TIME FLIES WHEN YOU’RE HAVING FUN
When I arrived at Sebring last week I realised that it was there that we took the first ever win for Aston Martin Racing, 10 years ago! That was in the DBR9 and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the start of a big adventure for me; an adventure that I’m still having as I enter my 11th season as an Aston Martin Racing works driver.
Before Sebring I had a busy week of testing, which took me to Italy and Spain for two very different reasons. I haven’t been involved in the road car side of things before so it is a real pleasure to team up with Aston Martin to work on new projects such as GT12 and Vulcan. Off I went to Nardo in Southern Italy to work on the GT12. It’s certainly different from race car testing and I found it really interesting to work with the Aston Martin engineers on a car that is destined for the road rather than the track. I’m used to persuading engineers to set a car up so I can squeeze the last thousandth of a second out of a lap time but for this programme it’s all about getting it right for the road.
I went straight to Monteblanco in Spain for the annual Aston Martin Racing winter test after Nardo. This gets the works team together with the customer teams at a tricky little circuit that’s made up mainly of first and second gear corners. I think we learnt a lot about the Vantage GTE, some of which will give us a head start on 2016, but the majority of it was to optimise our package for the new WEC season
Life is never boring when you go racing as I found out when a surprise trip to Mumbai was thrown in before I went to Sebring. Our title sponsor, Gulf, had a promotional event there so rather than flying straight to Florida I went via Mumbai, which is quite a long way in the wrong direction! It was good to go though as I really like India - the event with Gulf was good and I had a great curry. It was a whistle-stop tour though as I landed in Mumbai in the morning and that night I was on a plane to New York, en route to Sebring.
We were probably one of the few teams that hadn’t tested at Sebring over the winter so we knew we had a bit of catching up to do. I did four or five timed laps in the first session and the balance of the car was already good so it was nice to start the weekend with a car that was there or thereabouts on set up. Our pace was good when we were on the softer of the Michelin tyre options but we struggled a bit to make the mediums work. In the race we were strong on pace and if we hadn’t had an issue early on, losing a wheel, which lost us a good few laps, we would have been in a position to fight for the podium so it’s a bit disappointing. I never have a bad time at Sebring though. Even if you’re 11 laps down if you’re out on the circuit it’s immense fun – turn one and turn 17 are just fantastic.
I’m off to the Nurburgring now for VLN 1, which means I’ve raced at two of my favourite circuits within the space of a week. I’m really looking forward to going back to the ‘Green Hell’. The last time we were there was for the 24 Hours last June so it has been a long time. The Nordschleife is such an incredible challenge; not just to remember all the corners but just to get into the groove and get a rhythm going while dealing with the huge amount of traffic, which is made up of so many different classes of cars and racing ability. At a WEC event we’re not in the fastest category so we have to look in our mirrors a lot. At VLN we’re in the quickest class so we’re always on the attack with traffic, which takes a bit of adjustment.
Oh and I understand it’s going to be wet so that’s going to be interesting…