It’s not been the easiest start to the season for the new MTEK BMW team in the FIA WEC, its new M8 GTE still without a podium finish, and lacking pace in the hotly contested GTE Pro class.
It is early days though and the programme is built on a strong foundation of experienced personnel and a diverse driver crew. Over in IMSA, until the last round at VIR it was a similar story, the car without a signature result, but the car has at least got a win under its belt now.
Back at Silverstone, DSC spoke to all four of MTEK’s drivers to get their thoughts and feelings on the season so far and gather their expectations for the rest of the season. We still have five races to go in the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’, but there’s plenty to discuss after the opening three races”
So guys, how would you evaluate the car’s performance so far this year?
Antonio Felix Da Costa: “There is a mix of things that we need to get our heads around to make everything better, obviously the setup a little bit, but we need a bit of help from the BoP as well. Obviously we know the BoP system of the WEC is something that takes a little while to get right, but eventually, it does, so we just have to be a bit patient and trust things are going to be OK. I think for Fuji we will probably be a bit closer.”
Augusto Farfus: “The car is a good base to work from and every day here we are learning new things. Being perfectly honest the balance is not ideal at the moment, particularly with the turn in, so we have a bit to unlock from that. Of course, the car races in America as well but here it’s all very new to us, we have only a few races under our belts.
How do you feel Le Mans went? The result wasn’t notable in the end, but early in the race the car showed real promise.
Farfus: “We were competitive in Le Mans. Our car was running fourth when we had an issue, and the other car was running second or third when they had an issue too… So there is potential in the car and obviously, we need to get to know it better. These guys have been around BMW’s for years and know what is achievable.”
Nicky Catsburg: “What we hadn’t done is any full performance runs (before Le Mans), so we always thought we would do less than we did. We did a good job: some unfortunate safety car situations and we were learning about fuel strategy and the tyre degradation along the way… OK, maybe we wouldn’t have won the race, but when we had the issues with our car we were in the hunt.”
Farfus: “And some of these guys had never done a 24-hour race in their lives and to set up a team with a new car in a 24 hours is a hell of a challenge. What we need is race time. You can do a 24-hour test, a 30-hour test, but it’s always just testing… these are things you do with a computer, but you really find out how a car is going to perform in a race. We had a faultless Le Mans in terms of team operation, but problems with the car in racing conditions took us out.”
The championship itself, how have all of you found adapting to the new enviroment?
Da Costa: “For us the WEC championship with 6 hour races is something new. We are all discussing strategy over this distance and trying to develop our experience but, again, you learn once you get racing. But I think we are pleased with what we have done so far.”
Farfus: “It definitely helps us having this long season to develop the car but, still, you need to race. It’s not about testing and simulation, racing is where you really get sharp with your teammate and your technicians.
“All things considered, the BoP is the bigger part of the challenge for us at the moment than unlocking the car. When you look at all the cars in GTE ours is, if I’m not mistaken, the second heaviest. If you look at all the GTE cars, the Ford is so small and so low, the same for the Ferrari, the Porsche…they’re all a lot smaller cars than us.
“We’re a bigger car and naturally so much heavier than them. I think they were afraid we would arrive and win everything like Ford did, which is understandable, but we don’t want to be massively faster on the straights because then the racing isn’t even fun. We have to wait for the BoP to sort itself out.”
Going forward, what’s your expectation? With BoP playing such a big role, do you feel fighting for wins in the second half of the season is a realistic goal?
Da Costa: “I think it’s a matter of time for sure, rather than trying to react with the car. I think it will be a few races before we are on the podium. The car is super nice to drive, but when we fix one issue it leads to another one, so many things that relate… and it’s all learning. You have to wait until those relationships are understood and the whole package comes together and becomes more manageable.”
Catsburg: “There’s nothing major to work on, it’s just things that are a little bit ‘locked’ and need to be found before they can be fixed.”
Da Costa: “The best we can do as drivers is to not make any mistakes and see what happens. The circuit is very open and very quick, but the way we are feeling with the car at the moment it doesn’t feel that we can do a double stint in the car yet. It’s a bit too over-steery.”
Martin Tomcyk: “All of the years they have done in this championship, the Porsche, the Ferrari, even the Fords… There is no rule to get them to where they are, they just have a better knowledge from all that experience. We are still a bit too much on the learning curve. Now there are simulations and stuff that definitely helps to speed up this process, but you need to be driving.
“I think of course we all want to win, but no-one is disappointed with the season so far. We all knew it would not be easy, but it’s only a matter of time before the car is up there and chasing for victories.”