2018 Mclaren Au­tosport BRDC Award

The 30th Mclaren Au­tosport BRDC Award win­ner will be an­nounced this week­end. Here’s what the four fi­nal­ists faced at this year’s Sil­ver­stone test days

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - KEVIN TURNER

One For­mula 1 world cham­pi­onship, 649 F1 starts,

28 F1 wins, four Indy­car crowns, three In­di­anapo­lis 500 vic­to­ries, a trio of DTM ti­tles and a World En­durance Cham­pi­onship suc­cess. That’s not a bad list of achieve­ments racked up by Mclaren Au­tosport BRDC Award win­ners in its three decades so far, and some of those stats will soon grow.

The Award’s stated aim is to find Bri­tish F1 stars and, with

Lando Nor­ris (the 2016 win­ner) and Ge­orge Rus­sell (’14) join­ing the grid next year, that means seven of the 29 win­ners so far have made it to the sport’s pin­na­cle. And many of those who haven’t have gone on to make suc­cess­ful ca­reers in mo­tor­sport, scor­ing wins that ex­tend be­yond those listed above.

The com­pe­ti­tion has come a long way since David Coulthard be­came the first win­ner in 1989. The fu­ture 13-time F1 vic­tor didn’t have to go through any sort of test, but re­cently the four fi­nal­ists have faced sim­u­la­tion and fit­ness as­sess­ments, as well as two days at Sil­ver­stone in an ar­ray of ma­chin­ery that’s alien to them. This year was no ex­cep­tion.

The first step in 2018 was the judges’ meet­ing to se­lect the fi­nal­ists. This year the panel in­cluded chair­man of the judges and for­mer BRDC pres­i­dent Derek War­wick, two-time Bri­tish Tour­ing Car cham­pion Ja­son Plato, for­mer Mclaren de­signer Mark Wil­liams, GT team boss and 1997 Award win­ner An­drew Kirkaldy, Mclaren’s Amelia Lewis, ex­pe­ri­enced com­men­ta­tor Ian Titch­marsh, and Au­tosport’s Scott Mitchell and Kevin Turner. Join­ing the panel full-time was for­mer guest judge, 2008 win­ner and fac­tory BMW driver Alexan­der Sims. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion, the four cho­sen from the ranks be­low Euro­pean For­mula 3 were BRDC F3 race win­ners Jamie Caro­line and Tom Gam­ble, For­mula Re­nault Eurocup cham­pion Max Fewtrell, and Bri­tish F4 ti­tle win­ner Kiern Jewiss.

The fi­nal­ists were an­nounced dur­ing the first week of Oc­to­ber and the F2 seat fit­tings be­gan im­me­di­ately. The first part of the as­sess­ment took place the week af­ter, when the driv­ers were put through their paces on 1996 Award win­ner Dar­ren Turner’s Base Per­for­mance sim­u­la­tors. The runs, in a Ligier JSP3, were mainly on Sil­ver­stone GP, with Fuji thrown in for one ses­sion.

Be­ing pro­fi­cient in the vir­tual world is an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant part of some pro­fes­sional driv­ers’ ca­reers, and the tests of­ten pro­vide fi­nal­ists with new in­sights. “I never re­ally get on with sims, but Dar­ren Turner’s was men­tal – it’s the most re­al­is­tic sim I’ve tried,” reck­ons Caro­line. “When I’ve got a full sea­son sorted I’ll go back.”

The fol­low­ing week the fi­nal­ists’ fit­ness was as­sessed – in pairs – at Mclaren’s Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre in Wok­ing. Although rarely a dif­fer­en­tia­tor when it comes to the fi­nal prize, the fit­ness tests do pro­vide ex­cel­lent in­for­ma­tion for feed­back, which all fi­nal­ists are of­fered fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the win­ner.

The meat of the Award is, of course, the driv­ing tests on Sil­ver­stone’s Grand Prix cir­cuit. This year, the fi­nal­ists got to watch 2017 win­ner Dan Tick­tum’s Mclaren F1 prize test the day be­fore head­ing out on track for the first time in Sil­ver­stone’s new As­ton Martins for some sight­ing laps. Then it was straight into the Mo­tor­sport Vi­sion-run Wil­liams-built F2 ma­chines, which pro­duce 425bhp. Each driver got their own, ran­domly se­lected en­gi­neer to help with data and set-up.

