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Sims Hoping to “Re-Acclimatize” on Le Mans Return

BMW’s Alexander Sims looking forward to turning first Le Mans laps in six years…

Photo: BMW

Alexander Sims says he is looking to re-acclimatize to the 24 Hours of Le Mans ahead of his first appearance at the race in six years.

The 30-year-old Briton will make his GT-class debut at the French long-distance classic this month, having only previously driven an LMP2 in 2012.

Sims, whose main program is in IMSA, is part of BMW’s two-car lineup for the FIA World Endurance Championship blue riband event, joining full-season drivers Antonio Felix da Costa and Augusto Farfus in the No. 82 BMW M8 GTE.

He will share the car with Da Costa at Sunday’s Test Day, with Farfus absent due to his DTM commitments.

“It’s been a while since I’ve driven here but I haven’t driven Le Mans in a GT car before,” Sims told Sportscar365.

“But regardless of how much circuit experience you’ve got, it’s always about nailing down the small, fine details. A new car will always mean that you’ve got quite a lot of that to do.

“It will be about re-acclimatizing myself and sharing duties with Antonio equally. I’m also looking forward to going through the Porsche Curves again.

“We’ll be doing long runs, trying to understand the car’s performance and how to get more out of it.”

Sims said that a personal aversion to simulator testing means the last time he drove the Circuit de la Sarthe, either in real-life or a virtual capacity, came during his Le Mans debut in his first year of sports car competition with Status GP.

On that occasion, he shared a Judd-powered Lola B12/80 with Yelmer Buurman and Romain Iannetta, although the car retired from the race.

“I used [simulators] occasionally before, but I actually feel that it works against me,” explained Sims.

“At Sebring [for IMSA’s February 2017 test] I had to unlearn what I had learned on the simulator and then do it from scratch. I was expecting to do one thing, started doing it, then the car behaved strangely. Every track after that has been brand new to me.

“Now I watch a little bit of onboard footage to know where it goes left and right, and within four or five laps in the car, I can get into a groove and find the limits relatively easily.”

BMW “Not Expecting” Stand-Out Pace

Sims said BMW does not expect to be the quickest GTE-Pro manufacturer at Le Mans, on its first appearance at the race since 2011.

In the pre-event Balance of Performance, the M8s were provisionally listed at 1268kg, putting them on par with the debuting Aston Martin Vantage GTEs.

At the season-opening Total Six Hours of Spa, the best-placed BMW finished two laps down in fifth, although the Le Mans BoP is different to what was utilized in Belgium.

“As far as I understand, at this point, we’re not expecting to be desperately competitive,” said Sims, who was absent from the Spa weekend on IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship duty.

“I’ve only seen Spa from the outside, being involved in some inter-team communication, but certainly, I think the BoP was not favorable for us.

“At the same time, we’ve got to keep looking at ourselves and keep looking at how we can improve our package regardless of the BoP situation.

“Sat here today, I don’t think we’re going to be driving away from the field comfortably, but I would hope we’re not right at the back either.

“Hopefully, we’ll be vaguely in the mix and just do a really spot on endurance race, with no problems in the pits or on-track, and we’ll see where we are towards the end of it.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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