Alexander Sims : "The priority was to get back to racing that I enjoyed"
YOU’VE HAD A RELATIONSHIP WITH GM ON THE CORVETTE SIDE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY WITH THE CADILLAC V-LMDH?
“I’m super-excited about this opportunity. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind situation since Le Mans, which ended in disappointment when things were going the right way for us with Corvette. Speaking to (GM sports car racing program manager) Laura (Wontrop Klauser) after the race about how things went and she put us in touch with Action Express and conversations went pretty positive from the start. I was able to get over to Atlanta to do a test with Pipo and the team. It was a short day in the DPi car, but it was a wonderful thing to drive. Everything went well thankfully, and we were able to agree to things for next year, which is an absolute dream come true from my point of view. I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I’m joining an incredibly experienced group of people at Action Express – a group of engineers and Pipo who have had success in the past – and hopefully I can learn quickly from them and slot in and do a decent job.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT PUTTIG YOUR SOLE FOCUS ON SPORTS CAR RACING AFTER DOING FORMULA E?
“I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t think I shied away from the fact that Formula E has been an interesting time for me, but ultimately concluded that it’s not the championship that fits with me in a sporting sense. I couldn’t get my head around it and ultimately didn’t want to be there anymore and wanted to get back to IMSA racing. To be in this position to basically get exactly what I wanted and be racing in the top class for the first time is genuinely a dram come true. I loved the two years that I did in IMSA – the most enjoyable form of racing that I’ve done. The rules format tends to keep you in the races if you’re struggling, if you’ve had issues there are so many times where you can get back in the race after a hiccup. And even if you’re in a strong position and you’re fast, it’s unlikely that you’re ever just going to sail away for two hours ahead of the field. There’s always going to be safety cars, there’s always going to be close racing to keep you on your toes.”
ARE YOU NOW EXCLUSIVE TO GM OR DO YOU STILL HAVE A DEAL WITH BMW?
“That’s yet to be fully decided, but my absolute main focus is going to be IMSA with Cadillac.”
WERE YOU PURSUING THIS AS YOUR PRIMARY FOCUS?
“This has been my sole focus, honestly. This year and last year that I raced with Corvette was a great introduction to the GM Racing program. All the people on it were a joy to work with. Obviously, the teams are different but the people at the top are the same and to be able to continue working with them is my goal.”
WAS MAKING THE MOVE TO THE TOP LEVEL A PRIORITY FOR YOU?
“Honestly, it wasn’t the main priority when deciding to leave Formula E. The priority was to get back to racing that I enjoyed, which was racing in IMSA. If that were in GT or prototypes, the same fulfillment in that criteria would have been there. When prototypes were discussed, the opportunity for a race driver is pretty exciting to run in the top class of any championship. It’s been a while since I’ve driven a prototype. I drove LMP2 in ALMS and a few WEC races quite a few years ago. The more higher downforce driving is something that’s not too far away from my current situation, but obviously driving in Formula E is somewhat different. To get back to higher downforce, fast racing where you’re generally always going to be the leader in terms of speed of class, not having to look into your mirrors always – which is a little bit of a challenge in a GT car – is going to be nice and focus forward. I’m going to need that focus because things come up pretty fast in these cars; they’re super quick. It’s a bit of an adjustment period in these test days we’ve got, but that’s the reason why we’ve got them and I’ll get up to speed for the first race.”
ARE THERE SOME THING YOU LEARNED IN FORMULA E THAT MIGHT BE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE LMDH CAR?
“In terms of not getting my head around it, it’s just in terms of being able to achieve top performance consistently. With four years in Formula E with two different manufacturers, I’ve gone through quite an extensive development process with both of them. Understood quite a few things about the systems that are used in Formula E, which probably gives me just a decent technical base knowledge. I’m under no illusions that LMDh GTP racing is not Formula E. Hybrid systems have some similarities to a full electric drive, but there’s not the same as well. They have their own set of challenges. I’m not coming into this that I know all and can teach people how to do their jobs. I guess it just helps when some engineers are having discussions about various systems and the way some things work, I guess I have a bit of a head start and might the basics of how things are working. There are a lot of challenges. You don’t stop learning. So far, it's proven useful at times to have some knowledge of electric drive systems.”
HOW HAS PIPO HELPED YOU DURING TESTING?
“It’s one of those things where you’re never quite sure until you start driving, and I tend to have a bit of self-doubt sometimes. Although I raced at a decent level ion F3 some years back, driven GTs and Formula E, I was thinking I hope this comes back to me quickly. Thankfully, it all did. It’s not like I’m a sorted, polished driver in every aspect in high downforce racing just yet but the basics are coming back. Pipo has been really helpful in being able to ask and giving honest answers about some of the challenges and whatever hurdle I’m facing during testing. It generally tends to be small things, but it's small things that we have to focus on to optimize our performance to be right at the front which is what we want to do.”
ANY MEMORABLE COMPETITIVE RACES AGAINST EACH OTHER IN F3?
“I couldn’t believe when we looked back at the Vallelunga race that I couldn’t remember racing (Derani). We must not have been together on track. But I do remember Macua, following (Derani) for far too many laps not being able to pass. That was quite frustrating.”