As I’m writing my second column for Sportscar365, I just arrived home from quite a hectic and special weekend.
On Saturday, we had our fourth IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the season with the WTR Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R in Detroit and after that, it was straight across the Atlantic for the Le Mans Test Day with the DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson on Sunday. No time for jet lag!
The Lowdown in Detroit
First of all: Detroit. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi finished fifth, which was a solid result.
We didn’t have the speed to challenge for the podium but we scored some good points, which is important. We’ll need to find some more speed for the coming races and I’m confident we’ll be able to do just that.
Straight Back to Europe
After the race in Detroit, we were off to Le Mans. A private jet was waiting for us and without even taking a shower, we climbed aboard.
I wasn’t the only one traveling this way; about 15 drivers made the flight to Le Mans straight after Detroit, which shows how big sports car racing is becoming on both the American and European continents. I love it!
After the flight, we went straight into the usual administrative checks for Le Mans.
Imagine that: all of us were standing there jet lagged like you wouldn’t believe and there was no time to take it easy. Straight back behind the wheel!
Driving at Le Mans
After Pietro Fittipaldi’s crash in Spa-Francorchamps, the DragonSpeed team had to rebuild the BR1 from the ground up and the team did an amazing job in doing so.
Basically, we were shaking down the car on Sunday.
I was able to drive the ten mandatory laps that every driver needs to drive in order to qualify at Le Mans but because it was more or less a shakedown, the team had to fix a couple of issues on the car.
This meant we missed some track time which leaves us with only one option going into the Le Mans weekend: to be super clever with our decisions.
I did a few laps on this legendary track in 2012 in wet/dry conditions but this LMP1 car really is something special.
It’s super fast in the Porsche Curves and the braking is very good, especially when you consider we were driving on used rubber without any setup work, the performance was not too bad.
We’ll have to do some more work on the car and every lap at this magnificent track counts as experience, so it will only get better.
This was a very important test and from now on it’s about building a smooth plan together going into the 24 hours.
LMP1 vs. LMP2
While I was there, I had an opportunity to look at the competition. It struck me that the top speed of the LMP2 machines was barely slower than the LMP1s.
These LMP2s are the same cars that I’m racing in the U.S. and it kind of surprised me to see how efficient the aero those cars have to keep up on the straights. There was very little difference on top speeds to our LMP1!
In the corners and under braking, though, the LMP1 cars are clearly ahead.
Among the LMP1 teams, there’s a lot of interest in each other because pace-wise, it looks to be quite close. The non-hybrids and hybrids both have their advantages and disadvantages and I’m very curious to see how it turns out.
I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel at Le Mans. It’s been a boyhood dream to drive this fantastic, legendary race and I’m loving every single second of it.
I’ll be driving again in about a week, in Free Practice on June 13. Until then, it’s just waiting.