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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Sandy Mitchell

This week’s Paddock Pass with Lamborghini junior and Super Trofeo ace Sandy Mitchell…

Photo: Sandy Mitchell Racing

Lamborghini junior driver Sandy Mitchell is arguably one of the brightest young talents in GT racing and has found success in both single-make and GT3 competition.

Last year, the 20-year-old Scot embarked on a transatlantic program, balancing a GT3 drive in GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup with a breakthrough campaign in Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America.

Mitchell finished third in the American standings with co-driver Andrea Amici, while in Europe he helped Barwell Motorsport to claim a class victory in the Total 24 Hours of Spa.

This year, the BRDC SuperStars member is aiming to build on his 2019 experiences and persuade Lamborghini that he’s a prime candidate for a future factory seat.

What were your impressions of the 2019 season and that challenging dual program?

“2018 was a big year for me because I moved up to GT3 from GT4. It was about learning the car, mainly, while 2019 was about building on that.

“I had some really good qualifying sessions in GT3 on the tracks I knew in Europe and winning the Spa 24 Hours Silver Cup class was a highlight of the season.

“I also really enjoyed going over to America. I really liked the old-school nature of the tracks, with not much room for error which I unfortunately found out in a negative way at VIR!

“I really enjoy learning new tracks and trying to be on the pace as soon as possible against people who have been driving on them for several years. We had some wins, and to cap it off by finishing second in a ‘dead heat’ at the World Final was an amazing achievement.

“Both top crews had 28 points. It went down to about the fifth line in the regulations, for most wins in a season, which unfortunately didn’t fall in our favor. But it was a moral victory.”

What did you find were the biggest challenges of making your debut in Super Trofeo North America?

“Trying to not each too much fast food! No, but one of the main things was that often, I didn’t have any test days before the race weekends. Turning up to tracks like Road America and VIR that are well-known for being quite tough.

“The American tracks are unforgiving and undulating, which I enjoy, but learning that in just a couple of hours and then being on the pace in qualifying was a really big challenge.

“It’s something I felt I did quite well, because across the five Super Trofeo qualifying sessions I did, I had three pole positions.

“It was something I was really happy with because it was something I had really been trying to work on over the winter. Hopefully, I can take that into this year.”

And how useful was the North American experience in terms of gaining new contacts? Will we see you back there next year in Super Trofeo?

“I think it’s great. Often in Europe and the UK paddocks, you often see the same people all the time. It was really good to get my name heard on that side of the water.

“A few little opportunities have come up through it, which I was quite pleased with. I feel like there could almost be more opportunities over there compared to Europe, in some senses.

“It’s good to get my name over there and I was pleased that I did well. I think it was definitely recognized and I’d like to build on that.

“This year, I’m confirmed to do British GT with Barwell Motorsport. Rob Collard is my teammate. I’m also doing Super Trofeo North America again – the details will be announced soon.

“I’m looking forward to building on what I’ve learned from last year, being able to turn up to these tracks that I now actually know and really trying to go for the championship.”

Last year, you were racing in two series that run on Pirelli tires. How different was your approach to tire management between the Super Trofeo sprint races and the GTWC enduros?

“The Pirelli tires are really good. The ones in Super Trofeo are slightly different from the GT3 tires, but they have similar characteristics.

“In Super Trofeo, there’s more saving at the end of the race, trying to hang on. The cars are quite powerful, so the rear tires do take a beating. By the end, you’re trying to hang on if you’ve gone quick out the gate, so it makes it difficult by the end of the race.

“In Endurance Cup, you’re changing tires at every pit stop at the end of every hour, it’s amazing. Spa is pretty much 24 one-hour races.

“It’s great to see that the tires are able to last so long. It makes it fun because we’re not so concerned with saving tires.”

How did your relationship with Lamborghini start?

“I was looking to try and step up to GT3 having done a couple of seasons in GT4 [in 2016 and 2017 with McLaren] but the right deal just didn’t come together at the time.

“My sponsor, Black Bull Whisky, was willing to start sponsoring me for the 2018 season having been a team sponsor in 2017, so I got to know them through that.

“It just fell into place quite late that they were also sponsoring the Barwell team, and Barwell had a seat available for GTWC Endurance Silver Cup.

“It all fell into place nicely. I was more in with Barwell to start with, but my pace was improving throughout the season and that’s when Lamborghini started to take notes of it.”

What’s it like being a Lamborghini junior driver?

“It’s one stage below the full-on factory driver role. They selected a few of the top junior drivers to do a young driver test in Vallelunga at the end of 2018, so I did that where we had the usual fitness and classroom stuff, and some quite intense sessions on-track.

“I got some good feedback from that, so I’m definitely going to try to continue that partnership with Lamborghini since it’s something that I feel is going very well.

“Continuing in GT3 this year is big for me, so I’m looking forward to that challenge. I’m 20 now so I’m at that crunch time, not of getting old yet, but of this being when ‘it’ happens.

“The next year or two will be big for me. There are challenges that come with that, but I’m looking forward to it.”

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