Q: How much are you looking forward to racing in British GT this season?.
A: “It is a huge positive for me. More races, more track time, more time to learn, more time to make mistakes and learn from them, which is what it’s all about when you’re starting off.
“And it’s still a very prestigious championship against really fierce competition. It’s weird how it’s come about with this strange year we’re in.”
Q: How familiar are you with any of the tracks in British GT? And how many of them will you be able to do some virtual laps in advance?
A: “I’ve done a fair few laps at Silverstone over the years in various machinery. Snetterton I’ve never done, Brands Hatch I did a few laps last year, and Oulton Park I’ve never been there. It will be a challenge because these tracks are less forgiving than Paul Ricard or Spa in that if you go off you will hit something.
“But I’ll be using Assetto Corsa and I’ll be practicing on all the tracks in the McLaren. There’s a lot of prep I can do and hopefully I won’t be too green when I turn up at Oulton Park for round one.”
Q: With two drivers in the car instead of three, you should get a bit more track time as well. How are you looking forward to that?
A: “More responsibility as well! More track time, there are fewer of us to develop the car in terms of set up, so I’ll just have to drive the thing fast! Obviously it’s a new thing for me, being a full time racing driver and in GTs, so I’ll need to try and learn as much as I can from Michael O’Brien who has more experience in cars compared to me.
“But I think I’ve got a lot of knowledge in set ups. Over the years, working with mechanics and on the sim as well and hopefully I can transfer that—the driving isn’t the only thing to transfer over.”
Q: When you did the test at Ricard earlier this year and began to talk about setups, how did you find the transition of talking about setups in game compared to the real world?
A: “The initial thing that stood out was that the way you talk about it was more professional compared to me online with teammates talking about it. It’s still a bit the same, especially when you’re comparing it to something like Assetto Corsa, which is so realistic.
“I understood what everyone was saying because I could speak that language. I couldn’t input maybe as much because I wasn’t focusing on what I was feeling setup-wise because it was my first day in the car and I was just focused on not crashing!
“As the season goes on, hopefully I can be a bigger part of the conversations and help the team develop an even quicker car. I’ve done my homework virtually, it’s just time to put it into practice in real life now.”
Q: When COVID-19 started kicking in, was there ever a time that you were worried you wouldn’t be able to get on track at all this year?
A: “Yeah, absolutely. I was definitely feeling like it could all go wrong. Racing isn’t the most important thing, and given this year, there are far more important things to solve and work around before we actually go racing.
“I did accept that it may not be the same and because of that I felt a little bit down for a while in the lockdown. I even took a break from sim racing because it all got a bit too much. I feel stronger mentally coming back after the break.
“And then getting the confirmation that we’re doing British GT was just music to my ears! Getting to go racing, and there will be more races, and it’s less than a month away now so I’m really excited.”
Q: You’ve got Michael O’Brien as a teammate, who is a McLaren junior driver, how will you benefit from having that benchmark to measure against?
A: “I know what Michael has raced in and what he has accomplished, so he’s going to be a great benchmark. Having Chris (Buncombe) and Matt (Parry) at Paul Ricard was really interesting because they’re both very experienced.
“Matt was really really quick and having that data to overlay and see what he was doing generally with the car was quite eye opening in the way he was driving.
“Hopefully that will benefit me going into Oulton. It will be interesting to see what Michael’s style is and see if I can learn more from him. Hopefully we can work well together and work well with the team and really benefit all parties.”
Q: Tell me about some of the sim racing you’ve been doing of late, especially the virtual Race of Champions?
A: “The virtual Race of Champions was really the final sim race in this lockdown period and I put a lot of hours into it just to make sure I could get good results. I won the eROC and won the ROC over the real drivers, which was kind of to be expected considering that I’m a sim racer.
“It was really good, really fun. Hopefully one day I can go back to the Race of Champions in real life. It’s been a weird period, but we’ve done so many cool things like racing F1 drivers and things like that online. I didn’t really win anything else during the lockdown, which has been very frustrating for me, so to end it with such a big win is quite nice.”