I am happy to say that the past few weeks have been extremely busy, which to me means that the start of a new racing season is around the corner at long last. All of the off-season development, planning and preparation became a reality three weeks ago when Aston Martin debuted our new Loweâ€™s Vantage GTE sports car at an unveiling in London. It was a first-class event, one of the best presentations that I have ever been a part of with Prodrive/Aston Martin and very well-attended by our sponsors and the media.
The car is beautiful and, obviously, one the highlights for me was the chance to get behind the wheel for the first time. We went to Donington, a track that I know but havenâ€™t driven in over 25 years. Unfortunately, it was raining but I did have a chance to develop a feel for what a GTE car is like. I have driven many cars in my career but never a GT so this was a totally new experience for me. Luckily, my teammates Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner have a lot of experience in these cars and finished second in the FIA GT1 World Championship last year. They are helping my learning curve go a lot quicker.
I have to say that Aston Martin Racing is very motivated and very committed and I feel they made the right choice to not only go to the GTE but with the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) which will have great rounds of racing around the world and also to contest some American Le Mans Series races in the U.S. I have not been competing in a full championship schedule since Fernandez Racing in 2009. For me, it is great to be back in a series championship and to have the opportunity to challenge for a series title in addition to race wins.
We have a very strong lineup of drivers and I feel we have a shot at going for wins from the start. It may be a little bit early to say, but I think we will be good. The core strength of the team â€“ from drivers to principals, engineers, mechanics, etc. â€“ is very strong with a lot of experience and we will be able to capitalize on that.
I am very confident and optimistic after our test at Road Atlanta last week. The three days were really intense and we went through a lot of things. To me, the car felt pretty reliable. I have nothing to compare it to but my teammates do and they felt the car is quite good. I was able to do a lot of miles and I kept getting better. The first day, I was nine-tenths of a second behind my teammatesâ€™ times. The second day, I was sixth-tenths off. By the third day with the help of my teammates and the team, I was within one-tenth of a second of their best times. I wouldnâ€™t say I was 100 percent consistent, but I was pretty consistent and the more I drive, the more knowledge I gain and the better I will get. I was very happy with my third day in the car.
I have to say this car is a totally new environment for me â€“ the way you feel inside the car and the positioning and the banging around. It is definitely a lot harder to drive then a prototype because the car is always on the edge and it moves around a lot more. The car is heavier so the braking is different. We have good power but the car reacts slower than a prototype so I have been working on changing my driving style.
I am a bit sore from the banging around inside the car but there are a few things that I need to do to get more comfortable and this is normal. The Sebring track is a lot rougher so I will make sure I am prepared. Sebring is a track that I know very well and have probably logged thousands of miles over the years. The race is March 17 and it is a tough race physically for the drivers and mechanically for the cars so it is one of the ultimate tests.
With the number of entries, this is going to be an extremely competitive event and one to which I am looking forward. After missing Sebring last year, it will be great to catch up with a lot of friends I havenâ€™t seen in awhile and to visit with the fans who turn out in huge numbers for this event.
I am really excited about the WEC and hope that my fans in America, Mexico and around the world will follow us in the championship. Hopefully, we will be in the hunt for the series title and a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Thank you for your support,