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.
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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