Alice Powell believes her successful season in the W Series helped her on the road to securing her IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut this weekend.
The British driver, who won the W Series finale at Brands Hatch to finish third in the standings, is preparing for her first major GT appearance, in which she will drive the No. 57 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo at Virginia International Raceway.
Powell will share driving duties with compatriot Katherine Legge, having been called into the MSR-operated Heinricher Racing team in place of Bia Figueiredo.
Her last full-season drive before the women-only W Series launched this year came back in 2014, when she contested the Asian Formula Renault series as a national racing graduate.
“The W Series has obviously helped so much in terms of getting publicity and getting us girls into the public eye,” Powell told Sportscar365.
“Who knows – would I have been contacted by the team to race if I wasn’t in the W Series? I would probably say not.
“You could say that the W Series has been a help in terms of getting my name back out there.
“The experience of being in W Series is certainly going to help me, because the F3 cars are powerful and not easy to drive, and I know the GT3 car is also going to be powerful and not easy to drive.
“The two will go together nicely, but they are very different cars. The F3 car doesn’t have ABS and traction control, so just getting used to those things is going to be the tricky part.”
Powell admitted that she has a steep learning curve ahead of her IMSA debut, after the deal to drive with MSR came about at relative short notice.
“[The drive was sealed] probably only about four weeks ago, so it’s turned around very quick,” she explained.
“I’ve been back in the motorsport public eye now because of racing in the W Series. I had some good results in that, apart from a couple of races in the middle of the season, but the team got in contact with me and we talked about the drive.
“I was really keen to find out more and the ball started rolling. It all came together extremely quickly.
“To be out there racing in the IMSA series, and with such a great team, it’s awesome. It’s just been a bit of a whirlwind, really. It’s all come about so quickly.”
Powell has contested one endurance race before, in 2015 when she drove a previous-gen Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the 24 Hours of Silverstone.
She hopes memories of that experience will help her in the transition to GT3 competition, racing in the competitive GT Daytona field.
“When I did the 24-hour race at Silverstone, my stints were quite long. It was about just keeping consistent and managing the traffic well, and I think that’s going to be really important [in IMSA],” she said.
“Obviously it was many years ago now, nearly five years – that experience has helped me, but I just need to remember as much of it as possible.
“I had a few laps in [the Acura] before but I think it was a maximum of about 20 laps, if that, so I’ve had a very limited amount of time in the car.
“To learn the car as quickly as possible, I just need to prepare as best as I can.”
Powell hopes to get up to speed quickly with the help of Legge, who has been a regular in the WeatherTech Championship since its first season in 2014 and has raced at each event this year.
“I’ll be learning from her about the car and the track because I’m sure she’s done plenty of laps around there,” she suggested.
“And also, just adapting to the long game, instead of a short 30-minute race. There are no LMP cars there that weekend, but I’m also going to have slightly faster cars in the other class as well.
“It’s just going to be about managing that, the traffic, and just keeping the car there into the last 45 minutes of the race when it becomes a sprint to the end.
“If I do well here in IMSA, then hopefully it will open a few doors to continue in the series, which I’d love to do.”