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.
GP2 Has Marina review
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was my final appearance in the GP2 Series, and what a great way to bow out. I won the last race of the season, pretty much untroubled at the front, and was delighted to finish on a high note after two years with the DAMS team.
My weekend started well, with second fastest in free practice. But although we were second I don’t think we felt that would be achievable in the qualifying session. I felt we weren’t quite as strong as the lap times suggested, and that proved to be the case.
It was a scrappy qualifying session in terms of traffic. Also, I don’t think I quite maximised the session, even if I wasn’t far away from the maximum. It was a struggle to get front-end grip into the super-soft tyre, and there wasn’t a lot left in the car beyond what I managed, which gave me ninth place on the grid.
For the feature race we went for a long run on the medium ‘prime’ tyre before switching to the super-softs. That meant that after those who’d started on super-softs went into the pits I was up into second place, albeit a long way behind Nobuharu Matsushita. I lacked a bit of pace compared to Matsushita, and also we had a dodgy pit stop that possibly cost me sixth place. The right-front wheel went on, but the nut flew out of the wheelgun, and that scuppered our chances. But to be fair to DAMS, all year their pit stops have been mega, mega fast and overall it was our pace that let us down most.
That meant I finished eighth, which gave me reversed-grid pole position for Sunday. That’s never what you aim for, but when you’re in that situation you just make the most of it. I was quite nervous because I was on the medium tyres, but the guys had made a massive improvement on the balance of the car overnight and our pace was much better.
I knew Sergey Sirotkin had got up to second place and I thought for a long time that he was going to be on my case, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the gap opening. I had to make sure I kept pushing hard, because with that tyre you have to keep it hot to keep it in the operating window. If you stop pushing, they lose temperature and you can’t switch them on anymore.
So it was a brilliant sendoff after working for two years with the DAMS guys in GP2, and my third win of the year also boosted me nicely up the championship table to sixth place. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending really. Also, I was so happy to see my friend Pierre Gasly, my DAMS team-mate from 2015, win the championship. He’s been the dominant driver and deserves it. Hats off to him, and I’m so glad to have been there when he did it.
I’d also like to say thankyou to the folks from my sponsor Terra Firma who were here this weekend supporting me. I hope I gave them something to cheer about, and I’m sure that with the way the Formula 1 finale panned out they had an exciting time!
That’s it for now. It’s been an exciting two years with DAMS and I’d like to say thanks for everything they’ve done, before looking ahead to 2017…
GP2 Yas Marina preview
The final round of the GP2 Series season is coming up for me and the DAMS team this weekend, supporting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit. I’m here already, just taking a quick opportunity to chill out and write this blog. I only had a 45-minute flight to get here so I’ve been here a couple of days – that’s because I came straight from Bahrain, where I was racing in the last round of the World Endurance Championship.
It’s been several weeks since the most recent GP2 round in Malaysia, but I’ve filled that time racing in the WEC, first at Fuji in Japan, then Shanghai in China, and finally Bahrain. I was racing in the LMP2 class with the Manor team, and it’s been really good. I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s so different to GP2.
The LMP2 class is the one behind the super-fast factory LMP1 class. One of the rules of LMP2 is that each car has to have a ‘silver’-rated driver, which is usually either an amateur or a young guy who hasn’t yet proved himself at an international level. Because those of us who you might call professionals are so evenly matched, that means the result is heavily down to the silver. So as a ‘platinum’ driver, my focus has been on doing the best job I can individually. I’ve been really happy with what I’ve done, and hopefully it will lead to some good things for the future. We’ll see what that brings.
Back to GP2, and you may be surprised to hear that, even though I’ve been concentrating on WEC, I’ve somehow managed to squeeze in a day of preparation for Abu Dhabi at the DAMS base in Le Mans. It’s been a long time since Malaysia so it was important we got this done, and I’m encouraged by what we learned at DAMS. I’m coming into the weekend keeping an open mind and I’m just going to try to do my best and have a good final weekend in GP2.
