After eight years of racing in the UK, Alex packed his race kit and hit the road, crossing the channel to probably the most famous circuit in the world, Le Mans.
After his first drive in a BRDC F4 car at Oulton Park, Alex finally got his chance to drive the French F4 car he will race this year, at the famous Le Mans circuit, on Monday. The Le Mans circuit was still showing signs of the recent 24Hrs race and, with the temperature gauge showing 29C, it was perfect conditions for his first test.
It will always be a special day for Alex as it was the date he realised one of his dreams, to drive at Le Mans. The day started with an early morning visit to the French Autosport Academy based in the Technoparc adjacent to the Le Mans circuit.
Before Alex could start his test, he needed to have a seat insert made. This required Alex to put on an old race suit, sit on a plastic bag full of an expanding form and maintain an exact position, whilst the foam hardened and moulded to his exact shape. The hardened foam insert was then expertly shaped and crafted by the Academy engineers to fit the car he would drive later in the morning test.
After adjusting the pedals and fitting the bespoke seat insert, the car was moved across the road to the famous Le Mans pit lane ready for the day’s testing.
Eleven drivers signed on for the test including Cyril Despres, the five times Dakar Rally motorbike winner and driver of the Peugeot 2008 DKR in this year’s Rally.
The drivers were split into two groups with Alex joining the current championship driver’s and Cyril Despres joining the rookie drivers in the second group.
The test started with a minibus lap of the circuit with guidance and comments from the Academy programme managers. Once both groups had completed the track tour, Alex’s group hit the circuit for the first 25 minutes session. The initial run was carried out on old tyres and with all the cars on the same settings. Alex built up the speed steadily and improved his times every lap as he got to grips with the new car.
“ The car is very different from the BRDC F4, the French F4 car, is a lot stiffer due to the full carbon tub and less aero, meaning that it moves around a lot more which makes it a very good car to learn how to drive a single seater,” commented Alex.
A second run on old tyres was completed before all the drivers sat down with the engineers and reviewed the on-board data. This was followed by a “classroom” session in the garage with all drivers writing down their comments and observations for every turn on the Bugatti circuit. These observations were then discussed and compared to the car settings.
The third session, new tyres were fitted to the car and, again, data and written comments were made and compared. With the outside temperature now climbing into the high thirties, the test was stopped for the drivers to have a lunch break whilst the mechanics made a number of changes to the cars.
After the lunch break, the next test session was split into two halves with the car set up with minimum downforce for the first part, and maximum downforce for the second. After the session, the data was compared and the drivers, again, wrote down their comments and observation on the different set-ups in each turn.
The final session was a chance for the drivers to do 5 fast laps then pit for the mechanics to adjust the front anti-roll bar from soft to hard. A further 5 fast laps were then completed before the session ended for the day.
“I learnt a lot about the car and the track and got up to speed quickly; now I’m really looking forward to racing next month at Magny-Cours. Finishing the test half a second off the fastest time, in a car I’ve never driven before, on a circuit I had never driven is a good start. I would like to thank Lockton MIS Motorsport for their support and to have this opportunity to represent them in the French F4 Championship” said Alex.
Alex will be testing again at Magny-Cours in two weeks time and will be joined at the test by the rest of the French F4 Championship drivers. This time he will be aiming to put his Lockton MIS Motorsport supported car at the top of the timing sheets.