Q&A with Chris Buncombe (26), the leading British contender in the GT1 Drivers Championship. Q: Chris, you drive one of the stunning JMB Racing Team Maserati MC 12 GT1 cars. Can you describe what it is like to drive such an immensely powerful ...
Q&A with Chris Buncombe (26), the leading British contender in the GT1 Drivers Championship.
Q: Chris, you drive one of the stunning JMB Racing Team Maserati MC 12 GT1 cars. Can you describe what it is like to drive such an immensely powerful sports car?
A: Immensely powerful is an understatement! You have around 650 brake horse power tucked under your right foot and combined with the incredible carbon brakes, it's a mind blowing experience which words do little justice too! Put another way, it's the ultimate experience a man can have outside of the bedroom and a good bedroom at that! We regularly top speeds over 200MPH! It is, however, a very 'Driver Friendly' car! The seats are individually tailored to suit each driver and are quite comfortable given the aggression the cars are exposed to, particularly over the harsh kerbs. We have a six-speed sequential gearbox (which makes gear changing very much quicker than in a road car), and very direct and positive steering. The steering lock is not brilliant, but it never is on a race car, though of course at racing speeds you do not need much lock to change direction!
Q: What are the brakes like?
A: These utilise the latest technologies; the brakes are made from carbon fibre which I admit took a little time to get used to -- they just slow you down so quickly, it really takes getting used to how quickly you loose speed! The trick of course is to keep the heat in the brakes as when they are cold they are not at their most effective! When they are working at their optimum state, the braking g-forces are really indescribable! Brake temperatures can be over 1000C !
Q: And the tyres?
A: Well, they are at their best when they are new, so for qualification for example the first two or three laps are the best. However, they are designed to last a full driving stint between fuel stops -- that is usually about an hour of constant racing. It is not unusual to double stint the tyres which means you can save time changing the tyres during a fuel stop, but we do not do that unless we are sure about wear rates. They alter at every track and work in-line with the fuel strategy.
Q: The weather forecast isn't good for the weekend. Should it rain, to what extent is vision compromised on track?
A: Surprisingly perhaps, but visibility even in the rain is quite good. The aerodynamic set-up of the car forces the windscreen practically to clear itself. It certainly is much better than a single-seater car, especially Formula One where the spray has a dramatic impact upon driver vision.
Q: What other cars have you raced in the past?
A: After two years driving Karts, I moved into race cars, driving quite a differing range from Formula Vauxhall Junior, Formula Renault and Formula Nissan, to Renault Sport Spider Championship, Super Touring with Nissan and briefly in Formula Three also. More recently I raced the Chiron Prototype sports car and last year I did the last three rounds of this championship in the JMB Racing Ferrari 575M.
Q: Which has been your favourite race car to date?
A: That is easy! This fabulous Maserati MC 12!"
Q: How do you compare it to the Ferrari 575 that you raced last year?
A: The two are quite different actually, with the engine being mounted behind where I sit in the Maserati MC12 compared to being in front of you with the Ferrari. Consequently too, this Maserati is not as noisy to be in either, I guess you simply leave all the noise behind you! Although the Ferrari is a purpose built GT racing car, it was originally designed from the road going 575 model. Whereas the MC12 has been purely designed as an out and out race car which means the aerodynamic downforce created is far greater than the Ferrari.
Q: Who do you respect most when you are out on the race track?
A: My team mates. In our sister car we have Andrea Bertolini and Karl Wendlinger who both won the last race in France. Both are fast and experienced race drivers! Then there is Philipp Peter who has been doing a great job alongside me in our car. I also share the car with Russian born Roman Rusinov, who like me is having his first year in this car.
Q: Do you have an ultimate motor racing hero from the past or present that you aspire to be like?
A: There have been so many great Sportscar drivers over the years, names like Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell and of course more recently Tom Kristensen. In overall motorsport terms I have always admired Aryton Senna's career particularly.
Q: Finally, sum up for us your thoughts and hopes for this weekend's home race at Silverstone?
A: This is the centenary edition of the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy, so it is a real privilege to be a competitor in this race, probably the most important of the season so far and certainly of my career to date. My Dad [Jonathan] finished second twice in the Tourist Trophy when he was racing, so I just want to go one better and win! A podium is certainly not out of the question!