The 1.8-litre tur­bocharged ma­chines are ideal as all the driv­ers can be out on track at the same time, and the cars are un­fa­mil­iar to all as they are no longer ac­tive race cars. They’re quick too – the fastest times on day one were in the 1m48s – and twice as pow­er­ful as the rac­ers the driv­ers are used to.

Af­ter a fa­mil­iari­sa­tion run, the driv­ers got three new-tyre runs be­fore turn­ing their at­ten­tion to the other two cars in the af­ter­noon. This year the pair of 500bhp Mclaren 650S GT3 cars were joined by the Ligier JSP3 LMP3 ma­chine (see page 54). Bench­mark driv­ers – on hand to pro­vide help for the fi­nal­ists as well as check­ing for any track evo­lu­tion that could in­flu­ence the times – were An­drew Wat­son in the Mclaren and Sims in the Ligier.

The Mclaren is of­ten the car that takes the driv­ers fur­thest out of their com­fort zones. It’s heav­ier and softer than the sin­gle­seaters they’re used to, plus it has trac­tion con­trol and ABS for them to get their heads around – and use to their best ad­van­tage.

Again, they started with a used-tyre run be­fore be­ing given fresh rub­ber for a ‘qual­i­fy­ing’ ef­fort. Fi­nally, they were all given a longer run to see how they dealt with tyre wear.

“THE MCLAREN IS OF­TEN THE CAR THAT TAKES THE DRIV­ERS FUR­THEST OUT OF THEIR COM­FORT ZONES”

Although the sin­gle-seater re­mains the fo­cus, the other two ma­chines are vi­tal to the test. The over­all win­ners have in­vari­ably ex­celled in one or both. In­deed, some of the most out­stand­ing runs in Award his­tory – Jen­son But­ton (1998 win­ner) in the

Nis­san Primera Su­per Tourer, Sims and Rus­sell in the DTM Mercedes – have come in cars with a roof.

At the end of day one, the Mclaren and Ligier teams gave their in­de­pen­dent feed­back to the judges, leav­ing day two en­tirely for more F2 as­sess­ment.

The run­ning on day two be­gan very much as on day one, ex­cept the driv­ers were given the ‘push-to-pass’ to play with in the F2 car. This gave them two brief boosts of an ex­tra 75bhp, on four laps. In one of the ses­sions, a lit­tle over 0.4 sec­onds cov­ered all four driv­ers. Not that any of the driv­ers knew that, as the fi­nal­ists don’t have ac­cess to the times set by their ri­vals.

That makes it quite a hard self-im­prove­ment test: they have to work out what they could do bet­ter with the en­gi­neer.

The next two ses­sions were the fastest of the tests – new­tyre runs with boost. No ses­sion is nec­es­sar­ily more im­por­tant than an­other, but this is the time when the fi­nal­ists can piece to­gether all that they’ve learned over the two days and re­ally show their pace. Once again, it was close. In one of these

‘qual­i­fy­ing’ runs, 0.151s cov­ered the top three.

The fi­nal on-track test was a pur­suit run over 10 fly­ing laps, us­ing the best worn set of Pirelli tyres each driver had left. The cars were re­leased at in­ter­vals so as not to in­ter­fere with each other and, af­ter an out-lap and a prepa­ra­tion lap, the tim­ing started. The to­tal time was the im­por­tant fac­tor, not the best in­di­vid­ual lap, and the gap be­tween the fastest to the slow­est was a lit­tle over four sec­onds.

The MSV en­gi­neers fed back at the end of the day and each of the driv­ers was in­ter­viewed by the judg­ing panel. They were then al­lowed to have their phones, which had been con­fis­cated on ar­rival at Sil­ver­stone, and head home, leav­ing the judges to go over the data – from lap times to throt­tle traces – and se­lect the 30th win­ner of the Mclaren Au­tosport BRDC Award.

There was the odd spin and off, but all the cars were re­turned in one piece and three of the four driv­ers topped a ses­sion at one time or an­other. Which left per­haps the most stress­ful chal­lenge of all: the five-week wait un­til this week­end’s Au­tosport Awards to find out if they’ve done enough to win a Mclaren F1 test.

“THREE OF THE FOUR DRIV­ERS TOPPED A SES­SION AT ONE TIME OR AN­OTHER”

Fewtrell shows what he can do dur­ing the Mclaren fit­ness tests

Sight­ing laps in Sil­ver­stone’s new As­ton Martins kicked off the two test days MOTORSPORTIMAGES/LAT

Judges give fi­nal­ists a briefing be­fore the runs MOTORSPORTIMAGES/STA­LEY/LAT

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