2011 Le Mans Test Day
Hand’S Banner Year About To Become Even Better
First time at Le Mans this weekend as part of the Test Day
What has already been quite a year for Joey Hand stands to get even better this weekend. The young American road-racing star gets his first crack at the Le Mans circuit during Sunday’s test day for the Le Mans 24 Hours. He is part of BMW Motorsport’s lineup alongside Dirk Müller and Andy Priaulx in a factory BMW M3 GT.
Racing at Le Mans is definitely a bucket-list item for Hand, who leads the GT championship in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón with Müller. The pairing is two-for-two in the ALMS this year with class victories at Sebring (alongside Priaulx) and this past weekend at Long Beach for BMW Team RLL.
“I’ve never been at all. My recon is studying in-car video plus video games and simulators,” the 32-year-old Hand said. “I’ll get some time (at the test day). I know how it goes in endurance racing being the third driver. That guy doesn’t necessarily get all the laps so I’m not expecting a ton. Anything will be good for me. If it’s three laps, that will be fine. One of my strongest points has been learning tracks. I think after I do the games, I’ll know the direction of the track. They are so good now that you can see stuff even like brake markers. After we do the test, things will be OK.”
Racing at Le Mans has been a long-time goal for Hand, who let those in charge at BMW Motorsport – including motorsport director Dr. Mario Thiessen – know right away of his wish to drive in the world’s greatest auto race.
“If I don’t say anything, they may not know that I’m interested,” he reasoned. “It’s the race of all races for sports cars. So they knew and it was talked about last year. It just didn’t work out and the ball was already rolling. This year it was in people’s minds. I’ve been fitting in more and more and doing better and better – jelling better with the BMW guys. Dr. Thiessen called and asked me if I wanted to do it a couple of weeks after (winning overall at) Daytona. They solidified it after Sebring.”
He backed up the assignment with two ALMS victories, the GT pole position at Long Beach and the class’ fastest race lap at Sebring.
“I always drive to prove myself. I have that bone in my body and it must have come from my dad,” he said. “I try to drive like my career is on the line. In my mind, you should be fast every session. For me, it’s been more about comfort, and I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with the team.
“This class makes us raise the baseline,” Hand added. “It makes you prepare to go to Le Mans with that same baseline because so many of these guys are going to race at Le Mans. The good thing is that I know a lot of them and know how they race. So it’s good preparation in that sense. This is the time to be in GT as a driver, a team and manufacturer. You’re racing against the best of the best on all levels.”