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Tandy On His Decision To Return To IMSA & GTE Pro At Le Mans

With Porsche's LMP1 programme over, Nick Tandy speaks to DSC about his returning to full-time GT racing

Nick Tandy’s 2018 programme with Porsche is set. With the 919 Hybrid programme coming to an end, Tandy is heading back to IMSA to compete full time in GTLM driving the 911 RSR.

With that all announced, and the Rolex 24 Hours fast approaching, DSC spoke to Tandy about his 2018 drive, and asked him for a bit of reflection on his 2017 LMP1 campaign in the WEC.

So Nick, first tell us about the GTLM programme. When did you find out you’d be racing in IMSA, and was it something you hoped to do?

“As soon as I knew the 919 programme was going to end, I spoke to Dr Walliser and Mr Seidl about what Porsche would do in the future. And I expressed an interest to race again in the States, because they had a team there for. Next year, it’s going to be Porsche’s biggest racing programme, and I’ve always enjoyed racing in North America so I asked to be placed back in the team next year.

“I’ve done full seasons in both and they’re different. The way the racing is structured is quite different and honestly I enjoy the variety of races in North America, I enjoy how close they are compared to six-hour WEC races. I also enjoy the competition more and the way that the regulations lead to closer racing.”

By structure do you mean the way that the series schedule and format works?

“Yeah. I think a variety of race lengths is good, an hour forty minutes, 10-hour races, 24-hour races and a few races in the middle. Also, the way that the regulations are with the races, with cautions, full-course yellows and a lot of time that the teams are up against each other in pit stops. For me it’s a more engaging type of endurance racing.”

Prior to the announcement, you competed at Petit Le Mans in GTLM with Porsche. Was that planned because you knew you’d be racing in GTLM in 2018, or were you going to race there anyway?

“I’d always planned to try and race at Atlanta this year. Daytona and Sebring were out because of the 919 test programme, but there were no clashes with Petit, so that was always the hope. Which car or class wasn’t worked out at the start of the season, but in the end it worked really well as preparation for 2018.”

How much running had you had in the 2017 911 RSR before Petit Le Mans?

“I’d been part of the test programme in the car last year, I hadn’t done a lot of milage, so by Petit I hadn’t driven it since the summer before. But it didn’t take long to get back up to speed.”

Next year you’ll be racing with Patrick Pilet for the full season, with Fred Makoweicki joining you for the endurance rounds. You must think that’s a pretty formidable line-up, and you must be thrilled to be back racing with Patrick?

“Yeah. I drove with him for two full seasons in 15 and 16, and shared a car for the endurance races in 14, so I have years of experience with him.

“We’ve had a lot of success together, we get on really well, and for me, he is one of, if not the best driver I’ve ever seen drive a 911. The fact that we’ve done it before means we will fit back in really easily. It’ll be simple.

“Fred’s also one of the top drivers in endurance racing, he knows the team, he was racing in North America with the team in 2016, so it’s a natural fit. There’s no question or doubt in my mind that Porsche has the strongest possible line-ups in the GTLM class in its cars.”

Tell me about the GTLM class in IMSA. How does it compare to what the WEC has in its GTE Pro class in terms of quality?

“The GTLM class in IMSA has a level of teams and competition on par with the WEC. Obviously the WEC has two Astons, but in IMSA you have two Corvettes, so from that point of view it doesn’t matter where you’re racing in GTE, because both series are stacked with full-fat factory efforts. I’m hoping that the next few years will be a ‘golden time’ for GTE racing.”

Alongside your IMSA commitments, you’ll also be at Le Mans, as part of Porsche’s four-car GTE Pro entry. Just how important is it for you to still get the chance to race at Le Mans each year?

“If we didn’t take the US cars, I think I’d still be racing at Le Mans in another car of some description. But it’s great that we can take our full-season team and take it to Le Mans with the whole team and all the drivers.

If we didn’t take the US cars, I think I’d still be racing at Le Mans in another car of some description

“I think that’s exciting, it’ll be CORE/Porsche North America’s first Le Mans and there’s a real buzz because there’s so many people within the team that have always wanted to go.

“I’m also pretty sure that GTE Pro will be the most competitive class on the grid, with new cars from BMW and Aston. On top of what we already have with Corvette, Ferrari and Ford, I can see 2018 being the year that everyone looks back on in years to come.

“I’m confident it’ll be closer than it was in 2016, the last time I raced in Pro at Le Mans. But it’s difficult to say how the race will play out because there’s the new cars coming and Le Mans has its own BoP anyway. I’m confident that the organisers will have much more information on the cars and make sure there’s a fair competition between the six manufacturers.”

You obviously won’t be racing for the overall victory at Le Mans, now that Porsche has focused on GTE racing. Does that change the level of excitement for you?

“It was always my ambition in my career to become a professional, and to do with Porsche is incredible. It’s sad that at Le Mans I won’t be able to get an overall victory, but I’m still in a very privileged position to be racing with one of the best manufacturers worldwide.

It’s sad that at Le Mans I won’t be able to get an overall victory, but I’m still in a very privileged position

“I still get to race in super cars in a factory team, in a great series in America and still have a chance to get a class win at Le Mans.”

Looking back at the final year of LMP1 with Porsche. It was a tough season for the #1 crew, you came very close to winning Le Mans, and had you done that, it may have been a very different season. Now it’s all over, how do you feel about the year?

“I enjoyed being part of the team in the final year of the 919 LMP1 programme, that’s clear. It got tough towards the end of the season to get excited about the racing, because we were there just to do a job. We were doing our job for Porsche, to drive the car to the best of our ability and do what we were told. But at the same time it was pushed on us how big the manufacturers title was, and how big of a contribution we’d have to that.

“And when you look back, Porsche succeeded in all of its targets. But if things had gone slightly differently in June, things may have gone in our favour. It was a bit of bad luck and it changed our job.

“But that’s factory motorsport, which I love and want to do with Porsche for a long time to come. I’ll miss LMP1, the way the LMP1 Hybrids drive, and the way you have to use energy wisely, it’s such a challenge. The on-track battles were also really enjoyable.

“That was the pinnacle of sportscar racing. But things change, and GTE racing is where the brand wants to focus its efforts now. 2018 is still going to be an incredible ride.”