The Blancpain Endurance Series has seen added American interest this year in the form of DragonSpeed, which is taking on some of the world’s best GT3 teams with a simple, yet focused approach.
The Florida-based squad led by Elton Julian is undertaking an aggressive multi-series campaign which includes a four-car effort in Pirelli World Challenge and its single Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 in the five-round BES series.
According to Julian, who has returned to driving duties this year alongside Henrik Hedman and Thomas Kemenater, their transition into the SRO Motorsports Group-run championship has been met with few surprises.
“It’s been meeting and exceeding our expectations,” Julian told Sportscar365. “To be honest, it’s what we consider to be normal.
“The grids are unbelievable. The teams, as we all know, are incredibly competitive. The driver lineups are amazing. The format is good.
“As they say, it’s how racing should be. Things are proper. Things are correct. They’re tough, they’re strict. The rules are written in black and white and they enforce it.”
Unlike the majority of teams, which are European-based, Julian’s tight-knit crew has had to adjust to racing overseas.
However, for the ex-F3 standout, who spent a good amount of his open-wheel career in Europe, it hasn’t been any different from an organizational point of view.
“The logistics have been pretty straight forward,” Julian said. “It’s just like we race in the States, we just take a longer flight. It’s no different.
“I know my way around Europe and I organize it the same way I organize racing in the States.
DragonSpeed has utilized some European resources for its campaign, including a transporter and shop space from Zurich-based Octane126, a Ferrari and Maserati service center.
“It’s great,” Julian said. “We’re centrally located in Europe and I feel safe when I go away that the car’s not going to be messed with. We’re not at another competitor’s team or some garage. It’s been very, very easy.
“Is it harder? Yeah but just because there’s more days [with the travel], not because it’s harder to do it here.”
The hard work has been paying off as Julian’s been able to return to the wheel, something he hasn’t done on a regular basis since the 2012 FIA WEC season, which was originally marked as his final year as a driver.
However, at the convincing of longtime friend and co-driver Hedman, the Gold-rated driver came out of retirement for this season.
“I love driving. It’s so much fun and it’s definitely different than any other time in my life,” Julian said. “It’s a new arena for me in GT racing and it’s a nice retirement home for an old man like me!
“It’s not an easy group here to play with. People would seem to expect a lot from me but I don’t really have a lot expectations for me.
“I just want to deliver for Henrik as a team. If that means I’m turning wrenches, managing or driving, it’s the same thing.”
Julian has set realistic goals for the team’s European debut season, realizing the level of competition they’re up against, and what the ultimate objective is.
“We have to understand why we’re here,” he said. “We’re here to teach Henrik how to drive and race in endurance racing, with the aim of doing more and bigger things in the future together.
“Our chances are difficult here, obviously because the BoP for the Ferrari is so against us. But you don’t find us complaining about it because you knew what it was going to be when you signed up for it.
“We were king at Monza and we’re nowhere here. But nevertheless, you work hard, you try to get it together and do a good job.
“Our job now is to try and be as competitive as we can with the other Ferraris.”
While the car’s Evel Knievel-inspired livery — in honor of Swede Hedman receiving his U.S citizenship this year — would lead many to believe the team’s patriotic approach, Julian said that’s not necessarily the case.
“We were in the minivan the other day and we counted that there’s eight different nationalities on my team,” he said.
“I’ve always been an international operation. You can listen to our radio communications and I can break into English, French or Spanish at any moment depending on who I talk to and what the message I’m trying to deliver.
“We’re an American-based team. But we represent ourselves and fly the DragonSpeed flag.”