Corvette
Last month’s Daytona 24 Hours was likely to be the last time I’ll race a Daytona Prototype at the event, thanks to the merger between Grand-Am and ALMS which, until the new name is revealed on March 14, is referred to as “The Future”. All things being equal, I’ll be in the all-new Corvette C7.R which we’re due to start testing from the middle of the year. It’ll be interesting to see how it will perform at Daytona next year; it will be the car’s race debut so it’s going to be a voyage of discovery for all of us.
The production version of the C7 was launched in Detroit in early January and I’m going to the Geneva Motor Show for GM Europe to help launch the convertible version just before I head out to Florida. I’m really looking forward to being involved and it’s great to be in at the very start of something.
The advent of both the production version and its racing sister are very exciting for all at Corvette Racing and a chassis is currently at Pratt & Miller (who develop, build and operate GM’s Corvette racers). I sat in the base chassis at the end of last year looking at pedal and steering positions, how the cockpit will be laid out and so on. It won’t be radically different to the C6.R in its interior layout, although one of the big changes will be a move away from pedals which are mounted from above the foot-well to the more usual floor mounted pedals like other cars.
Spending time at Manchester United
Chevrolet has a long term sponsorship of Manchester United FC and I’ve recently been up to Old Trafford several times to meet the players and help with the hand-over of their new Corvettes and Camaros. Just like at most well-run racing teams, what the boss says goes and Sir Alex Ferguson decreed that they had to be over 25 to be able to drive one of the higher-powered vehicles. It’s not every day you get to meet the likes of Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick and Javier Hernández among others, and they all had very positive things to say about their new cars. I’m due to go up again soon for more work with the players and I’ll look forward to telling you more about that in my next blog.
Lance Armstrong and drug tests in motor sport
I do a bit of public speaking from time to time about my career and related topics and a few weeks ago I did a talk which came around to the subject of Lance Armstrong and David Walters, the Sunday Times journalist who followed his story.
Walters followed the now-disgraced cyclist over four Tours de France, before he got cancer and afterwards, and tells of how he watched Armstrong go up a hard climb in the Italian Alps and just rode away from everyone. This was markedly different to previous times and the whole press room started laughing. However, all the newspaper editors thought his return from illness was too much of a fairytale to ignore and Lance was so strong in his denial of doping that everyone took his word for it. In hindsight, it was tantamount to psychological bullying.
As an early fan of Armstrong I bought into the whole cycling bug, got the bike, helmet and all the gear and to find that it was a lie is a huge let down. Fortunately the sport has had a good year with Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and the other medal-winning Olympians and they are far greater role models than Lance Armstrong will ever be.
People may not know that drivers are subject to random drug testing the same as any other athlete and Ferrari’s Gimmi Bruni told me not so long ago about being woken at 6am by the testers in Rome asking for a sample. I’ve been tested in the past at Le Mans but when you finish a 24-hour race you’re pretty dehydrated so performing isn’t as easy as you’d think. You’re accompanied and watched like a hawk by an official while you try and down your body weight in water, right up to and including giving the sample. I’ve never had stage fright like it!