Extreme Speed Motorsports makes its overseas debut this weekend, having made the 8,000 mile trip from its South Florida base to China for Sunday’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Shanghai.
While having made its FIA WEC debut at Circuit of The Americas last month with a single Tequila Patron-sponsored HPD ARX-03b, the Scott Sharp-owned squad have brought both of its open-top LMP2 contenders to China, for what could lead towards a larger effort in the series next year.
Below is a Q&A with ESM’s director of operations, Robin Hill, courtesy of the FIA WEC and Fiona Miller:
COTA was effectively a home race for you; how different is it coming to Shanghai?
“Doing COTA was one thing, with the familiarity of the track, the language and having the team’s trucks and other logistical facilities around us, but coming to Shanghai is on a different level.
“For myself and a few of the guys on the team it’s not that big of an adjustment because we’ve done quite a bit of European racing before and gone to new tracks all the time. The biggest adjustment has been that we’ve never been here before – we don’t know the lay of the land, the culture and everything else.
“The facility is beautiful, the garages are nicely set out and it hasn’t been terrible for us at all. It’s a bit of an eye-opener for about 90 percent of the team but they are all gung-ho for it and everyone’s enjoying it and is really keen. We’ll keep that morale going and hopefully everything will be alright.”
How much help have you received from the WEC in organizing this race?
“I can’t praise the WEC and all their supply partners enough. Without them the transition to enter would have been extremely difficult and they have been more than accommodating, bending over backwards to answer any questions we’ve had.
“Our second entry went in relatively late so there have been a lot of logistical conversations going on between us to make sure we’ve got enough fuel for the race, same for tires from Dunlop.”
What changes did you have to make to the HPD ARX 03Bs for FIA WEC competition?
“There wasn’t really that much that needed changing to convert the car from TUDOR United SportsCar Championship regulations to the WEC’s.
“Aesthetically it’s similar but there are a number of small things such as the illuminated number panel instead of the position lights used in the USA. Electronically the data systems are different – the way they control the boost and so on, but there’s nothing major.
“It’s not like there is a different wheel base or suspension for example; there is a different restrictor size but we haven’t had to replace a gearbox or anything big like that.
“We have brought approximately 30,000 kg of freight, flown from Atlanta, on top of the two cars (900kg each), but not everything has come directly from the States.
“We’ve had to buy new fuel rigs for the WEC and they came direct from the UK where they are made – in the time frame it was easier to get them done there than to do them ourselves.
“The biggest logistical change has probably been the shipment of tires as some have come with us from the COTA event, some from the ELMS Estoril race and some from Fuji.
“All our engineers have been poring over the rule book for the last six weeks – we all need to be totally familiar with it because I can miss things just as much as anyone else. The WEC has been so helpful and professional – it’s been a real breath of fresh air for the whole team.”
What lessons did you learn at COTA about the FIA WEC which will help you here?
“The paramount thing is that to finish first, first you have to finish. The main thing was probably that strategy doesn’t come into play as much as in the USA races because there’s longer for strategy to play out over six hours than in two-hour and 45-minute events.
“Also you can’t benefit from repeated yellows as you can in the TUDOR series because the level of driving is higher and more consistent and there aren’t as many. It’s more about using your drivers well and making the cars go faster and that’s what racing should be.”
How useful will be the experience of the drivers who have been here before?
“Ryan [Dalziel], David [Brabham] and Ricardo [Gonzalez]’s experience at Shanghai will help the whole team and provide a comfort blanket for us. They know the track, the area, where they have to go and at what times, and that will help the other drivers a lot.
“We know that Ryan and Brabs are both great team players and we’re looking forward to welcoming Ricardo to the team – I’m sure he’ll be the same way.”
What happens after Sunday?
“We’ll pack up Sunday night and Monday, and fly out Tuesday afternoon back to the USA. Everyone on the team has a notebook and pen in their pocket this weekend …if we’re going to do it next year we want to be prepared!”