Kevin – a fresh-baked GT racer

10.04.2014

Maybe you have already heard about Kevin jumping into the brave new world of GT racing. What does it mean?

First of all driving a car with a roof above you. Plus you have to share the car with your team-mates. All this starts for Kevin this weekend at Monza where he will race at the opening round of Blancpain Endurance Series. But it is not the only series he is taking part in 2014: European Le Mans Series aka ELMS is Kevin’s second battlefield. Both series include five rounds, duration of the race is 4 hours in ELMS and 3 hours in Blancpain. The only exception, and a very remarkable one is Spa 24 hour race, a round of Blancpain series. Kevin98@Paul Ricard test front

Kevin’s car bears a well known-name for every single-seater fan – McLaren, namely MP4-12C. Still it is not a single-seater, but a GT car. GT3 to be precise, or GTC as they classify it in ELMS. In the latter series it is the slowest on three.

While McLaren is a name which needs no introducing, the same is also true about Kevin’s team ART Grand Prix. It is one of the most successful teams in junior formulae, having earned numerous titles in GP2, GP3 and other single-seater classes. List of former ART GP drivers looks very much like a who’s-who in motor racing: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hülkenberg, Jules Bianchi, Valtteri Bottas, Paul Di Resta, Alexandre Prémat, Jamie Green.

GT cars is quite a new branch of ART, started only in 2012. ART GP was one of the very first teams to race McLaren MP4-12C. And now Kevin Korjus is also the part of this world-famous French squad. His car will bear #99 in Blancpain and #98 in ELMS, and team-mates will be different as well. During this weekend’s Blancpain race Kevin shares his car with Austro-Spaniard Andy Soucek and Frenchman Kevin Estré. His ELMS team-mates are Frenchmen Grégoire Demoustier and Yann Goudy.

Last week Kevin had his final pre-season test with ELMS at Paul Ricard. This is what he told after it.

Have you used to the new team already?

Everything runs well, people are cool, although we have not yet been at the races. We have some test-days behind us but the mileage gathered there is not that large because the car was shared between three drivers every day.

How it feels to have a roof above you?

It’s cool, very different. To be honest it took some time to get used, those last tenths are difficult to shave off. Certain pace was there from the beginning but the final end needs some fine-honing.

Is it easier physically to drive a GT car?

It is not very demanding but with hot weather it becomes bloody hot inside, so it is not that easy.

G-forces during cornering and braking should be much lower?

Yes, definitely it is easier to your neck and a bit easier to hands. But braking is much harder. Every time I have to push the pedal with full power. In single-seaters you usually don’t behave like this. Maybe only with certain cars you have to make initial full effort at the end of a long straight. Our cars have ABS which means you have to keep the pedal pushed to floor all the time with full power. And stamina is needed as well – if you have a long race and it is 60 degrees in the cabin then it becomes rather difficult.

Your races in ELMS last four hours and there are three drivers sharing a car.

Yes, I will do one stint, other drivers will do two. One stint lasts 50 minutes, the final one 40.

It is pretty much the same duration as it was in World Series.

Basically yes. I will also run in qualification, plus then one stint during the race. It depends on strategy, which stint exactly.

How much do you know about your team-mates?

I am a gold-grade driver in our ELMS team and Grégoire Demoustier is the silver. He has driven GTs for three years already and is very good silver driver, on his days as good as any gold. Actually the result depends more on the other drivers than me – combined they do four stints, I do only one. Bronze driver is the most important part because if he happens to lap three seconds slower, you have no chance. My responsibility is qualification – if I put the car to the end of the grid, it is very difficult to get decent result.

How does it feel when cars have so different speeds and you are the slowest?

Rather silly. Our GTC-cars have only a little gap to GTE class. We are on the same level with average GTEs and maybe one second behind the fastest ones. But it is a diferent story with LMP2s. Those prototypes with their diffusers and everything are as quick as single-seaters in fast turns, but on straights they are not faster than us. I guess it feels silly for them to overtake us as well.

So you have to let them by losing as little time as possible in the process.

If you see them closing in from behind you must simply pay no attention and drive your own race. If you start to let them by on straights you will lose too much time.

How do you set up the car having three drivers with different preferences and habits?

Basically bronze driver is ignored and at least in ELMS I am the one who decides. I am the gold driver and I tell what should be done with the car. Grégoire is also quite good in setting the car up and his opinions are close to my ones. On the other hand I must be sensible and can’t make the car too difficult to drive, because then it may cost too much time for the bronze driver. Three of us are more or less the same stature, maybe in 5 cms from each other and it makes things. In Blancpain I have different team-mates and it becomes a little bit more complicated.

Do you have seat inserts like in single-seaters?

I have seen such things but we in ART don't use them. We use little pillow-like things called chips. You just put those chips behind you to sit a little bit closer to the steering wheel.

What about the competition level?

Blancpain should be a very tough series. Let’s assume there 50 cars entered to a certain round, then about 20 of them are Pro Cup ones which means 60 professional drivers. Then there are 20 Pro-Am cars which means at least 20 more pros. It makes 80 professional drivers on one race! Blancpain is certainly the most equally matched series for GT3 cars.

What do you know about your competitors?

Very little. I don’t know many names from GT racing. Before last tests I happened to watch some old FIA GT races and I learned Stéphane Ortelli’s name when he gave an interview. Only thanks to that I knew who he is when he came to talk to me during the tests. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue. (Stéphane Ortelli is a Monagasque driver, overall winner at Le Mans 24 hour race in 1998 and FIA GT Series champion last year).

Do you have any targets for 2014?

I hope for as much success as possible. One thing is how I drive personally and the other is the results. The latter one depends very much on my team-mates. I guess it is easier to graduate to somewhere when results are better. But if I manage to grab some attention with my own driving it is also OK.

So potentially it is a possible springboard to anywhere?

This is what I hope for. Maybe not back to single-seaters, but basically anywhere…

***

You can watch live timing and live streaming from Blancpain GT Series website at www.blancpain-gt-series.com/endurance


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