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Q&A: life behind the wheel as an Aston Martin factory GT driver

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Q&A: life behind the wheel as an Aston Martin factory GT driver
Aug 15, 2016, 3:10 PM

There are 22 seats on the Formula 1 grid in 2016, which is more than in some years gone by thanks to Haas F1 joining the field this season, but it

There are 22 seats on the Formula 1 grid in 2016, which is more than in some years gone by thanks to Haas F1 joining the field this season, but it’s still a small number compared to the number of junior drivers climbing the single seater ladder, as well as the many professional racers taking part in other categories.

One of those drivers is Jonny Adam, a factory driver for Aston Martin Racing, a job that involves developing the very latest GT competition cars and competing in many different endurance and sprint races around the world.

The Scot also has to help the amateur (AM) racers that compete in Aston Martin cars improve, and he is also a coach to up-and-coming drivers.

British GT Jonny Adam

JAonF1 spoke to Adam about his work as a factory driver, which has seen him compete in the World Endurance Championship, the Blancpain GT series and British GT, where he is the reigning champion alongside his former teammate Andrew Howard, so far this season.

Q: You’re a factory Aston Martin driver, how did that come about?

Jonny Adam: Yeah I’ve been with Prodrive [which runs AMR] since the end of 2012 going into 2013, so I’ve been involved with the evolution of the current Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car. I first shook the current car down back in November 2011, so it was a bit of a privilege to get a phone call that said ‘come to Warwick’ – Prodrive’s test centre back then – to shake the car down.

I turned the first laps of this car and I’ve been on a journey since then doing all the different championships, through customer programmes to the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans this year. It’s full on.

British GT Jonny Adam

Q: Is it a case of driving any Aston, anywhere, in any championship?

JA: Yeah, it’s good and it’s nice to work with different teams, engineers and teammates as well. I was with the Beechdean team for five or six years and being in that mode it’s nice now to do stuff with the TF Sport team this year in British GT and with the Motorbase team as well. [It’s about] trying to keep them happy and trying to keep them winning as well.

The car is a great car – it’s still winning races in this championship and in the Blancpain GT championship as well.

Q: Is there an element of helping the AM drivers improve?

JA: Yeah, that’s the key. With most pros nowadays there’s only a small market of professional seats, as in pro teams. You look at WEC and there are a select few that get that opportunity, but the majority of AMs go racing at a high level and I think that’s where the pros really need to fit in. And it’s not just driving, you have to get the car and do the data with the AMs, because ultimately they make the difference on a weekend.

British GT Jonny Adam

For example this year, I’ve done 14 hours with Derek [Johnston, Adam’s TF Sport teammate in British GT] in the simulator prior to most weekends. We’ll do two or three hours just to get his head right and to learn a few tricks of the trade before he gets in the car. It seems to be working this year. [The pair are second in the British GT championship with one round of the season to go]

Q: What does your work as a driver coach involve?

JA: I’ve been doing driver coaching for about ten years, mostly Ginetta Junior stuff so one of my clients before was [2015 British GT4 champion] Jamie Chadwick. So I brought Jamie through Juniors and then she got the opportunity to race in GT4 last year with Beechdean and it was a great fit, a perfect platform, and in an Aston as well so it was good.

I still do a lot of coaching with kids from as young as 13 or 14 and in all sorts [of categories] from Clios to Ginetta Juniors and Ginetta SuperCup, all sorts. It keeps my head in and it’s good because you learn the discipline of good coaching which makes a difference.

Q: Did you do much single seater racing as a junior?

JA: I did in the past, I did about a year-and-a-half of the single seater stuff, but then I realised that my Dad didn’t have a blank cheque, so without that, even nowadays, without that it’s impossible to carve a career in single seaters and a successful one at that.

So hence why I moved to tin-tops, Clios and then Seats and then onto Touring Cars. Then after the that the bubble got burst because sponsorship got lost and I had nothing in 2010 and I turned my attention to GT stuff and it’s been a massive life changing experience really, coming into this.

British GT Jonny Adam

Q: What’s the best thing about your job?

JA: Driving an Aston I would say. No, I’ve seen different parts of the world, met some cool people and travelled the world racing. And getting paid for it professionally is what I wanted to do since I was ten years old and my family wanted that as well as much as I did, so for that to become a reality four years ago is quite cool.

Q: And what’s the worst thing?

JA: When you lose. We all want to win every weekend and it’s quite an emotional sport really. When it’s high, it’s properly high and on a Monday or Tuesday you’re bouncing off walls and you’re the happiest guy on the planet. But when it goes wrong or you lose a championship or an important race you want to give up really. But that’s part and parcel of it all.

British GT Jonny Adam

What do you make of Adam’s thoughts on being a factory GT driver? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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