Preparing for a new season

22nd January 2015

The off-season seems shorter than ever this year, but that’s no bad thing, as I get twitchy if I’m out of a racing car for too long! Most championships are longer than they used to be and if you look at the World Endurance Championship – well, we were still in Brazil in December. Once Christmas was over it didn’t seem long before I was on a plane on my way to Daytona to test the Aston Martin Vantage GTE at the ‘Roar before the 24’.

We’re in much better position compared to last year as we can run a similar aero package to the one we run at Le Mans, which is what you need at Daytona because for the majority of the time you’re up on the oval. Last year we weren’t very competitive at all but thankfully the regs have changed a bit in our favour.

It was good to catch up with Richard Westbrook at Daytona, although I hear he had a bit of a stressful trip. His new baby daughter decided she couldn’t wait for him to get back and she was born as he was flying home. Having been in that situation myself I know how he felt. I was on my way home from China when my little girl was born but I managed to burst through the doors just in time for the exciting bit!

I’m really looking forward to the new racing season. For any driver who is part of a manufacturer programme you know you’re not going to be in for a bad year as things are done properly. We have a busy programme ahead of us with WEC, a couple of VLN races, the Nürburgring 24 Hours and most likely a couple of Blancpain GT races. This is now my 11th year with Aston Martin Racing so I guess I’m doing alright.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of pavement pounding lately as I decided it was time for me to have another crack at the London Marathon. I’m a patron of the Born Free Foundation so I try to do one or two fundraising events for them each year. I’m thinking I might even train properly this time. Last time I ran a marathon my longest training run was 13 miles, which I only admitted after the race of course. I didn’t hit the wall but my feet did – they totally fell apart. Turns out preparation is quite important so I’m hoping my training will toughen up my feet so I can get round in under four hours.

I can’t wait for March as it’s the 73rd Members Meeting at Goodwood and I’m delighted my little Turner has an entry again. She made her debut last year and had a wonderful time, despite being a bit slow. I upgraded to a Swiftune engine for the Revival and went six seconds a lap faster. I’ve been tinkering over the winter but the more we pull the rear apart the scarier it is. Since I’ve owned the car it hasn’t had a full rebuild so we’re doing it a bit at a time. At the moment I’ve got the rear axle out and how it has all stayed together is beyond me! I’m getting it all sorted now – I’m not sure I’ll find another six seconds – but at least she’ll stay in one piece.

On a final note, I was reading some comments from Derek Bell recently where he was saying that GT drivers should get out the way of the prototype drivers. Well, as you can imagine I have an opinion on that subject. What rubbish! We’re out there doing our own race so why should the onus be on us to get out the way of the prototypes? The beauty of endurance racing is that it is multi-class and each class has equal right to be there. At some point I have to concentrate on driving my car on the limit and once I’ve committed to the corner it’s very difficult to change direction to make an opening for a P1 car that has decided to fire itself up the inside. I’ve been in P1 and seen both sides and both sides need to be aware of the other. No way should there be a ruling saying we get out of their way. And where would you stop as there are P2 cars too, some of which have amateur drivers in them.

I’ll hop down off my soapbox now as I’m off to Daytona for the 24-hour race. See you next month!

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