Bryce Miller was speechless after his first laps on the 13.269-km Circuit de la Sarthe, preparing for his first 24 Heures du Mans this weekend. But he got quickly back to business on Wednesday evening, completing the 10 laps in daylight and three after dark required to drive in the classic 24-hour race.
Miller (USA) is teamed with Rob Bell (GBR) and Tim Sugden (GBR) in the the No. 92 JMW Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage. Bell qualified the car 13th on the provisional GT2 class grid with a lap time of four minutes 6.391 seconds, at an average speed of 199.132 km/h.
"The circuit is fantastically fast. I have thoroughly enjoyed the speed of it and never have upshifted into fifth and sixth gear so many times in one lap," Miller said.
"The first lap was just quite a shock. It is such a storied and historic circuit, so centric to motorsports. As a driver, you just feel this aura of importance about the track when you are here -- it's very strange. I was quite glad to have Doc -- Steve Bunkhall, our engineer -- on the radios performing standard systems checks with me just to bring me back out of my dream world and back into my job. You want to approach it like any other circuit for its first time but come on, it's Le Mans!"
Miller usually drives Porsche 911 race cars, but he is quickly getting up to speed in the Aston Martin with support from the team and his co-drivers.
"The Aston Martin is very strong in many of the high-speed sectors. It really excels in the high-speed braking, as well. I have quite enjoyed driving the car and it is nice to switch it up from the Porsche. I am still coming to the car at this point, but Rob and Tim have both been a great help in accelerating things along," Miller noted.
"We had so much time here at the circuit before our first running. The learning process came through getting out on the circuit with the scooters and then sitting down with a track map to go over maximum and minimum gears per sector or corner. I had visualized a lap many times in my head before the first real lap. Now I am moving braking reference points and working with data overlays to prioritize my efforts by time differentials."
The JMW Motorsport trio will have two more sessions to qualify and fine-tune the car on Thursday and a brief warmup session on Saturday morning. They'll race through the weekend, giving Miller 24 hours to savor the dream.