Q+A: Alex Lynn on his golden chance of glory with Ganassi

With Chip Ganassi Racing expanding its sportscar program next year to run two Cadillac DPi-V.Rs, Alex Lynn is being given the greatest opportunity of his career. He spoke with David Malsher-Lopez.

Q+A: Alex Lynn on his golden chance of glory with Ganassi
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Arguably, Lynn’s breakthrough year on the world stage was 2013, when he finished third in the European Formula 3 championship and then clinched victory in the legendary Macau race. That led to him being hired by Carlin for GP3 in 2014 which yielded the championship, and over the next two years he scored five wins in GP2 while also holding the role of development driver for the Williams Formula 1 team.

But Lynn wasn’t just quick, he was also smart enough to realize how few drivers achieve that dream of graduating to F1 full-time, and so he spread his wings to embrace sportscar racing.

Competing for Manor and then G-Drive Racing in LMP2, it took until only his fifth race to become a World Endurance Championship race-winner, and by then he had also chalked up an IMSA Prototype win – on his series debut – sharing a Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac with Ricky and Jordan Taylor in the legendary Sebring 12 Hours.

2017 Sebring 12 Hours winners Alex Lynn, with team owner Wayne Taylor and sons Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor.

2017 Sebring 12 Hours winners Alex Lynn, with team owner Wayne Taylor and sons Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor.

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Since then he has competed for Aston Martin Racing in the WEC, winning the GTE Pro class at Spa and, most significantly, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing a Vantage with Harry Tincknell and Maxime Martin last year. When AMR pulled out of WEC for 2021, Lynn hooked up with Wayne Boyd and Paul di Resta at United Autosports and finished fourth in the sportscar classic.

Another string to Lynn’s bow – and an important one, as it transpires – has been racing in Formula E over the past five years, driving for DS Virgin, Jaguar and most recently Mahindra Racing. This year he scored his first FE win in London and also two other podiums.

But the biggest news for Lynn when he reflects on 2021 will be his signing with Chip Ganassi Racing, as it prepares to run two Cadillac DPi-V.Rs in next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. It’s the model’s final year of eligibility before Cadillac’s LMDh program becomes top priority. With Kevin Magnussen heading off to Peugeot, it meant the legendary Ganassi team needed three new drivers to join Renger van der Zande for ’22, and those chosen were Sebastien Bourdais, Earl Bamber and Lynn.

Lynn winning the GTE Pro class at the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours racing an Aston Martin Vantage with Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell.

Lynn winning the GTE Pro class at the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours racing an Aston Martin Vantage with Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell.

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

And the 28-year-old Briton was hired un-tried by CGR – he was not at the ‘secret’ Road America test in August – which in itself gives a fair idea of the regard in which he is held. However, Lynn has now tested for the team – at Road Atlanta, a couple of days before Cadillac confirmed its line-up on Oct. 19th. Now he’s back at the same venue to watch the 2021 season finale and learn all he can about Ganassi methodology, as Magnussen, van der Zande and endurance extra Scott Dixon attempt to claim Petit Le Mans glory.

DML: What do you think of Road Atlanta?
AL:
We tested here a few weeks ago, the first time the team ran two cars, and the track’s immense. Really, really special, very fast. I think DPi cars are right on the limit of how quick a car you want to race around here.

Can you tell us how this opportunity to race for Ganassi came about?
I had the option of staying in Formula E – quite a few teams were interested – but when I sat down and thought about where I want my career to go, there was a big pull to try and win the big sportscar races overall. This opportunity gives me that chance, considering the way the sportscar landscape is evolving over the next couple of years. That made my decision quite an easy one, to be honest.

And it’s a real privilege. Obviously I’m really proud to represent a brand like Cadillac, but also Chip Ganassi Racing is steeped in heritage, so to race for a team like this is a real honor.

I guess it helps that in the record book you won on your IMSA Prototype debut – and in a Cadillac, too.
I suppose so, yeah… My bread-and-butter has always been high-downforce single-seaters, whether that was test driving in F1 or racing in GP2 and GP3 – that was really where my career started. Then I went into LMP2, spent three years in GTs, but I always felt my home was in Prototypes, big downforce cars, and so I always really wanted to come back to an opportunity like this. That’s where my heart wanted to be.

