Raring to get back on track in the WEC
I’ve read Motor Sport from cover to cover for more years than I care to remember. I’ve read tales of my racing heroes and opinion from some of the sport’s greatest names. I’m honoured that I was asked to write a column and am really pleased to have this opportunity. I will do my very best to give you a view on the world of motor sport from where I am sitting.
As I prepare to start my 12th season with Aston Martin Racing I couldn’t be happier. We’ve had some brilliant years and I know there will be more ahead. The team has evolved a great deal since we started the GTE programme and I’d say we are in our strongest position yet.
The FIA World Endurance Championship has a great calendar for 2016. I’m looking forward to the new Mexican event in September, as that’s another place on the planet that I’ve not visited. Aside from WEC we’re going back to the Nürburgring 24 Hours with the V12 Vantage GT3 and I have more work to do with Aston Martin’s Vulcan project.
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE has had an aerodynamic upgrade for 2016 to fit in with the new WEC regulations. You’ll see big diffusers and small rear wings as they try to make the car’s undersurface do all the work. One of the downsides of the new aero regs is that the rear diffusers now stick out from the back. When you consider how close the racing is in GTE, it’s a new vulnerable area so I can foresee issues arising when a bit of rubbing occurs. We didn’t really have to worry about the rear before – it was always the front splitter you had to guard – so now we’ll need eyes everywhere to protect ourselves.
I’ve moved from being in the no97 car for many years to no95, a k a ‘The Dane Train’. Having raced against Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim last year I know how fast they are. They are two top blokes; a lot of fun to be around and great racers, so all three of us are very motivated and hungry for success.
As ever the competition in WEC will be incredibly strong. Porsche has stepped back with its involvement in GTE. I’m sure it will still be hard to beat, but with focus on its 2017 car maybe in-season development will be less intense. Ferrari is always competitive and has won the championship many times. For 2016 it has a new car – the 488 – but I’m sure it has been thoroughly tested and there’s no reason why the team won’t start the season with a race-winning package.
Ford joins the party in 2016. It’s slightly controversial in that Ford has come in by building a low-volume car to make the most of the regulations. It’s a bit like the Maserati MC12; there was nothing else like that when it came along. We have the Balance of Performance system to keep the playing field level, though, so let’s see how that goes. This sort of car comes along every now and again but it’s up to the rest of us to take it on. In theory it could be hard to beat.
We’ve been working hard in pre-season testing along with our new partner, Dunlop, and the first WEC round at Silverstone is fast approaching. Testing is one thing – working to try to improve the car tenth by tenth – but there’s nothing that beats the adrenaline rush of a race weekend.
We’ve always been strong at Silverstone. The circuit’s medium- and high-speed corners suit the Aston Martin so there’s no reason why we won’t be able to put on a good show at our home event. It’s really nice to have your first race locally as you have all the factory support from just down the road at Aston Martin Racing in Banbury – and of course from Aston Martin Lagonda in Gaydon. There’s more pressure as all the people involved with the cars are at the event, but the benefits by far outweigh the extra burden. I really enjoy the layout of the Grand Prix circuit now; the configuration is very good to drive. It’s challenging as it has a good mix of corners and nothing is repeated. You also know there will be some typically British weather over the weekend, so the combination of a fine circuit and mixed conditions should make for another great WEC opener.