The 2017 season has seen Alex Kapadia with a hugely varied selection of racing and track action. From racing and testing in four different Ligier JS P3 LMP3 across three different teams, racing two different Radicals and onto a Whelen Euroseries NASCAR – it has been half a year of some spectacular experiences.
The core race programmes have come with a dual European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup programme featuring a pair of Ligier JS P3 LMP3 cars for RLR MSport and co drivers John Farano and Morton Dons (ELMS) and Ross Warburton (Le Mans Cup, seen below with Alex).
“After doing a few odd LMP3 drives here and there it has been really good to get a full season in the ELMS this year. LMP3 has really helped me achieve this. I had carved a niche in Radicals having had nearly ten seasons with a number of co-drivers, but it has always been difficult to make a permanent step up to LMP2 as the budgets are so much higher for the AMs. I have shown great pace when I have had LMP2 opportunities but a full season programme has never been possible. LMP3 offers a series where AMs are happy to fund more than one seat, so this year I have focused on learning the LMP3 class inside and out as with now well over 100 cars sold worldwide, a good pro here will always get work.”
Alex’s pace has never been in doubt and some very strong runs thus far have only consolidated that reputation, Alex climbing through a packed and high quality field in ELMS and Le Mans Cup races at Silverstone and Monza and repeating the feat at Le Mans for the Road to Le Mans races, the latter (with Martin Rich – pictured top) earning the team a third place finish at the biggest race meeting of the Michelin Le Mans Cup season, and earning the Kapadia/ Rich combo an opportunity to stand on one of the most famous podiums in world motorsport. Then during the Le Mans Cup race at Red Bull Ring Alex went from 18th to 2nd before closing in on the leading Norma during a spectacular stint in the first hour of the race.
RLR MSport were hampered last year with injuries on and off circuit causing the driver line ups to change a lot throughout the year, but the stability this year has allowed them to start to show their class and move towards the front of the grid, proven by both cars running in the top four during the Road to Le Mans races.
“I am really enjoying the journey with RLR MSport this year. The team are out and out racers and they are all totally motivated to win. Every time we have been out in the car this year we have taken a step forward, it is such a positive feeling.
LMP3 is extremely competitive, with 17 cars entered in the ELMS and everything has to be perfect to get a result. We’re getting there fast and in general we are there or thereabouts as the fastest of the first year driver line-ups. That will only improve as we move forward and learn together as a team. I think we will be the ones to watch in the second half of the season and moving forward I know that the team have already had a number of enquiries from drivers for next season.”
Beyond the full season commitments though Alex is getting other calls too, there has been further LMP3 action this coming weekend when he joined multiple race-winning team Nielsen Racing at Silverstone in the Henderson Insurance UK LMP3 Cup with Dean Gibbs, and was also due to drive in the Creventic Prototype series at Paul Ricard for Speedworks alongside Ross Warburton, before the race was cancelled.
“I think that I am the only driver who has competed in LMP3 in all four current ACO-licensed LMP3 Championships, three of them this year! It’s again part of the growth of the category and it’s good to know that the top teams have seen and understood what I can offer to their customers, and to them as a team. It is not just about being quick during your stint, it is about the whole package, you need to give the AM driver value by allowing him to progress faster than he would otherwise without you. If they can learn in one year what it would have taken two years to learn on their own then you have saved them a lot of money. You need to be able to communicate what they need to do in a way that they can relate to, and everyone learns differently. Finally you have to be able to jump in the car and with limited time available quickly get a feel for what we need from the car to get the maximum from your bronze driver. Often we may choose a set up that is a few tenths off the ultimate pace for the pro but that helps the AM driver to find two seconds.”
The experience working with gentleman racers has come from nearly ten years racing in Radicals in both the European and domestic championships. This year has been no exception with Alex having raced a Radical SR8 and Spyder with Manhal Allos. “Pace of the Radical SR8 is very similar to the LMP3 and the European Masters series visits many of the same circuits so it is a great grounding for any driver looking to move into endurance racing.
Whilst small, very fast racing prototypes have been the bread and butter of Alex’s career there was an opportunity in June to try something very, very different after he got a call from old friend Mirco Schultis with an offer to race a NASCAR Stock Car!
“I’ve raced before with Mirco and his Mishumotors team in GT cars, most recently in last year’s Bathurst 12 Hours but this wasn’t something I expected to be racing – ever! But what an experience. The NASCAR Whelen EuroSeries is a NASCAR sanctioned Championship and was the main event at Brands Hatch’s American Speedfest. I couldn’t believe the size of the crowd, certainly bigger than the British Touring Car Championship.”
The 400 bhp+ Chevrolet SS came to the Championship after service at the Race of Champions and Alex relished the opportunity to race alongside established winners in the category – and some special guests. Alex outpaced team-mate (ex Formula 3000 Champion and three times Champcar Series runner up) Bruno Junqueira and NASCAR legend, 2000 NASCAR Champion Bobby Labonte.
“It was a fantastic experience. I was very happy to be running consistently as the fastest off the first timers, and learnt a lot about a completely different discipline, I can’t thank Mirco enough for the opportunity. We also had Peter Baron from Starworks engineering the cars for the weekend which was very cool. I have wanted to work with Peter for a while now.
Alex’s last but possibly most exciting challenge of the year will be racing in the Goodwood Revival TT race alongside Ross Warburton in his famous E-type CUT8. “I have never raced historics before but what a way to start at the TT! That weekend is going to be something special.”
“Beyond all of that I’ve even been handed a microphone from time to time. I commentated for Radio Le Mans on the WEC race at Spa in May and even did a stint at their biggest event of the year, the Le Mans 24 Hours, a crowd of over 200,000 and a listening audience worldwide into seven figures, No pressure! all great experience in seeing yet another side of the sport, and a real buzz seeing the LMP2 cars coming so close to an historic result.”
So with the second half of the season upon us how would Alex sum up the year so far?
“Very promising, real pace emerging amongst very competitive grids and every prospect of much more to come. My role moving forward is to help the teams, my co-drivers and I, turn our potential into results.
Pics by Oliver Reed, James Beckett, Xymanic