Signing for Aston Martin Racing as a factory driver to race in the World Endurance Championship completes a plan that myself and my management team started working on back in September 2016, and I’m very proud that it’s all worked out perfectly. Back then, we set out a roadmap to secure a top seat in Formula E as well as a manufacturer-backed drive in the WEC. It’s been a lot of hard work, but to pull it all off 14 months later is something that makes me very proud. I can’t believe we’ve actually done it!
My new role with Aston Martin for the WEC was announced on Tuesday, and that came only a matter of weeks after my confirmation with DS Virgin Racing in Formula E. My first race with Virgin will be in Hong Kong the weekend after next, on 2nd/3rd December, and as I write this I’m just outside Paris having spent the day on the simulator. DS use the Citroen World Rally Championship team’s simulator, and everything has been going well. We’ve done a lot of work and preparation, looking into anything and everything. Testing of the car has been going well too. We don’t really know our relative performance level yet but think Audi and Renault will be the teams to chase once again. Regardless, if we do a good job we should be able to fight for good positions.
The Aston Martin drive really completes what we set out to do, and I’m extremely happy with it. I first drove for the Aston Martin WEC team at the post-season test in Bahrain last year. Apart from the obvious thing – Aston Martin being British – it’s an extremely cool brand, one that is putting a lot of emphasis on new and innovative products. We’ve got a new-generation Vantage GTE, are the defending winners from the Le Mans 24 Hours, won the World Endurance title in 2016 and are certainly a top team. Prodrive, who run the works team, also have an amazing history and I’m really proud to represent them in this World Championship.
We’ve already carried out a lot of testing with the new Vantage at Navarra in Spain and at Sebring in Florida (a track where I won the Sebring 12 Hours this March with Ricky and Jordan Taylor). We’ve done plenty of mileage already, including several 30-hour tests, and the car has run really well. Reliability-wise it has been mega, and performance-wise it’s been really good. I think we’ve got a very strong weapon. Whilst I’ve only technically been to Sebring twice in all, I've certainly done a hell of a lot of laps there now!
My Aston Martin team-mates – Darren Turner, Jonny Adam, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen – are absolutely top lads. There’s a really good atmosphere in the team and doing a 30-hour test together that really helped build a proper team spirit. There’s a lot of professionalism throughout the team. Obviously this will be the first time I’ve raced a GTE car as opposed to the GT3 I raced in the Nurburgring 24 Hours. But the GTE has a little bit more power, more downforce, and doesn’t have ABS. So it all feels quite familiar to me from single-seaters. It doesn’t take much adjusting and it’s fairly easy to drive.
The WEC championship itself is switching to a football-type season from 2019 so that it finishes with the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, which is a great idea, but in order to get to that point they are holding what’s called a super-season, which begins in early 2018 and goes through to Le Mans 2019. So that means two Le Mans in one season. That’s going to be fantastic, because I love Le Mans – I got LMP2 class pole position there on my debut this year. My aim is to win the championship and try to fight for at least one Le Mans victory. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be up there battling at the front.
Aston as a brand is so cool for a young British guy like me. I feel like James Bond! Of course, it’s got to be Daniel Craig for me because he’s the Bond I’ve grown up watching the most. Aston have run in the past with the #007, but the number I’ve used for much of my early career was 36, which always seemed lucky for me. I’m not sure I can persuade the guys at Aston Martin to enter us as #0036, but at least I’ve been given the 36 for Formula E. So I’m pretty happy about that, and can’t wait for the season to start next week!