Alex Lynn credits his experience of managing tires in GP2 and GP2 for helping deliver a breakthrough first FIA World Endurance Championship class victory in last weekend’s WEC Six Hours of Spa.
The 2014 GP3 champion teamed with Roman Rusinov and Pierre Thiriet for top LMP2 class honors in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, in a race that saw Lynn have to triple-stint his right-side tires.
“From our side it was a big task,” Lynn said. “Today, I think it was very much a Pirelli-style race, very much similar to what we experienced in GP2, with massive degradation.
“The best way I described it to someone is when you play the F1 2016 (video game) or something and it has the tire indicators, you’re almost constantly thinking like that, what each tire is doing.
“‘OK, the left-rear is struggling a little bit so I’ll push more through the left-handers so I can use the right a bit more.’
“Your mind is consumed by the pace, the gap and the tires and you’re trying to manage every time how long left vs. how fast you’re going vs. how the tires are, and it’s a constant equation in your head.
“And when it comes off, you’re very happy!”
Rusinov, who started the race in the TDS Racing-run entry, quickly dashed out into an impressive lead, holding off reigning LMP1 World Champion Romain Dumas in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson, before fading near the end of his stint due to excessive tire wear.
Tire degradation proved to be the story of the race, not only in LMP2 but also LMP1 and the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes, which all saw a new-for-2017 enforced limit of four sets, plus two “joker” tires per car, and forced teams double, or sometimes triple stint tires in the race.
Lynn said his knowledge of controlling the rapid degradation from the open-wheel ranks played a key part in his success on Saturday.
“You learn by your mistakes,” he said. “I think what I’ve done in my career, I’ve learned a lot about tire degradation and tire performance, so from my side today, I was happy that I could influence like that and help someone like Pierre [Thiriet].
“We spoke a lot before the race how we’re going to drive and how we’re going to manage the situation.”
The combination of the fast and flowing Spa-Francorchamps circuit, along with the increased power and loads of the new-generation LMP2 cars, factored into the challenges, according to Lynn, who has become the first driver to have won with two different 2017-spec LMP2 chassis following his Sebring triumph in the Dallara-chassied Cadillac DPi-V.R from Wayne Taylor Racing.
“The car is so much quicker and is putting so much more load through the track and it’s a proper racing car. You’re not far off LMP1,” Lynn said.
“You know how much companies like Dunlop and Michelin throw at tire development and tire testing, so the category will catch up, but at the moment, it’s a little bit in its infancy in terms of tire development. It will come very quickly for sure.”
Lynn said a recent Dunlop tire test at Magny-Cours, to develop a soft compound for Le Mans, has already seen considerable gains and he’s optimistic for the future, despite some abrasive circuits, such as Shanghai and Bahrain, still yet to come.
“From my side, they’ll get it better and better as we learn the cars more,” he said.