Q&A with Simon Dolan
He left school at sixteen. He has gone on to become a very successful businessman. He has also carved out an adventurous career in motor racing. He’s a Le Mans LMP2 class winner in 2014 (finishing 5th overall), LMP2 class runner-up in 2015 (10th overall) and he took the time out to answer a few questions.
He is Simon Dolan and these are his Q&A’s.
LE MANS. You are entered in the LMP2 class with G-Drive Racing. Tell us about the car and the team/your team mates?
Our car is the trusty Gibson. Open top car which is by far the oldest in the field, but still stunningly competitive. I believe it is the most successful chassis in the history of LMP2. This year at Le Mans I will be driving with Giedo Van de Garde and Jake Dennis. Both very, very quick guys.
You’ve experienced Le Mans before. Apart from the race itself, what is the build up like to what basically is the greatest race in the world?
Long! We have to get there the week before the race starts. The build up week covers many different commitments such as scrutineering, driver briefings, meetings, autographs sessions etc, then testing begins on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a long week before the race has even begun.
How do you prepare yourself leading up to Le Mans?
We race in ELMS and the Spa round of WEC – nothing like racing to prepare for racing! On top of that obviously you are training hard and eating well.
Are there certain areas of the circuit you prefer more than others and if so which parts?
For me, Porsche Curves without doubt, the best bit of the track. Always a challenge.
Try and describe to a layman racing fan what it is actually like driving a car on the limit through the night? Even during the day you are on your own in the car, but at night it must be a very lonely experience?
Kind of like driving in a tunnel. parts of the circuit are quite well lit but when out on the public roads it is really, really dark, and the sensation of speed is much enhanced. First few laps at night really keep you focused.
How difficult is it to relax or even sleep when it is your turn out of the car?
Impossible really to sleep, but you rest. We stay in the driver cabins at the circuit and with noise cancelling headphones you can at least lie down and get some peace.
Can you describe the feeling driving at Le Mans as the sun rises. What sort of experience is that like?
It can be beautiful and uplifting. You see the air flow coming off the wings of the cars in front, it warms you up (not really but feels like it), and you have a sense of being on the home stretch.
How has your season been going?
Good so far in ELMS – leading the championship with a win and a 2nd in the two races we’ve done.
Fans are used to other series of racing where radio messages are common place. What’s the radio chatter like during a 24 Hour race and what’s the funniest/strangest radio message you have received?
It tends to be about relative pace, and warnings about LMP1 cars coming up behind. Pace can vary so widely at Le Mans that you have to have an idea of who is doing what around you. The closing speeds of P1 cars are so great that it is vital to know about them. During long safety cars I have heard songs being played down the radio to keep the driver awake!
When, you are flying along and then in your rears you get a face full of LMP1 roaring up behind you. Please explain what that is like and what goes through your mind. What is their approach speed like as you sit there waiting for the pass?
As above, you tend to know when they are coming and to be honest they are so fast past us (top speed 40kph more) that it is rarely a drama. It can get a bit interesting when you have two following in very close succession as in the mirrors they only look like one car. Tricky when you are going into a corner and they are both trying to get through.
In racing who would you say has been your toughest opponent?
No stand-outs really. The level is so high that you could probably choose at least half a dozen.
Imagine you are a team principal at Le Mans. Considering all-time drivers, which 3 drivers would you put in the car?
Same team as I have now!
You’ve worked with some great young talent. Describe what it’s like developing these youngsters and who has been the highlight of your guidance?
It is very gratifying to watch young guys come into their own, but make no mistake – we provide a great car and team environment but they are fast through their own efforts. Harry has to be the highlight.
How did you get into racing? What sparked that passion?
It all started with a track-day a few years ago.
What is the best advice you have been given in racing?
It’s not about having big balls, it’s about consistency and detail.
The brilliant film Journey To Le Mans documented you and the JOTA teams adventure to the great race. What was that experience like?
It was a fantastic experience to watch the film premiere in Leicester Square and see our whole season condensed into a couple of hours. Quite surreal really.
Who is the funniest person and/or your best friend in racing?
Too many to name. There are some great characters around!
I’ve heard you say in the film your teacher said you would amount to nothing. Yet, here you are, a successful businessman and racing driver. How much satisfaction does this give you?
I’d forgotten about that teacher a long, long time ago. It’s satisfying for sure to see what can be achieved if you put your mind to it and work intelligently.
What advice would you give to a young racer of today?
Learn to earn money first!
The day before the race. What is your routine? How do you spend your time?
Usually will be practice or quali, but I also do some relaxing and visualising and always will get an early night,
And finally….you have one word to describe Le Mans. What is it?