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16 Jan 2018

Racing Times

British Porsche works driver, Le Mans winner and Honorary Club member Nick Tandy, talks leaving LMP1, Formula E and his special edition 911 GTS.

British Porsche works driver, Le Mans winner and Honorary Club member Nick Tandy, talks leaving LMP1, Formula E and his special edition 911 GTS.

Words: Sean Libbey
Photos: Porsche AG

A mild autumnal morning in October 2017 finds Nick Tandy in very good company. At the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone, he sits alongside British racing royalty Richard Attwood and Derek Bell for a press conference to unveil another new 911. Officially named the 911 Carrera 4 GTS British Legends Edition, and built in partnership with Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, this limited edition 991 pays homage to three generations of British drivers who have put Porsche Motorsport atop the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The moment, however, is bittersweet for Nick. While Attwood and Bell wax lyrical to the assembled media about their glory days at La Sarthe, their own racing careers behind them, Tandy must juggle the euphoria of his recent success with the realization that another outright win at Le Mans has become increasingly unlikely. Porsche, of course, has just left LMP1 after its historic WEC hat trick, in favour of a new venture in the unfamiliar territory of Formula E.

With the niceties of the general press conference soon over, the Bedfordshire-based racer is only too happy to discuss past, present and future, in a typically frank one-to-one with the Club.


PCGB: Nick, the switch to Formula E is well documented now, and of course it directly affects you. What are your personal thoughts on the move?

Nick Tandy: Well, I’ve lost my job in terms of losing my seat in the WEC and LMP1, which is a fact. We’re all disappointed. It’s not just me: everybody who works on that project – and there are a lot of people who work on the LMP1 project at Porsche – as well as everyone who works at the WEC, everyone who likes Le Mans and sports car racing in general is disappointed because it was so good for so long. For me, I’d just got back in the (LMP1) team and back to Le Mans, came close to winning it again this year, and now I know that’s no longer going to happen.

However, Porsche isn’t pulling out of motorsport full stop, let’s make it clear, and the potential to go and race these awesome new 911 RSRs is great. The stuff that comes out of Weissach these days, whichever vehicles it is, is monumental, so all is not lost from that perspective.


PCGB: Does Formula E excite you?

NT: From a technical level as a manufacturer race series, yes. Have I historically enjoyed watching the races? Not so much. However, do I think it’s going to be a lot better in the future? Yes. What I do like about working with Porsche, and especially with the 919 Hybrid to date, is developing race cars – especially in LMP1 where you’ve got so much scope to do what you like. That means as a driver you can have so much input into what the car can be like and how to use these ground-breaking technologies, for example. It filters down to the road cars and actually we have an input in their development, too. So do I think the e-performance stuff is going to be exciting? Of course. It’s going to be another technological way of developing race and road cars of the future.


PCGB: Would you rather race in Formula E or in GT Racing for Porsche?

NT: Good question. I want to race, as always, in the highest-level championship for Porsche. Whether that’s in Formula E or not is for the company to decide. When I was racing in Carrera Cup, I wanted to race in the Intercontinental Challenge, as it was called then, and when Porsche started returning to the WEC with works teams I wanted to be part of that, then part of the LMP1 programme. At the end of the day we are employees as drivers and we get told what we’re going to be doing. You can of course say to Porsche ‘I’d like to do this or that, or race in this continent or that’, but ultimately the decision lies with my bosses.

PCGB: You have your own race team in JTR. It’s been a great first year in Carrera Cup GB, hasn't it?

NT: We’ve had a great time. We weren’t able to take the championship in the end (JTR’s Dino Zamparelli finished level on points with Charlie Eastwood, the latter taking the title by manner of race wins) but we got the most driver points overall. The team has been around since 2006 so we’re not a young team but we’re not an old team either. It was our first year moving away from formula racing and we went with Carrera Cup due to my Porsche links, and what helped this year was our staff, which were excellent, in working with our drivers Dino Zamparelli, Lewis Plato and Tio Ellinas, who have been great too.


PCGB: As someone who is still racing, how important is the JTR team management side of things to you?

NT: Most of the time it’s a complete pain! I get to winter every year and think ‘why the hell am I doing this?” You’re looking for partners and sponsors and thinking ‘I just don’t need all this!’. I don’t take a wage or make any money from it, I keep it going to keep the people I employ in a job. Maybe at some point in the future if I retire and it’s still going then maybe it’s something I can still do. However, I’ve been doing it long enough now to know that trying to make money from running a race team is virtually impossible.

Having said that, it’s good fun, and it gives me another view on the sport as well. As a driver it gives me an extra sense of perspective as to how a race team operates. Instead of moaning to the team manager all the time, I can see things from his side, for example. It’s also great to coach other drivers, too. I can teach people what I know but also I get to see all these other drivers and see how they drive, and you never stop learning yourself.

PCGB: You were recently part of the GT2 RS team which broke the Nürburgring lap record. We know Porsche’s official test driver, Lars Kern, recorded the all-important time of six minutes 47 seconds, but what was your best?

NT: I’d actually just got off a plane that evening from Austin, Texas, and the next thing I know I’m driving a 991 GT2 RS on a hot lap around the ‘Ring. I actually held the record myself for all of 45 minutes with a time of six minutes 49 seconds, and I thought ‘that’s enough risk’.

The thing is, driving a GT2 RS at the ‘Ring, without a full cage, at 335kph, on road tyres and suspension, is not fun! Being a young father of two I considered my options and the risks I should probably – or probably not – be taking, and thought that was fast enough. Lars however, being the daredevil he is, thinks differently! He fancied another go and went out and got six minutes 47 seconds. Fair play to him.

PCGB: We’re at Silverstone today to celebrate the launch of your 911 C4 GTS British Legends edition. How cool is that, having your name on the side of a Porsche?

NT: I know! When I saw the first renderings of the car I was blown away. To think that a factory like Porsche is producing a car on the production line with my signature and race number on the side… it just doesn’t get any better than that. Obviously, Richard and Derek, they are legends in their own right. I’m hoping that that will come later for me!

It’s impressive that Porsche GB are making the car and I think it’s great that we have such a car for the GB market, directly linking to the company’s rich motorsport history. The amount of people who love Porsche and love watching racing and even go to Le Mans to watch it is crazy, so for them to be able to get a piece of history now is fantastic.

(Nick has since confirmed that he will be racing a 911 RSR in the IMSA in 2018 alongside former teammate Patrick Pilet)

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