Last year we were very fast. So many times last year the pace was good but we didn’t get good results. If you remember, in Abu Dhabi I was in the leading group but my tyres were finished, and the virtual safety car was called, preventing me from coming into the pits. I managed to get back up the order to finish eighth, which put me on pole for the reversed-grid race. I took the lead at the start of that, and was looking really good for the win, when there was a massive pile-up that took so long to clear that they had to abandon the race…
So my main concentration this weekend is on being fast and getting as close to the pace as we can. Yas Marina is a difficult circuit to overtake on, so qualifying is crucial – it doesn’t lend itself to the most exciting races but it is cool to come here. We do qualifying and the feature race in the evening under the floodlights, which is a nice touch. That makes Abu Dhabi not only a special place to come to but a very nice place to race.
We’re running the medium tyre for the prime and the super-soft for the option. That’s a big split and only really possible because we’ll be doing our super-soft stuff in the cooler evenings. That tyre degrades very quickly even in the evening, as we found out last year, and even making it to six laps, the earliest you can come in for a pit stop, is a challenge in itself. If we had the feature race in the usual afternoon slot, the super-softs would be like spreading butter on the track! So it definitely adds a spicy element to the race.
I just hope that works to my advantage this weekend rather than against me as it did last year. We’ve had a disappointing season at DAMS, and I’m ninth in the points, but some good results would leave me with an outside shot at a top-five position. I’ll be going all-out for a great end to the year and to sign off in style.
GP2 Sepang Review
I had a really good race in the GP2 Series supporting the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang to finish fourth, which is a welcome upturn in form for us bearing in mind the difficult summer the DAMS team have had.
It was even more of a relief bearing in mind the difficult start we had to the weekend. We were 10th in free practice on Thursday, and the times were not competitive, so we had quite a lot of work to do overnight to make the car quicker in time for qualifying on Friday.
We managed to change the car balance quite a lot, and I was quite happy to qualify sixth. OK, the Prema cars of Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi had their usual advantage, but it was pretty close behind. I got the maximum out of myself and the car, and I was just under two tenths off the fastest non-Prema car, so it’s not at all bad. Considering where we were the day before that was a big upgrade in form.
I had quite a reasonable first lap to the feature race on Saturday and got up to fifth, among a lot of toing and froing as everyone battled for position. We went for the tactic to start on the option tyres – which in this case was the medium Pirelli – and switch to the prime (the hard), which is increasingly becoming the faster way to do things in GP2 bearing in mind the lack of tyre degradation we’ve been having this year.
The stop went well and I was fifth by the time everyone had been in. From that point on I got into a really nice scrap with my old Formula Renault UK team-mate Oliver Rowland. Now, I’d say we’ve got to know each other’s characteristics pretty well over the years, and we had four or five laps with places constantly changing before I got the position. We touched a couple of times but it was all very clean, and for the watching fans hopefully it provided some entertainment!
It was a good fight, and good fun. And from where we are at the moment in terms of pace it was nice to finish fourth.
And that, really, was it for the weekend. I just sunk backwards in the shorter sprint race on Sunday. Starting from fifth I was down to 11th at the end of the first lap and I finished 12th. To be honest, something wasn’t quite right with our tyres. It was very strange – we didn’t change anything on the car and I’m the same driver as I was the day before, but I just didn’t have any grip.
It’s a bit of an anomaly, and as a team we’ve got to do a lot of homework. It was similar to what happened to Gasly in the first race – just an unexplainable lack of pace on one set of tyres.
That’s it for several weeks before the final GP2 round in Abu Dhabi, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to my debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship at Fuji on 16th October, where I’ll be racing a Manor ORECA in LMP2 with Shinji Nakano – who was an F1 points scorer back in the day – and Tor Graves. Japan is a country I’ve always had a lot of fascination for – I’ve only raced there once, in the Asia-Pacific Karting Championship at Suzuka, and I was a lot younger back then!
It’s a new challenge for me and something I’m very excited about, and it’s something I’ll tell you more about in the coming days.
I'm also working with a new partner, Fracino, the UK's award-winning manufacturer of world class cappuccino and espresso coffee machines, and I'm looking forward to taking delivery of my coffee machine when I return to the UK this week.
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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