Anthony Davidson says he’s facing a steep learning curve heading into his maiden LMP2 race with DragonSpeed this weekend.
The 2014 FIA World Endurance champion is making his first race appearance since last November in the No. 31 Oreca 07 Gibson with fellow ex-Formula 1 driver Pastor Maldonado and silver-rated Roberto Gonzalez.
Davidson is contracted to Toyota despite losing his LMP1 race seat to Fernando Alonso and tested for the manufacturer ahead of Le Mans, but expects to remain with DragonSpeed through to the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
The 39-year-old Brit has said he hopes to rekindle the form that saw him notch up three consecutive victories with Alonso’s current co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima at the tail end of last season.
“I feel like I was at the end of last year, winning races,” Davidson told Sportscar365.
“Hopefully, with DragonSpeed, this is about being at the right place at the right time, and the focus is to win more races.
“It’s going to be a steep learning curve but I feel with this break I’ve had, I’ll be raring to go by the time I get in the car and I’ll be enjoying it more than ever before.”
Davidson has not yet driven the DragonSpeed Oreca but he has been in regular contact with team owner Elton Julian, who has previously run Toyota-affiliated drivers Nicolas Lapierre and Ryo Hirakawa in LMP2.
He has also been in touch with Oreca, which has a partnership with Toyota, to learn about the dynamics of driving the French-built prototype.
“With the help of the Oreca team and the influence they have at Toyota, I’ve been able to speak to [ORECA technical director] David Floury and all of the staff there about the car, so it feels like I know the car quite well already,” he said.
“DragonSpeed have been really helpful at offering information on the car and getting up to speed on that, as much as you can do outside of the car.
“From what I’ve seen in the LMP1 class, every time you come up to overtake them [LMP2] on-track, they seem like they’re pretty good to drive and all the drivers I speak to only have good things to say about the Oreca.”
Being “the Hunter and the Hunted” is Main Challenge
Davidson hopes that he can use his knowledge of the Toyota TS050 Hybrid to gauge the closing speeds of the quicker cars around the 3.6-mile Silverstone circuit.
While he has previously been lapped driving GT machinery at Le Mans, the last decade of his career has been spent exclusively in the top category with Peugeot and Toyota.
“The main thing that’s going to be a challenge for me is keeping a constant look in the mirrors,” he explained.
“It’s not as difficult as being in one of the GT cars, but in an LMP2 car you’re the hunter and the hunted, whereas in the LMP1 car you’re just eyes forward and never looking in your mirrors.
“I know the places where the Toyota is quicker, and the places to watch out for. But the thing that is going to be a totally new experience for me is that I’ve never seen one of the privateer LMP1 cars on track before.
“That’s going to be quite different, learning where they’re faster and slower, and especially around a circuit as high speed as Silverstone.”
Davidson has stressed that he is not racing with DragonSpeed to prove a point to Toyota, which he has a contract with until the end of 2019.
“It’s not a case of wanting to stay race-sharp for one day getting back in the Toyota,” he added.
“It’s also got nothing to do with proving it to Toyota, I’m doing it for me. I want to be out there racing and I still love it.
“I want to race, it’s as simple as that. It’s somewhere I feel I’ll be at my best in.”