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.
Alex Lynn - Season Preview
After seven seasons in single-seaters, I set my sights towards the end of last year on becoming a professional racing driver in 2017. It’s paid off big time! I’ve got three deals confirmed already, there’s a strong chance of a fourth, and it all begins with my debut in the famous Sebring 12 Hours next week.
You may remember I did some races in the FIA World Endurance Championship towards the end of last year. But before that I’d gone out to Austin, where I met Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli from Wayne Taylor Racing at the joint WEC/IMSA SportsCar event. They then kept an eye on my performances in the WEC races, and it also helped that Max has really strong ties with Angelo and Rene Rosin of Prema Powerteam, who I drove for in Formula 3 in 2013.
In January this year I went to Daytona for the pre-race test, where we agreed on a deal, and the contract was signed a few weeks later. In the meantime, Max won the Daytona 24 Hours with Wayne’s sons Ricky and Jordan, together with Jeff Gordon. Effectively, I replace Max, who’s retiring, alongside Ricky and Jordan at Sebring and in the Petit Le Mans race in October.
It was great to get that deal done. Sebring is a highlight of the endurance season, and I’m very lucky in one sense because we’re going there with a great chance of victory. I couldn’t ask for anything better – a great car, a great team and great team-mates.
I tried the Cadillac DPi-V.R a couple of weeks ago at the Sebring test, and I thought it was a fantastic car. It felt like a big step above the LMP2 car I raced in WEC last year. It’s a big old engine – a 6.3-litre V8 – and that makes it very driveable. There’s so much usable engine power whereas in most European racing you’re in a very narrow power band. It was a pleasure to drive, and as you’d expect the chassis – which is made by Dallara – is phenomenal. I finished off the test by topping the last session, so that was great!
Sebring is famously bumpy but what you really underestimate is the technicalities. It’s got surface changes – from concrete to Tarmac – and then off-camber to on-camber. There’s clay on the corner exits and that gets dragged onto the track by the GT cars. I can imagine why it’s difficult to even finish there because it’s so easy to make mistakes.
The other cool thing is that throughout my childhood, sportscar racing was my dad’s passion – and still is. He’s got a fascination for original race posters and over the house there are about a hundred of them – from Le Mans, Sebring and other classic sportscar races. I call him a bobble-hat and it’s been ingrained in me too!
After Sebring, the following weekend I’m at the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife for my first race in the VLN as a BMW factory driver. It’s something to be really proud about, to join BMW for what is their biggest GT race of the season: the Nurburgring 24 Hours. And before I do that I’m doing three ‘warm-up’ races: two rounds of the VLN and the 24 Hours Qualification Race.
There’s no doubt that BMW are going all guns blazing to get a great result, and I just have to work hard and get on the pace – and hopefully get close to setting the pace. It’ll be my first taste of the Nordschleife, but I’ve already tested the BMW M6 GT3 at Paul Ricard to get a feel for the car – I wouldn’t want to be doing that and learning a 16-mile monster-track at the same time! It’s extremely well-sorted, so driver-friendly, and I hear it’s a mega car at the Nurburgring.
Straight after that, I’m off to Mexico City with the DS Virgin Racing Formula E team. Effectively I’m the standby driver for Jose Maria Lopez, who won’t be able to make the Friday shakedown because he has commitments with the Toyota WEC team. His plane is due to land two and a half hours before first practice on Saturday morning, so I’ll be praying ever so slightly that his plane is cancelled, in which case I’ll be racing!
Formula E is the electric single-seater series, which is growing massively. Lots of good young drivers are in it and it’s great to be part of it. I’m doing simulator and development work for DS Virgin in the background, and it looks like even if I don’t race in Mexico, I will race in New York in July because Jose Maria has a WEC date clash. It’s the first time in New York for Formula E, it will be a showpiece event and it’s a double-header, so I’ll get double the track time. It’s just one of so many cool places Formula E is going to and I’m really excited about it.
2017-04 Nurburgring 24 Hours Quallification
2017-04 WEC Silverstone Review
2017-04 WEC Silverstone Preview
2017-03 Sebring Review
2017-03 Season Preview
2016-11 GP2 Yas Marina Review
2016-11 GP2 Yas Marina Preview
2016-10 GP2 Sepang Review
2016-09 GP2 Sepang Preview
2016-09 GP2 Monza Review
2016-09 GP2 Monza Preview
2016-08 GP2 Spa Review
2016-08 GP2 Spa Preview
2016-07 GP2 Hockenheim Review
2016-07 GP2 Hockenheim Preview
2016-07 GP2 Hungaroring Review
2016-07 GP2 Hungaroring Preview
2016-07 Silverstone F1 Test
2016-07 Silverstone Review
2016-07 Silverstone Preview
2016-07 Red Bull Ring Review
2016-06 GP2 Baku Review
2016-06 GP2 Baku Preview
2016-05 Monte Carlo Review
2016-05 Monte Carlo Preview
2016-05 F1 Testing
2016-05 Barcelona GP2 Review
2016-05 Barcelona Preview
2016-05 Williams Testing
2016-03 Jerez Testing Report
2016-03 Pre-season Report
2016-02 Williams Announcement
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