Alex Lynn - 6 Hours of Spa
Winning the LMP2 class in the Spa round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is really, really cool. What can I say? I had such a good feeling going into the weekend. I felt that everyone at the G-Drive Racing team had really done their homework and got their heads down since the opening round at Silverstone, because that had been a disappointing race for us.
We had a test at Magny-Cours last week, which included a night-time tyre test as preparation for next month’s Le Mans 24 Hours. I could feel everyone was very focused and it was a very successful test. The tyres were good, our ORECA-Gibson car felt great, and I thought I was driving well – that reflected in our speed, which was very strong compared to the others. I really thought there was no excuse not to win at Spa.
Through free practice at Spa on Thursday we focused a lot on the race, with my team-mates Pierre Thiriet and Roman Rusinov doing most of the driving. But it’s my job to be on it straight away, and there are only ever going to be tenths between me and the other pros, so giving me more mileage to chip a couple of tenths off isn’t really going to make much difference. Giving Pierre and Roman the maximum time in the car possible was a great plan and they were both going really well, and that gave everyone confidence.
Because we focused so much on the race, that possibly played against me a little in qualifying and I couldn’t repeat what I did at Silverstone with the overall fastest time. But Pierre did a good lap and our averages gave us pole, so that was very satisfying – everything had gone to plan.
Roman started the race in our car. He looked a bit nervous on the grid so I just told him, ‘Mate, it doesn’t matter at all. Just bring the car home – that’s all that matters.’ And wow: he did a brilliant job, driving away from the pack. It was only in his second stint that he lost the lead because of tyre degradation. The main thing is he did exactly what we wanted, bringing the car home within touching distance of the lead.
I took over at the wheel and caught up Julien Canal in the Rebellion Racing car and Alex Brundle in the Jackie Chan DC Racing car, and we leapfrogged them at the next pit stops. Then I pulled away from them. We weren’t really worried about Alex because we knew one of his co-drivers lacks a bit of experience, so my focus was on how big a gap I could pull on Julien before I handed over to Pierre. Over my two stints I gained 25 seconds and from my side I was a bit disappointed with that, but that was mainly because Canal was driving so well.
Pierre did a great job against Nico Prost, who was now in the Rebellion car, and he was within a few seconds of Prost when he handed our car back to me. We were two hours from the finish, and I knew Bruno Senna would get in the Rebellion car and technically there should be nothing between us on pace – this was going to be close. I was leading at the penultimate stops when Rebellion lost over a minute taping down their aerial, which had worked loose – for them that must have been just as annoying as our door not shutting was for us at Silverstone!
Now I was a minute ahead, but I had to triple-stint my tyres, holding the gap constant without taking anything out of the rubber. If I did that, I could control the race and bring it home, which I did. Overall I drove 90 laps in the race and it was a massive pleasure, especially coming away with the win. Even if it looked quite comfortable, it was a dramatic race and six hours whizzed past so quickly, because for most of the time we were on a knife-edge of dropping behind on strategy or on the track. But we did it, and I have to give massive credit to Roman, Pierre and all the G-Drive boys. Bring on Le Mans!
Alex Lynn – Nurburgring 24 Hours Qualification Race
I’ve just finished my first race in a GT3 car on the awesome 25-kilometre Nurburgring Nordschleife, sharing a BMW M6 GT3 with Antonio Felix da Costa, and we finished eighth. That’s not bad for a couple of circuit rookies, and I’m really happy that it puts us in good shape heading into next month’s Nurburgring 24 Hours.
This was the Qualification Race for the 24 Hours, and I joined the famous Schnitzer Motorsport team, who are legendary among BMW fans and who I’ll be doing the 24 Hours with. Antonio had already done the first two four-hour VLN rounds of the season on the Nordschleife in an M6, whereas I’d done them in a much-slower M235i in order to get my licence to race a GT3 car on the circuit, so Antonio came to the race much more up-to-speed than I was.
Those VLN races have about 200 cars whereas this Qualification Race was ‘only’ about 100, and quite a lot of those 100 are the quick GT3 and GT4 cars. To be honest, the act of qualifying for the 24 Hours was a formality, but a top-30 position does give you the right to have a blue light for the big race itself, which alerts all the slower cars that the big boys are coming. Apart from that it’s more of a test race, getting some experience, with about half the cars on track that you’ll get in the 24 Hours.
