James Allen says receiving the call to race DragonSpeed’s LMP1 car in the Fuji round of the FIA World Endurance Championship this weekend came as “quite a shock”.
The 22-year-old Australian, who races full-time in the European Le Mans Series LMP2 class, will share the No. 10 BR Engineering BR1 Gibson with Ben Hanley for what will be his first six-hour WEC race.
Allen found out about the LMP1 drive in July and turned his first laps in the DragonSpeed car during a one-day test at Nogaro last weekend.
“When I was at the Four Hours of Red Bull Ring, [DragonSpeed team principal] Elton Julian asked to talk to my manager,” Allen told Sportscar365.
“They went off to the DragonSpeed box and I didn’t really know anything about what was going on. Then my manager came and talked to me about it afterward – it was really quite a shock for that to come up.
“It all happened quite quickly. There was talk about it at the Red Bull Ring and then after Silverstone, they called me up and asked if I would like to drive at Fuji.”
Allen believes the last two years he spent racing in LMP2 have adequately prepared him for the step up to the leading prototype class.
He signed with Graff for his 2017 sports car debut off the back of a European junior single-seater career and went on to finish third in that year’s ELMS standings with victories at Spa and Portimao, as well as making his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut.
“I think it’ll be similar [to LMP2],” said Allen.
“The test went pretty well, Nogaro is a bit of a tight track to be driving a P1 on but I feel like I was able to adapt well to the car.
“The engine seems to have noticeably more low-end torque but apart from that it just feels like the P2 but a step faster all-round.
“I think it’ll be quite similar in terms of traffic navigation and being aware of what’s going on around me.
“I definitely feel like I have a good grasp on endurance racing in general, and the LMP2 car is quite a high horsepower and high downforce machine that’s similar to the privateer LMP1. So hopefully it’ll work out.”
Allen expects the weekend to be a full-on learning experience with a high amount of seat time projected after DragonSpeed chose to run only two drivers in Japan.
The team changed its lineup for the first ‘flyaway’ round of the season, with regular drivers Henrik Hedman and Renger van der Zande both unavailable.
“Of course, I’m a little bit nervous because it’s a track I’ve never been to before and I’ll be doing long stints in a car that’s physically tougher to drive,” he said.
“I haven’t driven Fuji a simulator, but I have played it on video games and things like that, but nothing serious.
“Overall I’m just going there to do my best, and that’s all I can do.”
2019 Program Not Yet Confirmed
When asked about his longer-term plans for next year, Allen said the situation is “a bit unclear”, although he has expressed a desire to remain in prototypes.
“It’s a bit of an unknown at the moment,” he said.
“The aim is to stay in prototypes mainly. I’ll do something else if another opportunity comes up or if I don’t have anything in place in prototypes, but the main goal is to stay where I am – in LMP2 or LMP1.
“Le Mans is definitely the main one I’ve been looking at, but I’d like to try Sebring and Daytona.
“Graff did have an opportunity to do Daytona this year, but it didn’t end up happening, unfortunately.
“I’d definitely love to go to America and do endurance racing over there, especially with the big events they have.”