Ate Dirk de Jong is in the midst of an intense test programme, designed and run by Algarve Pro Racing Team to refine his driving techniques in preparation for a more expansive LMP2 campaign.
The Dutch gent had his first competitive LMP2 outing in the 2017-18 Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Zhuhai last month (27-29 October), when he proved to be more than a match for many of the experienced professionals and young aspirants in the hugely competitive field.
However, he isn’t resting on his laurels and has thus far utilised expert guidance from Algarve Pro Racing and Andrea Pizzitola in a series of tests, including a recent two-day outing at the historic Circuito do Estoril in Portugal.
Ate Dirk de Jong reflected on his progress, saying: “The test in the Ligier JSP2-17 in Estoril was a success. It followed a four-day test at Motorland Aragon and, while I was familiar with the car, I still spent most of the first day in Estoril getting to know the circuit and analysing data with my driver coach, Andrea Pizzitola, between medium stints of eight to ten laps.
“I like to end each day with a long stint on full fuel. Those are more about consistency than outright speed, and they’re also an opportunity to learn about tyres and their lifespan, as you sometimes do a full stint on rubber that has completed 50km or so.”
De Jong continued: “By day two I had a feeling of the track and the Dunlop tyres, which are used in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS). These are softer than the Michelins we use in the Asian Le Mans Series and there’s a very narrow window to set a fast time; they work on the first two laps and then go off, so I had to push straight away and keep the temperature up. It was good training.”
Circuito do Estoril was new to de Jong, but the learning process was quickened by Pizzitola’s knowledge and experience.
“I watched a video of the 1989 Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix, but that wasn’t very useful because the circuit was very different back then,” said de Jong. “It was Andrea’s knowledge and insight that helped me get up-to-speed quickly and continue making small, incremental improvements.
“Andrea teaches me about certain aspects of each corner and how he approaches them to help improve my own technique. He sets a quick lap so I can overlay my data and see how the smallest of margins make a big difference. For example, you wouldn’t think that braking three metres later into one corner when you’re travelling at 260kph would matter, but it really does!”
De Jong added: “For me, the JSP2-17 isn’t a big step change from the previous generation JSP2 we run in Asia. I first got acquainted with the car in a test at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and that was challenging, but very fulfilling. Driving fast cars is about confidence and racing and testing with Algarve Pro Racing Team has resulted in big improvements. For me, it’s all about the detail now.”
For more information on Algarve Pro Racing Team’s testing and coaching offering, click here.