Testing and practice went well, and we had a long qualifying session that went into the night, which was quite important for me and Antonio. Then Antonio did the qualifying for grid positions and put the car 12th on the grid. From my side, it was my first run around the Nordschleife in the GT3 car and the first time I was able to attack it without having to worry about getting my licence. There was a lot of learning, but I was pretty happy with what I achieved.
Antonio did the first stint and had a fantastic start to go from 12th into the top five on the first lap – typical Antonio! He did quite a short stint and then I got in. I was on old tyres so I lost some places, but when I got new tyres at the next stop it was much better, and things carried on improving. It’s mental – new tyres give you 10 seconds a lap without you even feeling as though you’re driving any faster! In the end I drove for four of the six hours, because the team wanted me to get as much experience in the car as possible as preparation for the 24 Hours.
It was just an amazing experience, and I’m really enjoying the family atmosphere not only at the Schnitzer team but within BMW as a whole. All my team-mates have been very supportive, and those with experience have gone out of their way to be helpful. When you’ve got people like Marco Wittmann and Martin Tomczyk around you, both of whom are legends in German racing, you can’t really go wrong – they’re the kinds of guys you draw a lot from. Also, Timo Scheider and Augusto Farfus will be joining Antonio and I in our car for the 24 Hours, so that will also be a massive boost.
As far as the driving was concerned, I thought this after night qualifying, and it was reiterated in the race, after spending a lot of time in big gaggles of GT3 cars fighting it out while we lapped slower machinery: you think you’re a racing driver, but you’re not a proper racing driver until you’ve done this. The Nordschleife is a very humbling track. You think you’ve got skills until you come up against these guys, and you start getting passed. But then one stint later you’re up to speed and you’re being as aggressive as they are.
My last two stints were a big step for me. I think we should have finished sixth, but we lost out on strategy and that put me at the bottom of the top 10 when I climbed back in to bring the car to the finish. But I made up time, and did a lap in 8m18s, which was only one second off the fastest BMW time of the race. On the last lap I grabbed eighth by diving down the inside of a Porsche at the Dunlop Kurve – there was a light bit of contact but it was cool: my first-ever proper GT move!
I nearly caught the BMW in front of me for seventh but that’s not the important thing. We went there, learned, and now I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I write this, but I don’t see any reason why we don’t have a good chance for the 24 Hours.
WEC Silverstone Review
In any form of racing you can get scuppered when you have a really good chance of winning. And that happened to G-Drive Racing today at Silverstone in the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. But what makes it so frustrating is that it was a door not shutting properly that cost us.
We went to the Silverstone 6 Hours in good spirits. From the start of free practice we were all on form – me and my co-drivers Roman Rusinov and Pierre Thiriet. Everyone felt confident and that was cemented in qualifying when we set pole position. Qualifying in the WEC is decided by an average of the times set by the two nominated drivers. I was hugely satisfied to set the fastest ever lap of Silverstone in an LMP2 car, and Pierre did his job really well too to give us the pole. I did really want to set the fastest lap in the category, and it’s a credit to the team because the car was fantastic. It also gave us the overnight championship lead, because there’s a point for pole!
I made a good start and got away in the lead, but obviously we started behind the LMP1 cars that were fighting for overall victory, and one of the Porsches seemed to have a boost issue. It braked very early and almost spun right in front of me, and Nicolas Lapierre and Bruno Senna were able to pass me. I chased Bruno until the pit stops and we were able to get ahead of him during the stops. That put us up to second, and I hunted down Lapierre. From 15 seconds back, I was literally two seconds behind when the door opened, and we were forced to come into the pits to fix it.
That put us a lap behind and fighting to get in the top six. Pierre and Roman both did a good job, and then I got in again. There was still a slight chance of a win if I could unlap myself, because a shunt might bring out a safety car and put us back in the game. I really got into a rhythm, pulling away from Senna – who was a lap ahead of us – and the car was fantastic. We finally got back on the lead lap, but it was too little too late. We ended up finishing fifth in class, which on the one hand is good because it’s nice to have the points, but on the other hand is so frustrating.
