Jack Aitken enjoyed an outstanding debut in prototype sportscar racing as he scored victory in the Pro/Am class and finished sixth overall in the 4 Hours of Le Castellet.
In his first race weekend in LMP2 machinery, the British-Korean driver was instantly among the fastest drivers at the opening round of the 2022 European Le Mans Series around the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France – and was unlucky not to claim outright pole position at his first attempt.
Chosen to qualify the Racing Team Turkey entry run by British outfit TF Sport, Jack was up on the pole time in sectors one and two and only a few seconds away from completing his lap when the LMP2 qualifying session was ended early by a red flag. His previous best effort was still good enough to put the #34 car a strong fourth on the grid.
The team’s bronze-rated driver Salih Yoluc started the race before handing over to Jack just before the 90-minute mark. Leaving the pitlane in 11th place overall, Jack got quickly up to speed: Heavy with fuel he posted what would ultimately be the third-fastest lap of the race (only a tenth of a second off the best time) and would end the race fastest overall in the more technical sectors one and three – just as he was in qualifying too.
Jack was soon making some excellent progress up the order while also dealing with the challenges of multi-class racing for the first time, with cars from the slower LMP3 and GTE categories to be lapped. He continued to move forward with some great overtakes over the course of his double stint, crucially taking the lead in the Pro/Am class as well as moving into contention for an overall podium, before handing over to fellow pro driver Charlie Eastwood to bring home a fantastic result for the team to start the season.
The next round of the ELMS takes place at Imola in Italy on May 14/15, although Jack is back in action already this weekend for his debut in the ADAC GT Masters at Oschersleben in Germany with Emil Frey Racing and Lamborghini.
JACK ON… COMING CLOSE IN QUALIFYING
“It was looking really good for us in qualifying. The team did a great job with the strategy and I was setting some purple sectors. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get my lap in before the red flag came out. But we still salvaged P4 and I came out of it fairly happy because the car felt really good, which was promising for the race.”
JACK ON… HIS FIRST ELMS RACE STINT
“I think when I got out of the car we were within around 15 seconds of the lead, so I was really happy to be fighting towards the top end of the overall and we were looking like we could have had an overall podium if things fell our way a bit in the final stint. Unfortunately that didn’t happen but we still held on for the Pro/Am win and I think I was the quickest car on track for a lot of my stint, so I’m really pleased with how it went.”
JACK ON… DEALING WITH TRAFFIC
“It was the first time I’ve had to deal with multiple classes of car on track and the traffic was something I’ve been trying to prepare for, but I really enjoyed working my way through it. You can get lucky or unlucky when you’re fighting for position and you come across traffic at certain points on the track, but generally I really enjoyed it and managed to avoid having any incidents, which is always the worry!”
JACK ON… A STRONG START FOR THE TEAM
“From the prologue test earlier in the week, we still had a bit of work to do with the car. The team did a really good job to improve the car and put it in a place where we were one of the fastest in the race: I think Salih was the fastest bronze driver out there and we were fastest when we had our pro drivers in the car as well. So everyone worked really well together and I think we’ve come away happy to be a strong position in the Pro/Am category. But we’ve also got half an eye set on an overall podium and I think we really could achieve it.”
JACK ON… HIS PROMISING LMP2 DEBUT
“I’m getting more and more comfortable with the car every day. We only did one test before we got to Paul Ricard so there’s still a bit of a learning curve for me, and as I get more comfortable I think we’re going to unlock even more speed and keep improving as I get my head around the strategy and racecraft. It’s definitely closer to my history in single-seaters, which helps.”
Source. Jack Aitken