British team also uses 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps as Le Mans “dress rehearsal”
The 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps on Saturday (2 May) gives JOTA Sport the rare opportunity of bidding for FIA World Endurance Championship category honours while at the same time preparing for a successful defence of its Le Mans 24 Hour LM P2 title.
The European Le Mans Series title protagonists make their first of two WEC appearances in 2015 beginning at Spa then at Le Mans in June – with the second ELMS race in between. JOTA’s ELMS regulars Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell are joined by sportscar race and WEC debutant Mitch Evans in the Gibson 015S Nissan for Spa. Evans, the 20-year-old protégé of Porsche “factory” driver Mark Webber, also races for JOTA at Le Mans with the third berth for the French “classic” still vacant due to factory Nissan NISMO loanee Tincknell being recalled for the Japanese manufacturer’s maiden LM P1 race.
Incredibly, JOTA start the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps bidding for a fourth consecutive LM P2 podium finish in the annual Belgium race. A LM P2 victory in 2012 (Dolan/Sam Hancock), third in 2013 (Dolan/Oliver Turvey/Lucas Luhr) and second last year (Dolan/Tincknell/Marc Gené), each in the Nissan-powered Zytek (now rebranded Gibson), is already a phenomenal achievement by the small but massively dedicated British team.
Practice begins for the 30-plus car field on Thursday with qualifying around the magnificent 20-corner, 4.352-mile Spa circuit with its legendary elevation changes and ultra-fast curves, on Friday evening. The race is scheduled to start at 1.30pm (UK time) on Saturday afternoon.
Simon Dolan (GB). Age 45. Born: Chelmsford, Essex. Lives: Monaco (MC): “Spa offers us a great ‘dress rehearsal’ opportunity for Le Mans – in terms of Mitch and myself for JOTA – but we’ll also be flat out for a rostrum finish. We’ve a great record in this race having achieved first, third and second placings over the last three years. Spa will give Mitch vital experience in traffic which will be crucial for him. Like most drivers, Spa is one of my favourite tracks. It’s got such a great flow, stunning scenery, elevation changes, and is really, really quick with the exception of all but the last corner.”
Mitch Evans (NZ). Age: 20. Born: Auckland, New Zealand. Lives: Aylesbury, Bucks, UK: “I've raced at Spa a number of times in GP3 and GP2 so I have good knowledge of the circuit and what to expect but obviously I’ll have to adapt to a sportscar around there. That said, I am sure I will be able to get up to speed. I love Spa. When I was a kid I always got up in the middle of the night for F1 back home in New Zealand. It was quite surreal when I drove it for the first time and didn't realise the amount of respect you had to give the circuit as it can bite you back. I want to get comfortable in the car and acquainted to the different style of racing a sportscar requires. Frequently overtaking GT cars but also keeping out of the way of the LM P1 cars! My goal is to leave Spa knowing I am ready to tackle Le Mans.”
Harry Tincknell (GB). Age: 23. Born: Exeter, Devon. Lives: Sidmouth, Devon (GB): “It will be very interesting to see how we fair against the WEC’s LM P2 ‘regulars’ – the competition is definitely stronger than last year but I'm confident we'll be able to fight with the best of them. My aim is to help JOTA achieve a top result while at the same time help Mitch acclimatise to sportscars in any way I can. I believe the lower drag of the revised Gibson will definitely help in the first and the last sectors of the Spa track while we were already strong in the middle sector last year. It should definitely help and we saw gains on the straights at Silverstone which are a lot shorter so the benefit should be increased for Spa.”