Image credit: SportscarGlobal.
The BMW Team Marc VDS kick off their European Le Mans Series in earnest at Silverstone today with the BMW Z4 GTE’s European race debut and drivers Henry Hassid, Jesse Krohn and local hero Andy Priaulx MBE lined up to take the #52 car on it’s first competitive laps.
Silverstone is familiar ground for the team and all three drivers; Marc VDS have won here in the Blancpain Endurance Series, and this is Priaulx’s home race yet the four-hour opening round of the ELMS will be a tough task for the team who will be competing alongside the faster LMP2 & the new LMP3 prototypes, as well as less developed GT3 machinery in the GTC class.
Today will be a series of firsts for the team; in it’s race debut the BMW Z4 GTE will be shod with Dunlop tyres for the first time, as specified by the series, and running a slightly different configuration than seen in America. Additionally, the team have never worked with these three drivers in a race situation before.
In the build up to today’s season opener the team tested at Imola and left with the car working well and good progress was made yet with the same setup at Paul Ricard a week later the car felt unsettled and uneasy so the Belgian team moved to French ex-F1 circuit Mangy Cours on Monday where they made big steps in the race setup ready for today.
We caught up with Andy Priaulx during driver change practice on Friday night for a brief Q&A session.
SCG: One of the keys to Marc VDS’ success with the GT3 car was putting in very consistent lap times, time after time. Do you feel that you can put the same together in the GTE car?
AP: I don’t know how competitive the car is, I know that Ferrari have 5 or 6 cars, a lot of experience on the Dunlop tyres and the Championship overall but I know that this team runs like a Swiss watch and the BMW is reliable. We have three strong drivers; Henry our Gentleman driver is a strong gent, Jesse is young and fast, I’m consistent and still fast so I think we’ve got a good package and we have a chance to do well tomorrow.
SCG: How have you found working with the Dunlop tyres?
AP: It’s different; the material, the construction is all very different from the Michelin. The tyres are good, reliable, safe – we just have to learn how to get the best out of it and that will take a few races for sure.
SCG: We’ve watched you doing the pit stop practices this evening, you’re a new trio, how are you guys gelling?
AP: Really well. Jesse and I have done quite a few driver practice changes, Henry just comes in but look at him – he’s 55 years old and springs around like a 20 year old; throwing bottles (and himself) around, kicking things out of the way he really gets stuck in!
SCG: What are your thoughts on the drivers overall?
AP: Henry is a good Bronze, Jesse want’s to take my job, which is fair enough, I’ve had a great career. I’m helping the guys, doing what I can do to help and bring them up to a high level, it’s all working really well.
SCG: How are you enjoying the coaching role?
AP: It’s fine as long as I’m still driving! I’m enjoying the mentoring role and being able to compete at a really high level too. I’m certainly not ready to become a team manager though.