Fulfilling a Bathurst dream
Ah, the off season! that PART of the year when drivers get to spend a bit of time with their families and catch up on all those jobs that get put off during the heat of a campaign.
I’ll be back on a plane soon enough, though. The Bathurst 12 Hours has been on my bucket list for a long time, so I’m excited to be going there to race the Aston Martin GT8 I drove in the Nürburgring 24 Hours last year.
It’s an iconic circuit and you just know it’s going to be difficult when every driver tells you how hard it is – like a mixture of the Nordschleife, Sebring and those other circuits that have their own unique challenges.
The best way to prepare before heading out to Australia is to get yourself into a simulator. I have my own simulator company (Base Performance Simulators or BPS), so I have been found thrashing around Mount Panorama a few times recently.
The off-season is also a time for ceremonies, starting with the Autosport Awards. It is always a fun night but has a special meaning to me because of the boost the Young Driver Award gave my career as a professional racer. Latest winner Lando Norris looks like he has all the ingredients for success. Then at the BRDC Awards I was honoured to collect the Colin Chapman Trophy. It’s very special to have been part of the Aston Martin Racing Team for so many years, so to receive an award that recognises team spirit was a proud moment for me.
Being away from the track has given me time to focus on BPS. We see a real mix of professional drivers who come along to use our simulator. Many teams prefer to forego the in-house simulator route and use one of ours instead. With our focus purely on simulation we can keep the equipment current.
We also have a lot of amateur drivers who come to improve their skills and make sure they are prepared for each of their events. These guys arrive either with their own driver coaches or we can provide private coaching. If you think of, say, a Blancpain Pro-Am partnership, the ‘Pro’ will often come along to coach the ‘Am’ so when they get to their next race the amateur is fully up to speed.
Driver coaches weren’t really a thing in my early days. Back then you went to a racing school to learn the basics, then off you went. I went to the Jim Russell School and the instructors were the guys doing Formula Renault or Formula 3 at the time, then earning some money from coaching. It was a week-long intensive course that taught you everything you needed to know.
It’s all about one-on-one coaching these days though, which I think is better – if the driver applies himself. You can have your driver coach, manager, fitness trainer etc, but if you’re not fully engaged then you’re only ticking a box. Then when you don’t do well you have lots of people to blame and it becomes a vicious circle. I think a driver’s mentality is crucial. You have to be strong in the head from the start as it’s not going to be easy.
Back to my bucket list. Once I’ve ticked Bathurst off I just have Macau and Mosport Park to complete my dream set. Anyone got any ideas?