While most IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge drivers in attendance for this week’s test at Sebring have raced or tested at the iconic circuit previously, it’s a whole new experience for Dutch driver Indy Dontje.
But that’s not stopping him from making an early first impression in the GS class.
Driving the No. 57 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4, Dontje unofficially posted one of the top five times in Tuesday’s morning practice session, the first of three scheduled for the Continental Tire Challenge across two days.
“I got my rhythm and put a good lap time together and it’s quite bumpy in some places, but it’s a nice, quick track and I think this will suit the Mercedes a bit more than Daytona,” said Dontje.
“I was really happy with my pace and I’m really excited to be here in Sebring. I’ve heard a lot of stories about it, so I wanted to know the track and see and hear everything.”
As of now, Sebring is one of four races in 2018 that Dontje will contest for Winward/HTP.
His first was the BMW Endurance Challenge last month at Daytona in which he and co-driver Bryce Ward brought home a fifth-place finish.
His background includes go-karts, Formula 4, Formula 3 and then GT racing in GT3 endurance races and ADAC GT Masters.
Dontje was approached by HTP to test the new Mercedes GT4 in 2017 and made his U.S. debut at the 24-hour race at Circuit of The Americas last October.
“Sometimes it’s a bit difficult if you look at regulations, and I experienced everything at Daytona,” said Dontje, on adjusting to racing in the United States compared to Europe.
“The team itself, it’s good because we have a partnership with HTP, so there are some European mechanics here with me…We have a sort of mixture of all the guys we have the experienced guys from Europe, we have the experienced guys from the U.S. It’s cool, you know?”
And to help with any learning curve that comes with driving the American circuits, Dontje has already found his go-to guy.
“Sometimes I use the experience of (teammate) Damien (Faulkner),” said Dontje. “He’s an experienced guy here, so sometimes if I felt like I have a big question, I ask him because he knows his way around.”