In terms of pace it was a great weekend, but what can you do? If the door doesn’t shut, you’re not going to win it! It’s one of those silly, trivial problems, and I can’t believe we lost a race because of it. But it does mean that we go to Spa for the next round knowing that if everything goes as it should we hope to be at or near the top by the finish.
In the meantime, it’s back to the Nurburgring next weekend with BMW Team Schnitzer for the 24 Hours Qualification race in the M6 GT3. I’m really looking forward to racing a GT3 car on the amazing Nordschleife circuit for the first time – it’s going to be a brilliant experience and build-up to the 24 Hours itself.
Alex Lynn – WEC Silverstone preview
The days are counting down now to the start of my first full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, which begins with the Silverstone 6 Hours this weekend. I’m really excited to be joining the G-Drive Racing team to race their ORECA in the LMP2 class. But to say this is the start of my season as a driver would be false – it’s been flat-out over the past month!
Of course, I had the amazing experience in March of winning the Sebring 12 Hours in the States with Ricky and Jordan Taylor, and then it was straight into preparation for my debut in the Nurburgring 24 Hours next month with BMW. In order to get my A licence to race a GT3 car on the Nordschleife, I had to do two four-hour VLN races at the track in a BMW M235i Cup car. The main positive point was that I’ve now got my licence, which was more difficult than I probably realised. You’ve got to do 18 racing laps over the two races, and if you crash or even speed in yellow-flag sections then they take points away for your licence. They have unconventional rules at the Nordschleife, so to get my licence is a weight off my mind.
The circuit is a driver’s paradise – it really is. I’ve been fortunate enough that every day I’ve done so far has been in the dry, but I doubt I’ll be that lucky at the 24 Hours…
After the first VLN race, I flew out to Mexico City to do the shakedown session for the Formula E race with the DS Virgin Racing team. The car’s regular driver, Jose Maria Lopez, was at the Monza Prologue test for the WEC and had to fly in just before free practice, so I got to warm the car up. That was cool and I really enjoyed being part of a Formula E race weekend. Everything went to plan, I got the car back nice and safely and I set a decent pace too. Jose Maria has to miss the New York races in July because of a clash with the Nurburgring WEC round, so I’m really looking forward to racing the car there.
Then it was back to the Nurburgring for my second VLN race, and before that I got to drive the Nordschleife in the BMW M6 GT3 car for the first time. It was just a case of starting the learning process of that car on that track. It’s a hell of a lot easier in the M6 than the M235i, which is quite weird and funny. The M6 is an out-and-out race car, while the 235 is a modified road car. I’m doing the 24 Hours with the famous Schnitzer team alongside Antonio Felix da Costa and Timo Scheider, which is great, and that can’t come soon enough!
But for now it’s Silverstone. I really do think there’s a strong chance of a podium or even a win. Every car in LMP2 has to have a silver-rated driver – which is either an amateur or an up-and-coming driver who hasn’t yet proved himself in international races. Our silver driver is Pierre Thiriet, and he’s the best silver on the grid. Our other driver is Roman Rusinov – like Pierre he’s raced these cars for a while now and his performance is better and better in the latest generation of LMP2. I had to miss the Monza Prologue test because I was in Mexico, but Pierre and Roman were fourth and fifth quickest of every LMP2 driver – behind only some platinum-rated guys. So I’m very optimistic we’re in with a good shout.
The car I raced at Sebring was kind of LMP2, but the Gibson engine we use in WEC is a lot peakier than the rumbling Cadillac we have in the States, and the Dunlop tyres give better performance than the Continentals in America. Because of that, I’m glad I did the three-day test at Motorland Aragon with G-Drive before Sebring. We got a fair few laps in and some good experience, and obviously with my other activities I’m up to race sharpness already.
I’m really excited. I absolutely love Silverstone – it’s my favourite track and I think this is going to be a top weekend and a great way to start the WEC season.
Sebring 12 Hours
Victory on my first attempt at the Sebring 12 Hours… Well, I was dreaming of a win but, in the run-up to the race, all I knew was we had a good chance, and that we could obviously do it. But this IS a dream. I’m really happy – it surpassed all my expectations.
