After two years in prototypes, Harry Tincknell has decided to move across to GT racing for 2016, with the new Ford Chip Ganassi Racing program in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
As well as competing in the first three WEC rounds with Ford, Tincknell is also staying on at Jota Sport in the LMP2 of the European Le Mans Series, albeit with the team under the G-Drive Racing banner.
For the WEC and ELMS season-opening weekend at Silverstone, this meant that the 24-year-old Englishman had double duty, in the four-hour ELMS race on Saturday with G-Drive, then the six hour WEC race with Chip Ganassi on Sunday.
“We did a really good job; the aim going into the weekend was to win the ELMS and get a podium in the WEC, so we really weren’t very far away from that at all,” Tincknell told Sportscar365.
He teamed up with ex-Formula 1 driver Giedo van der Garde and long-time Jota co-driver Simon Dolan for the ELMS win, in a race that the team’s Gibson 015S led from start to finish.
“To win on Saturday was just such a great feeling because to win at Silverstone, as a BRDC member, and being at a home race, with lots of friends, family and sponsors there, it was fantastic. We really dominated the race as well; we won by over a minute.
“Even though it’s the same team this year, we’re under the G-Drive banner and actually there have been quite a few personnel changes between the two teams, because they’ve got the WEC team as well.
“It was fantastic for them to get a win under their belts as well because they’ve had a very busy time in the off-season, preparing, practicing pitstops and all the rest of it.”
The next day, Tincknell was back on track in the WEC race, alongside Marino Franchitti and Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford GT.
“My debut with Ford on Sunday was fantastic as well, in my second-ever GT race, straight in at world championship level,” he said.
“It was a tough introduction but I really enjoyed it and it was great to be the first Ford home, in fourth. The cars ran for six hours, and that was our aim, to get the cars home.”
Ford’s return to top-level GT racing has come in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the marque’s historic win at Le Mans.
Understandably this means the program’s effort focuses on the 24 hour race, with the Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps races acting as more of a warm-up.
“We had a good test last week and the car ran really well,” Tincknell said. “Reliability-wise, we’re looking pretty strong, and of course it’s going to be a tough task to come in after so long out, and to beat some of the seasoned guys like Ferrari and all the rest of them.
“I think we’re quietly optimistic and at the moment we’re just concentrating on our own thing to try and improve the car and reliability.
This time last year, Tincknell was concentrating on the short-lived Nissan LMP1 program, with the GT-R LM NISMO making its race debut at Le Mans rather than competing in the early rounds in the WEC season.
“We’re in a totally different place to where Nissan was last year,” he said. “It was always going to be a super tough task to go into your first race at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“Even though a lot of people ask me how it was with Nissan last year, and although it was tough with results, and the car wasn’t as good as we had all hoped, the team atmosphere was still really strong and it was a really good bunch of guys and drivers.
“It was a very enjoyable year and I learnt a lot from it. It’s a year I look back on with good memories, not bad memories, even though obviously we didn’t get the results we had expected.
“The Ford car was out testing a lot earlier than the Nissan was, so naturally we’re further down the line with the development and also the reliability. There’s a quiet air of confidence around the team.”
Tincknell will be heading into Le Mans aiming to get his second class victory, but first up comes the “dress rehearsal” that is the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
“We’re still in early stages but I think the mood around the camp is very strong and it will certainly be very interesting [this] weekend at Spa to make a step forward and go for the podium there. That obviously warms us up for Le Mans.”