The young French star was in the career wilderness, but now Motorsport.com’s Emmanuel Rolland caught up with new Carlin Formula Renault 3.5 signing Tom Dillmann after he was handed a single-seater lifeline.
Q: Tom, after you moved to Porsche Carrera Cup France, we thought you had definitively set your sights on endurance racing?
“Indeed, I couldn’t see many options for me in single-seaters, especially without budget, it really is complicated. Also, what happened with Russian Time [in GP2, when he lost his drive after an impressive first season] really dampened my enthusiasm, so I was contemplating another path for my career. For sure, as a driver, the aim is to be professional, that is to say paid to drive cars. Endurance presented me with more options in that context.”
Q: How did you reach an agreement with Jagonya Ayam with Carlin for 2015?
“Quite quickly, actually. In early December, I was at Barcelona for a coaching session with the Motopark team, with whom I have been working for several years. Then, I got a phone call from the Carlin guys who were offering me a test at Valencia in Formula Renault 3.5. After that, another test was planned at Estoril. After this testing, I had my drive for 2015. I kind of knew the people from Carlin after racing for them in a GP3 race in 2011; I had actually got pole position back then. But it is true that I did not expect such an offer.”
Q: Now, you’re back in single-seaters, in a high-level championship, and what’s more, in a team which is experienced in motorsport. This must be satisfying for you?
“Yes, after GP2, I’m again going to race in a championship that is just below F1 on the feeder series ladder, which is satisfying for sure. Now, the team has not competed in Formula Renault 3.5 last year and is being developed again for this program. Many people have been recruited for this year, including mechanics and engineers. The team is almost starting from scratch; this is why they called on me, they were looking for an experienced driver with a good feedback on the car. I’m bouncing back once again, that’s quite crazy... I know I am quite well rated in motorsport; when there is a free seat with no budget constraints, people call on me, which is nice.”
Q: The Formula Renault 3.5 championship will offer its champion a Formula 1 test at the end of the season. Are you still thinking of F1?
“I am not really in that state of mind. I do my job, I don’t really think of Formula 1 because other criteria play a part in getting there. My first goal is to make a living out of my passion. Obviously, the possibility of getting some mileage in F1 is quite an incentive!
Q: What is your aim for the 2015 season?
“This is hard to say as the team is almost new. The aim obviously is to win the championship, but for that, we will need good synergy in the team and to perform as early as the start of the season, as early as possible. My role will exactly be to guide the engineers to set the car up, they count on me for that too.”
Q: Is being the only top driver of the team a disadvantage?
“Not really because, again, I have enough knowledge and experience to set the car up. Also, the team counts on me to help Sean Gelael [his less experienced team-mate] make quick progress in the series, too.”
Q: After Russia, it is Indonesia that rekindles your career...
“Indeed. And they’re doing what they need to do to succeed, and they think on a grand scale. I spent a week in Jakarta, devoting myself to press conferences, TV shows, talk-shows, and various PR events, it was incredible. On this point, I signed with the Jagonya Ayam sponsor, and they are willing to support me as long as possible, with long-term plans. This is very heartening too. I can’t wait for the season to start!”