Obviously the gap between your first IMSA Prototype race – that Sebring 12hr win with the Taylors – and your second, which will be next January at the Rolex 24, is going to be almost five years, which is a weird stat in itself. How much can you recall of your debut that is still applicable now?
Well I definitely remember from that race with Wayne Taylor just having the time of my life! It was so much fun. And the car itself left a great impression on me. The sound of the engine is honestly just as nice in the cockpit as it is from outside, and the feel of the car is fantastic. It’s a really cool racing car to drive on the limit, and those emotions came flooding back last month as I pulled out of the pitlane here. The car just left me with the biggest smile on my face.

"I’m really proud to represent a brand like Cadillac, but also Chip Ganassi Racing is steeped in heritage, so to race for a team like this is a real honor."

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Will your experience of getting the best out of a complicated machine like the Formula E car will help in the learning and development of the LMDh Cadillac?
Yes, I think so. Whenever a car has a hybrid powertrain or electric powertrain, there are so many tools that are unlocked that can benefit the performance of a racecar. A combustion engine has limited tools that you can play with, but as soon as you add a hybrid element, you then have a real big toolbox to work with, so yes, I think my background of Formula E was part of the reason why I was offered the chance to join the team.

Will you miss the open-wheel racing scene?
[Pause] I hope and I’m betting on the fact that IMSA and WEC working together means we’re about to produce a real golden era of sportscar racing. My open-wheel career was really, really cool and gave me a strong foundation of racing in general, but this is the perfect chance to write your name in history with the rise of sportscar racing. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, the opportunity to score historic wins, get the big trophies, whether that’s Le Mans overall, Daytona overall, the chance to try and claim Sebring again…  That really drives me.

Leaping back and forth between LMP2 and GTs in recent seasons, have you had to deal with transition periods where you recalibrate your senses, or has that diversity been beneficial?
To be honest, the GT cars these days are so heavily aero-dependent so the Aston Martin had a lot of downforce and was what I’d call a real aero car. So that doesn’t feel too different to LMP2 from certain aspects. Obviously an LMP2 car makes a lot more downforce, but you find the same rules still apply – you still have to plan your moves, you still find that following in dirty air will leave you sliding around and burning up tires, and so on. All that experience can be applied to any aero-dependent car, so is useful knowledge to have.

When do you next get to drive the Ganassi Caddy?
Next month we will test at Daytona to give us the best chance to hit the ground running at the Roar Before The 24. The team knows it’s in a really strong position, it’s had a really good end to this season, the car’s really good, so having that second car will be another step forward and it’s going to take full advantage of that. And honestly, I can’t wait. I jumped in during the test here, and the car immediately felt fantastic. Four-and-a-half-years since I’d last driven one of these cars, and it just felt great right from the off.

I think Ganassi is looking really strong this weekend, and they’ve had a win and podiums this year, which shows where the team’s at, considering this is their first year running a Cadillac.

Do you know which driver you’ll be paired with in 2022?
Honestly, no, although I think we’ll find out soon. But whoever I’m paired with, it will be a world-class driver… and hopefully they’ll feel the same about me!

Ganassi could have won the Rolex 24 on the team’s debut with the Cadillac, and as you say, they’re looking strong everywhere now. Do you believe you (and whomever your partner is) can fight for the IMSA title right away, despite you obviously lacking experience of several tracks on the IMSA schedule?
Yeah, I do honestly believe so and it’s certainly my intention. Having seen a little bit from the outside and now from the inside the way this program is shaping up, the effort that Ganassi is putting in, I really want to target the championship. Yeah, like you mentioned, there’s a lot of tracks I haven’t been to but I see that as a nice challenge. My background of racing on the UK circuits means I’m reminded of them a lot when I look at the tracks over here – very similar characteristics – but obviously I’m going to do a lot of background work to get all the knowledge I can before I turn up at any of the given tracks.

The manufacturer simulator programs I’m guessing are going to be geared toward developing the LMDh car for 2023, so I’ve invested in a simulator at home to get myself as prepared as possible for the 2022 season. I think that’s important, to really immerse yourself in knowledge of these circuits so that as soon as you hit the track in practice, you’re on the limit. You know the Ganassi team are doing all they can to be quick right away, and I think that’s what we as drivers need to do as well.

So yes, I hope that’s all going to help make us contenders for the championship, and I hope also to get a Rolex 24 win at Daytona – that’s one of my dreams as a driver. It’s one of the big ones.

Lynn won the Formula E race in London in July. He believes FE experience will help his understanding of the LMDh Prototypes in 2023.

Lynn won the Formula E race in London in July. He believes FE experience will help his understanding of the LMDh Prototypes in 2023.

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

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