Twelve months after leaving Bentley and embarking on a program with AKKA ASP, Vincent Abril has switched teams once again to join Black Falcon for the upcoming GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season.
In this week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass, the Monaco-based Frenchman talks about his success last year, his preparation for the coming season, and his excitement at partnering Maro Engel and Luca Stolz in the five Endurance Cup races.
Abril replaces Yelmer Buurman as Engel and Stolz’s long-distance teammate, and he’s eager to get started with a program that sees him partner one of GTWC Europe’s most successful and consistent driver pairings.
How are you feeling for the season ahead after a strong end to 2019?
“I was really pleased with the way this happened because I wanted to stay in the AMG family for another year. It’s really difficult to change manufacturer and be competitive straight away, especially now with the level of the field.
“Everyone has been driving for four years in the same car, doing three or four championships each year. You have to be humble and take your time to learn.
“A full factory program was not possible because I was also signing with another program, but at the moment I want to focus mainly on me and things I can do to win on the short-term.
“Spa is obviously my main focus for now. I’ve been close a few times so, together with Black Falcon and AMG, and Maro and Luca, it’s a very solid lineup.
“I’m reunited with my old engineer from 2015, (Renaud Dufour) with whom I had a really good relationship and success.”
Is it a shame to be leaving AKKA ASP after a good year alongside Raffaele Marciello?
“I had a really amazing time at AKKA. Jerome [Policand, team principal] is a real racer and an amazing guy in motorsports.
“Obviously, the interest was there to carry on, because I had a really solid end of the year with ‘Lello’. Not everything was on the table for us to carry on but never say never.
“We’re on very good terms and hopefully we can make another appearance with them. There was no particular reason, other than the fact it was not possible for them to do a lineup like that.”
How important was 2019 for your career after several seasons in the Bentley factory program?
“Last year was just a case of driving something different to what I was used to for the last four or five years. I’ve learned how to work with another car and how to work in two or three different cars, now.
“The GTE experience was mega, Le Mans was really amazing for me last year. Getting to drive different cars for different manufacturers is an advantage at this time in my career.
“The end of the season, I think we were really on it with the team. The championships, Sprint and Endurance, are so competitive that if you’re five-tenths off the pace, which can so easily happen, you’re P15.
“When everything clicked, we were the only crew to have four pole positions, two each, so that was a good sign of performance.”
What’s your relationship like with your new teammates?
“I knew Luca from HTP Motorsport, at the time when we were both driving in different championships but testing together, and he’s a really great driver. I actually did a race with him at HTP one year in ADAC GT Masters, the only race I did.
“Maro is someone I’ve always had great respect for as well, he’s one of the top GT drivers in the world right now. I know him from Monaco quite a lot as well, we go cycling together and he’s a good friend.
“I think the chemistry will be good from the get-go, and I’m not looking to disrupt anything they establish either.
“Something like that worked so well for the last three years so it’s up to me to just gel the best I can and just do the job, not disturb the chemistry they have already established.”
What are your longer-term goals? Are there any other series you’d like to try?
“I’m really looking into the U.S. I did the Pirelli World Challenge (now GTWC America) in 2017, at the time when it was full of manufacturers and works teams and it was booming like crazy.
“I had a really good experience. We didn’t have all the tools to take to fight at the front but we had some good showings sometimes there, and I was really looking forward to getting back.
“I would like to [do something in] LMPs, and with everything going on in the LMP1 category, I’m also keeping an eye on that.
“I would like to give it a shot because all the top GT drivers that have stepped in there have always been great, so I don’t see why not.”
Could we see you in any Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli races after Spa?
“On the short term, I’m trying to work on the IGTC stuff.
“Obviously I’m linked with AMG for Spa but I’m trying to get some more outings for Indianapolis, maybe Suzuka and Kyalami at the end of the year.
“I’m working on that. I already have a pretty busy calendar but I just want to see if that works out, and if we get great results, then I’ll be looking at those things.”