I joined Wayne Taylor Racing for Sebring and Petit Le Mans in October. These are two of the classic endurance races, and so is the Daytona 24 Hours, which the team won in January. On that occasion, Wayne’s sons Ricky and Jordan Taylor – both of whom are top endurance drivers in their own right – were driving with sportscar superstar Max Angelelli and NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon in the brand-new Cadillac DPi-V.R. This time I was sharing with Jordan and Ricky. So effectively, I was replacing Max and Jeff – no pressure then!
We had a good test at Sebring a couple of weeks ago, and then free practice was good. We topped the second session and were second in the third. But we had a car issue in qualifying, when Ricky drove, and there was a bit of a wrong decision on tyre pressures and stuff, but we still felt good for the race.
Our biggest concern was we didn’t have enough straight-line speed. Daytona boiled down to a fight between our #10 Cadillac and the #5 Cadillac of Action Express Racing, so they limited the air restrictor on the Cadillacs after the race, and then did it again after the Sebring test… So at the 12 Hours the Cadillac definitely wasn’t the quickest car, but it turned into a battle once again between us and the #5, purely because of reliability and strategy.
The first great bit of strategy by our team was under an early safety car. Ricky had started the race, but everyone pitted and I was told to keep Ricky’s tyres and double-stint once I’d climbed aboard. This gave us an extra fresh set from our allocation to use late in the race, and proved crucial in the final stages. With the way the field shuffled out after the pit stops, I was in the middle of the pack, in third place, with a massive horde of GT cars all in front of our very fast Prototypes. It was complete carnage!
The biggest problem is there are no tyre warmers in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, which this was a round of. I’m used to that from single-seaters, but in a sportscar you struggle a bit on cold tyres – the car is really knife-edgy. I dropped from third place to fifth, because I knew I was on Ricky’s tyres, the others were on brand-new, and I know that makes a good one-second difference on lap time. There was no point fighting.
That early strategy call put me onto a triple-stint, and at my first stop I got new tyres and the pace improved dramatically. I was up to third again, but now I was behind the #85 ORECA and that had about 6-7mph straight-line speed advantage on us. It was so difficult to find a way past, especially when it wasn’t that necessary. I did pass in the end, just before I pitted and Jordan jumped in.
The other tactical masterstroke came just before my remaining double-stint. We’d been getting better fuel mileage than the #5 car, and when the safety car came out the team pulled our car in, knowing that we’d have less fuel to put in and we could leapfrog the #5 in the pits. The engineer pulled me to one side and said we were doing this to gain track position. I said, ‘So, you’re suggesting I stay ahead at all cost?’ and he said, ‘Well… yeah!’ So I did a double-stint balls to the wall. For most of the race we’d been about 30 seconds behind, but now this was a powerplay to get us in front. It was a great call by the team, and first I was leading Christian Fittipaldi and then, after we pitted, it was Filipe Albuquerque who’d taken over the car and was on my tail.
Filipe got past me when I caught a GT car at the wrong time – there really is no quarter given. But then the same thing happened to them later on and we were back in front.
Even the following morning, as I write this I’m emotionally drained. It was just a really good race and a great result. I’d just like to say a big thankyou to Wayne Taylor Racing – they and the Cadillac were fantastic, and Ricky and Jordan drove an amazing race. It’s just… a dream!
That’s especially the case because, as I said in my last blog, the Lynn family are big sportscar bobble-hats! I called my dad, who was racing at Goodwood, and he was extremely proud and so am I. He’s done Sebring before in a Ferrari, so it was a special moment: I’ve added my name to a list of British winners of Sebring that includes Sir Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and John Surtees and, more recently, Johnny Herbert and Anthony Davidson. Just before writing this, I’ve watched my dad finish third at Goodwood in his AC Cobra with Emanuele Pirro on the live stream, so it’s been a great weekend for the family!
Now it’s a quick change before heading to the Nurburgring for my first taste of the legendary 16-mile Nordschleife in next weekend’s VLN race. That’s a warm-up for the 24 Hours, which I’m doing with BMW. Next weekend I’m in an M235i just to get my licence to race on the circuit, but that’s certainly a daunting challenge and I’m excited to see how we get on.
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