How was the training week?
RS: “Really good and all the new elements of the car worked as expected. We had a few difficulties with some mechanical issues and then qualifying ended up being wet. We beat Romain Dumas [in a Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport] who also raced in the rain, and even compared to the other qualifying group who qualified in the dry, we were still able to be fourth overall and just three seconds off pole position. Not bad.”
The weather dashed your hopes of breaking the record, as the finish line rolled down the mountain. Other than that, how was your race?
RS: “The bottom was rolling really fast, the track was a good temperature and I had a lot of grip. Then, as we started to get into time, the tarmac was getting cold and losing a bit of grip. The midsection is got harder, then once at the top I went through some fog, came out the other side and it was a winter wonderland!The finish line photos are in a winter landscape, which is fun with an open wheel racing car.
“The biggest mistake was that we forgot to turn on my oxygen supply, so I was huffing and huffing to get up the mountain. It was really hard, physical work, and it was a conscious effort to breathe. It was a distraction and there are still seconds to go I was physically hanging on.
You ended up beating Dumas by 36 seconds. Did you expect that?
RS: “Yeah I did. I knew what was in the car and we had a good run in us. Me and Rhys [Millen, Bentley Continental GT3] both had a good bottom section, and Romain looked like he struggled a bit on the bottom because he was at a similar pace to still-wet qualifying. Then Rhys had a problem in the last section when he blew his carbon fiber intake, causing him to lose his turbo. We’ve had a pretty good run. Rhys’ difficulties may have widened the gap, but I was well aware of the pace of the car. It was more of a factor for me to be in tune with the car and the mountains.
You are preparing for the 100th race in June. What performance improvements are you making to the car?
RS: “It’s probably the highest amount I’ve made year on year and it’s a risk because I never like to do too many things at once. We have two important things. In As far as aerodynamics go, we put a full tunnel floor on the car and a much bigger front wing, adding about 50% more downforce than last year. new half and that last one is a big leap forward which creates other issues like the amount of load going through the car It’s 1.4 tonnes of downforce at 100 mph so more than a Formula 1 car and similar to the Volkswagen I DR – except we’re lighter: only 580kg dry, ready to race with me around 650kg Making this work for us could be tricky.
“We were in Loeb’s rhythm in 2021 at Devil’s Playground”
“On tires, we have a new partner in Yokohama [Shute ran on Pirellis last year]. It’s a cool partnership because I think we’re the first outside of Japan to get our hands on the Super Formula single-seater tyres. This tire pretty much clamps down on the car. It’s a significant performance boost in terms of the load the tire can handle, as Super Formula cars are some of the quickest around the corners, so the tires are a really capable product and open up the performance to utilize that strength of additional support. It’s really exciting. It is a road racing tire rather than a hill racing tire, so it comes with some development. We are ready to take up the challenge.
“The other big improvement is the suspension. We are now partnering with R53 who are renowned for their shock absorbers in the WRC and off-road cross-country. They are now the only ones fitted to Gordon Murray’s T.50 and the car Sport Revolution. Their expertise comes from the WRC and that’s what we need, dealing with the bumps. We struggled with that at the top of the mountain last year.
Who are you against this time?
RS: “I 100% want more competition. The big one is JR Hildebrand in a contemporary Dallara Indycar. He had it last year but couldn’t race, but I believe he will be there this time. It will be really great to see this car and it would be great to race it.
“Then we have Rod Millen in his Toyota Tacoma [a Goodwood Festival of Speed favourite], which I can’t wait to see. People will be surprised how quickly this happens. It is quoted in aerodynamics manuals for the way it is assembled. There is huge potential in the car. Basically, it’s a single-seat chassis with a Toyota truck body slapped on it. There are also two other Wolfs now, the new Ford V8-powered single-seater and another chassis similar to mine with a Hartley Hayabusa V8 engine. They will be quick. Then closed side, Rhys Millen [son of Rod] is back with a Porsche 911 GT3 R with big turbos on it. He’s still competitive and this car is powerful, similar in performance to the Bentley he drove last year. It should work in less than nine minutes. We hope to be faster than that.
Is the record within reach for you?
RS: “I feel like it is. It’s really hard to say until I drive the car with all the upgrades and then I get a feel for how it sits and the tire operation. Also the downforce stability. But looking at last year’s data, I was much faster than expected. Last year’s aero package went well. It there were just a few configuration issues that we didn’t have time to work out The bottom section, I’m confident we can get into a place equal to the ID R. The middle section as well, we’ll be there Then it’s about the top section and how much re-paving they do.Also how well our suspension works up there, how hard I can push.
Last year I had to keep the car through the bumps. I was far from flat. If that happens and the weather holds, we’ll have a chance. It’s between me and the car. We were in Loeb’s rhythm in 2021 at Devil’s Playground [where the race ended because of the weather]. I am confident in saying that we are in contact for the internal combustion record and I have designed the car to be able to aim for the absolute mountain record.
All week you only ride the mountain in sections as it is a public road, then do a single run for the 12 miles on race day. How is?
RS: “I like the challenge. This makes this race very special. It is an extremely frenetic and intense moment. Honestly, I think it’s pretty good because if you had too much mountain exposure for full runs, you’d be pushing too hard and making bad judgments. This puts a lot of pressure on the driver and the car. It’s a very different style of riding than road racing. It’s more in tune with the rally. The cars don’t look like rally cars, but it’s closer to a rally style event.
From the machine point of view, if you have a technical problem, you have to wait another year. He’s the killer. I still haven’t had a clear round in the four years I’ve done so far. The likelihood of weather and mechanical issues means this is a rare opportunity to have a good run to the top.