One of the very best professional drivers produced from British shores in the last decade. Surprisingly the Phoenix Racing driver will be making his first appearance at Silverstone since 2006 but is adamant that he and his team mates – Harold Primat and Christopher Haase will fight for a top result next weekend.
How much are you looking forward to Silverstone?
“Well we had a reasonable start at Monza, we knew it was going to be difficult on there because the straightline speed is not the strongest aspect for us. But yes, it is always great to race in the UK, I did not have too many opportunities to race there in the last few years, especially at Silverstone. I don’t think I have driven there since British Formula Three, which was back in 2006. I haven’t driven on the new Grand-Prix track yet, so there is going to be some learning to do for me as well.”
“I won’t get the chance to go in a simulator before the race; I am learning just on watching onboard footage which you can find on-line. For me it is important to know the track really well, and I usually go around it either by foot or on a scooter beforehand. You can see things that quite often you don’t see in the car, so it is very valuable.”
You can pick up little track secrets you don’t see from the cockpit, really?
“Yes, indeed. You can see changes in the actual make-up of the surface, different patches on the tarmac which can have a big say in how you approach the lap. A track walk is always the best solution when you can find the time and the opportunity. It is also good to see how ‘rubbered-in’ the circuit is and if it is particularly ‘green’ in certain areas.”
In terms of competition, it is going to suit different cars at different times this season isn’t it? How do you think Silverstone might differ from Monza for the Audi R8 LMS ultra?
“Well, I like to think that we are going to be much stronger from Silverstone onwards with our Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra. From what we have seen in the past, I expect Silverstone to suit the Audi much more. Let’s not underestimate our competition there, because the Blancpain Endurance Series is so competitive this year and with such a variety of machinery. It makes it fascinating, for the drivers, the teams, and also the spectators. I would like to think we are going to be much stronger, Silverstone is a real downforce circuit and it is probably somewhere that the Audi will excel.”
From a driver’s perspective what is it like driving an LMP car one week and then an Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 the next? How are you adjusting to those very different disciplines?
“They are completely distinct and they do need quite different driving styles too. But actually, even just sitting in the car is a change of scene, so it almost makes it easier because you instantly know you are in a different kind of machine. But indeed, it just takes a little bit of adjusting. I just need the first few laps to get the flow back in the R8 GT3 and vice-versa. You have to adapt quite quickly and it is challenging sometimes but I really enjoy driving the R8 LMS ultra and I love being part of the Blancpain Endurance Series. Monza was probably one of the most enjoyable races I have had in years because every lap, there was something going on, we were overtaking and there would be traffic…it was a ‘real’ race and very enjoyable to be in.”
At Silverstone we are going to have a lot of quality British drivers. It shows the tremendous level that the Blancpain Endurance Series is at now doesn’t it?
“Yes, it is interesting because the Blancpain Endurance Series started only two years ago but now has ‘big name’ drivers competing in it and you can see each year it is getting more and more competitive. It has the best driver line-ups of any GT series. I think it just adds another fascinating aspect to the mix of pro drivers and amateur drivers but even those who aren’t pros are still very good and I respect them all.”
Regarding the Total 24 Hours of Spa. What does that great race mean to you? How much are you looking forward to it?
“I have to say that for me it is as important as the series itself, despite being a single race. It is a race I have wanted to do for years. I have to say it was one of the real highlights of being part of the Blancpain Endurance Series line-up with Phoenix Racing. It is an incredible race and globally prestigious with unique characteristics.
“Anything can happen and it usually does at Spa, especially with the weather. It is probably one of, if not the greatest racetracks in the world. I love driving there, no matter what car I am in. The sensations that you get at Eau Rouge are like nowhere else in the world. It is going to be a tough race, everybody wants to win, and so it is all about not making mistakes and trying to keep out of trouble with so many cars and variable weather conditions.”