My driver columns have been few and far between recently, through a combination of being very busy towards the end of the season – along with an element of laziness!
Since I last wrote, I have enjoyed racing to a fine second overall in the Dyson Racing LMP1 Lola alongside Chris Dyson and Guy Smith at Virginia International Raceway, experienced at first hand the latest evolution of the Lotus Evora GTE with Alex Job Racing at Petit Le Mans, and had the exciting news of what I will be driving next season finally announced.
Starting with that LMP1 race, I have to say that VIR is now officially one of my all time favourite race tracks in the world, in particular in a class 1 Le Mans prototype. In one area of the track alone we were pulling nearly 4g twice in opposite directions!
At the following ALMS race at Petit le Mans, I was back to my duties as a Lotus factory driver competing alongside Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler in the AJR-run Lotus Evora GTE. The car was very different to the factory version that James Rossiter and I raced together in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup round at Road Atlanta in 2011. But it was a real pleasure to race with Alex Job for the first time, and we were a little unfortunate that Townsend got hit early on in the race, breaking a wheel hub, which cost us what would have potentially been a top 6 finish in GTE Pro. Nevertheless, we still had a very consistent and reliable run going after that, and Townsend and Bill drove beautifully to help get us a top 10 finish.
Although I continue to test for Lotus in my role as a factory driver, which continues through until April 2013, I suspect that for one reason or another, Petit Le Mans may well be the last time I ever race the Lotus Evora GTE. This is actually a source of regret to me, as that car has so much untapped potential, which hasn’t been fully realised due to an unfortunate set of circumstances stopping the car from ever truly receiving any real development.
But the base platform of the Evora as a road car, leading to a race car, is still in my opinion as good if not better than any other sports car manufacturer in the world. Maybe one day some resources will be found to allow the car to shine into what I know it can be, and if that day does arrive, whether I am involved or not, I will be very proud and happy to see the Evora be successful.
However, one Lotus that it appears I will be racing, is the new Lotus Evora GX car, which I have been testing regularly up at the Lotus test track in Hethel. I have been loaned as a factory driver to the McMahon Raceworks team running the first Lotus Evora in the new Grand-Am GX class, and I will be going back to Daytona for the 11th time. The Rolex 24 is where it all started for me as an international sports car racer, and Daytona has been good to me, giving me multiple podiums both overall and in class over the past 12 years. I am just hoping that we can have another good reliable run, and who knows, maybe win ourselves another Rolex watch!
Before that though I will be racing for my new RAM Racing team at the Dubai 24 hours. This is all very exciting news for me, as the RAM Racing organisation will be campaigning a Ferrari F458 GTE in the European Le Mans Series in 2013, and we are starting our season with a crack at the Dubai 24 hours in a Ferrari 458 GT3.
My team-mates will be Guy Smith, who I’ve shared with this year in the Dyson Racing LMP1 in the longer ALMS races, and Jaime Melo: the last time we drove together resulted in us winning the Sebring 12 hours along with Mika Salo. So I know we have a fantastic squad, and hopefully can have a decent crack at overall victory.
It is always nice to be involved with a top team, and I have a very good feeling that this time next year, RAM Racing will have firmly established itself as one of top teams in global GT racing, and I’m just proud to be one of the first drivers they hired to help make that happen.
For now, all that’s left is for me to wish all you motorsportmagazine.com readers a fantastic Christmas, and let’s hope that all our dreams come true in 2013!