Alex Brundle feels the continuity of remaining at Jota Sport, albeit under the Jackie Chan DC Racing banner, will pay dividends as the Brit embarks on his first full-season FIA World Endurance Championship campaign since 2013.
Last year, Brundle joined the G-Drive-supported Jota Sport LMP2 entry from Nürburgring onwards, winning the final three rounds of the season.
However, it was announced on Sunday that he will return to the new-look Jota program for the full WEC season this year, in an LMP2 effort with two Oreca 07 Gibsons backed by David Cheng’s DC Racing outfit.
“It’s Jota but under a very different guise as Jackie Chan DC Racing,” Brundle told Sportscar365.
“I have a really good relationship with Jota from what we managed to achieve at the end of last year, and also with David Cheng and the guys at DC Racing from running with them at Shanghai in ’15. And we’ve kept that relationship going.
“It’s a really exciting development for me to come back for the full World Endurance Championship season, which I haven’t done since 2013.
“All of the previous times that I’ve been in the WEC, it’s been very much kind of, ‘jump in this, jump in that’, and just, ‘get in and do your best.’
“It’s going to be great to finally go through the whole testing process and preparation process like everybody else and see what that does for me in terms of performance.”
The 26-year-old is set to join Tristan Gommendy and team owner Cheng in the No. 37 Oreca, while Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung will pilot the sister No. 38 car.
While some of his new teammates have recent experience in Cheng’s Asian Le Mans Series program, which was run by Eurasia Motorsport, Brundle is the only driver continuing from Jota’s two-series effort last season.
“It’s nice in a way,” he said. “I didn’t know I was the only driver returning to the team, but I think returning to a team, especially a team like Jota, which has a reputation and has to retain a reputation for such high-level performance, is almost a seal of approval in some ways.
“I had a contract to do a certain number of races, and performed the way I did in those races, and they’ve [wanted] to hire me again. As far as I’m concerned, being a racing driver is a business, and repeat business is never a bad thing.
“I just take it as a feather in my cap and it’s great to know everyone’s name and come back to an organization I’m very fond of and know does a great job.”
With new-spec cars in the growing LMP2 class, which will make up almost half of the grid at Le Mans, Brundle is excited to get behind the wheel of the Oreca for the first time.
“I haven’t driven any of the new-spec LMP2 cars yet, at all,” he admitted. “This week in [Motorland] Aragon is going to be the first time I get a feel for the new cars, with more power and bigger tires, et cetera, so I’m really excited.”
Despite the class being solely made up of Orecas for the full WEC season, Brundle is confident there will be a strong level of competition with the new cars, which pose several new challenges for teams and drivers.
“In terms of the teams, it’s going to be a challenge,” he said of the all-Oreca grid. “It’s something I was quite used to last year in LMP3, where essentially you have a spec-chassis series. You really have to get down to it, and maximize the performance of the chassis.
“I think you’re still going to see differentiation in the way that the teams prepare the chassis and set up the chassis, and the way that the drivers are driving to prioritize pace early in the stint or the longevity of the tire.
“With more power, I think there is going to be an interesting change-up with regards to fuel strategy, so that’s going to be a big thing, and obviously the associated tire strategy with degradation of the rear axle associated with more power as well.
“There are a lot of developments in terms of the chassis, and it’s not going to boring, that’s for sure.”
Brundle also said that while he doesn’t have any immediate plans to return to the European Le Mans Series, in which he won the LMP3 title last year with United Autosports, he is keeping an eye on other possibilities to run alongside WEC.
“I’d love to take a trip back across the pond to America to do a little bit more more, and I’ve got half an eye on the European Le Mans Series, but right now, a full WEC program is a full-on program, and I need to make sure that I’m performing well every weekend,” he said.
“I’ve got my head into this absolutely until something supplementary comes along.”
Perhaps more importantly though, is that 2017 will mark Brundle’s race return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a two-year absence.
“I have been round La Sarthe last year on the Test Day as a reserve driver for G-Drive Racing, but I haven’t done the race for a couple of years,” he said.
“It’s great to be back for the jewel in the crown, and I’m sure I haven’t forgotten!”