RYAN LEWIS RIDES THE LEARNING CURVE AT SILVERSTONE
Ryan Lewis took part in his first European sportscar race last weekend; the Autosport 1000km of Silverstone, with Creation AIM. The good old British weather meant that he got a chance to do his first run in the wet in an LMP1 car on Friday. This was also his first chance to compare the Creation AIM to the Intersport Lola he races in the States.
"Both myself and Stephen (team-mate, Stephen Simpson) were very competitive in the tricky conditions, especially in the very wet stages," said Ryan. "Whether this was due to youthful exuberance or ability I am not sure! The car feels quite different from the Lola, certainly more challenging to drive, more nimble and more on the edge of grip, but very quick."
As Simpson had raced the Creation before, the task of qualifying came down to him. He did a good job and put the car in ninth place on the overall grid.
Simpson started the race with a double stint but struggled before the first pit stop with abnormally high tyre pressures causing a lack of all-round grip on the car. The team at Dunlop were quickly on the case and tried a few things with the second set of tyres, with great success. After the second stop Simpson was able to push much harder and started closing in on the places he had lost in the first stint, putting in very competitive lap times. Then it was Ryan's turn.
"At the second caution of the race I jumped in for my first stint," explains Ryan. "Stephen had mentioned over the radio that the clutch felt soft on his last stop, so it might need to be pumped up in the pit lane after our driver change. As soon as I jumped in I felt a very soft clutch pedal, and when I tried to select first gear the car jumped forward. The boys decided after a few more tries to pump some fluid through the clutch, which eventually allowed me to find first gear. I managed two laps out of the pits before the clutch began slipping on the Hangar and Abbey straights. I pitted and pulled into the garage to give the clutch a proper bleed and cool down. After 30 minutes it was decided to put in a new clutch which cost us around an hour and a half in the pits. The guys did a great job to get it in so fast so we had a chance to get out again. I think the frustration of not running a great deal before race day and the desire to impress on my first outing caused the red mist to descend. I was pushing hard from lap one, not taking chances in traffic but definitely trying to get to grips with the Creation chassis as soon as possible. The car felt great at high speed, especially when the tyres came up to temperature; not too wild but with a touch of oversteer, the way I enjoy to drive. The AIM powerplant was great all weekend, it had great smooth delivery all the way through the range."
Ryan ultimately retired from the race but he has learned a lot from the experience, as he explains, and is even more fired up about his new career in sportscars.
"In retrospect I think I worked the rear tyres too hard early in my run which created more oversteer, especially in getting the power down in the slower corners," continued Ryan. "This is something that could have been solved easily with a small change in my driving style, which I did in the slower corners, however the same couldn't be said for the Maggots Complex. Although I was already struggling with oversteer I insisted on pushing hard which eventually led to me spinning twice , the second time (whilst trying to stay with the Audi and Peugeot I had stayed with for a lap) placing me neatly in the gravel! When I made it back to the pits it was decided between us that rather than risk doing damage to the engine and internals, with all the gravel stuck inside, we would retire. It was an unfortunate end to a promising start to the day. Although our race was done when we were hit with clutch problems I think we still could have shown well. My frustration and desire to do so was what eventually finished us off. Still I learnt a great deal from working with everyone at Creation and having the opportunity to expand my experience in sportscars. I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity to run at Silverstone and would love to come back and work with everyone one day in the future."
Ryan's next challenge is one of the world's most famous sportscar races. Petit Le Mans takes place in Atlanta, USA, in three weeks time.