Jamie Davies – 2004 LMES Champion
2003 Le Mans GTS Winner, 2002 British GT Champion

Almost the end of a hectic 2004, and a chance to speak to joint LMES Champion Jamie Davies, about the last 12 months. It’s been an amazing year for the 30 year old from Yeovil….. but considering his form in the past, such pace and success in the Audi R8 were actually no surprise at all.

Driving the Audi R8 for the first time

dailysportscar.com“I did the deal with Sam Li (of Veloqx) before Christmas, so inevitably I’d been speaking to Johnny Herbert and Guy Smith to get some inclination about what the Audi was going to be like to drive. Johnny’s summary was that the back end is really ‘planted’, but that the car does have a tendency to understeer.

“It was very cold at Road Atlanta in February – so cold that the laptops wouldn’t work first thing in the morning! Just sitting in the car, you could understand the thought and development that have gone into things like the layout of the switches. The car had clearly been taken to the very highest level.

“Trundling down the pitlane, I gained the same impression, one that is hard to describe, but the car is just amazingly ‘complete’. And of course Audi has never had an engine failure on the car: the twin turbo V8 is what the R8 is all about. It’s a gem.

“All the drivers were very well matched at Road Atlanta, and we were using that time, plus a week at Sebring before the meeting began, to get everyone used to working with the cars – some of the crew were new to the R8, as well as Pierre Kaffer and myself. But obviously I had two very talented team-mates, in Johnny and Guy.”

Sebring

“We spent the first week trying various bits and pieces. I was very pleased with the fact that during that week (before the event proper started), I set the fastest time of anyone, throughout the fortnight. I think it was a 1:47.1.

“The race didn’t work out too well for us though, our car suffering a freak failure, one that they’d never come across before – and of course with the revised regulations, the team couldn’t change the rear end.

“Johnny started the race, and I took over – just in time for a Safety Car period. You change the engine map then, and try to use as little throttle as possible, to save fuel.

dailysportscar.com“I had the best possible start to my first race in the Audi: I was about nine cars behind (leader) Marco Werner, and when it went green, I really got my head down – and passed Frank Biela at the hairpin. Then I saw Marco on the grass, so that gave me the chance to close in on him, and I passed him on the exit of Turn 16 – and pulled away.

“Guy took over and had his scrap with Pierre Kaffer, but when Johnny jumped in again, very soon after he had smoke pouring out of the back (repairs underway, right) – so that was our race for the win over there and then. I got back in at the end, but we had no chance of recovering the lost ground, so it was a matter of bringing it home in third position.”

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Tough Bunch

“It’s always been the same for me: ever since I started racing, I’ve been up against very strong competition. I’ve never had an easy championship.

“In ’96 I came up against Montoya. I had dreadful engines throughout the British F3 Championship, but I joined FORTEC at the end of the year, for Macau, and they were using Mitsubishi engines. We went testing at Pembrey beforehand, and the first thing I told Chris Gorne (my engineer then, as now), was that my neck hurt. It was purely the difference in power – an unbelievable difference.

“I came away from that test a tenth and a half quicker than Montoya, and I blew him away at Macau.

“When you’re driving with and against the best, it simply makes you better.”

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Monza

dailysportscar.com“Johnny and I ended up struggling with the set-up of our car all year. The preparation of the two cars has been ‘mega’ all year, but for reasons I’m still not sure about, we’ve had a difficult time once the tyres start to wear – except at Le Mans.

“We made a slight change to the front of our car at Monza, which made it work very well in the slow corners, and on fresh rubber – but we struggled more than the other car as the tyres got some miles behind them.

“I started the race – and lost the lead at the first corner. Call it a mistake if you like, but at least I don’t make the same mistake twice. I was concentrating so hard on saving fuel before we took the lights, I just hadn’t heated the tyres up enough. I locked up into the first chicane, and Allan passed me.

“I stayed with him – but only until the tyres started to wear. I dropped away a little bit, behind the Zytek, but we knew that rain was forecast, so the pattern of the race was going to change anyway (so our understeer on used rubber shouldn’t have been a problem).

”Things did work out for us after that – which included Johnny’s amazing ‘pass on the grass’ out of the Ascari – and he held off a charging Allan at the flag. So that was the first win, but it took some while before the second one came around…”

Mistakes?

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dailysportscar.com“The second time I started a race in the Audi was Le Mans – and the pressure doesn’t get any greater than that. It was nerve-wracking, but I had a lot to prove, and it was a great pleasure to be in the car at the start of the race – especially as I was able to pull away.

“I had a spin at Le Mans, my only one of the year, but you couldn’t really call it a mistake. We’d had a problem from about 40 minutes into the first stint – with ‘camera boxes’ coming loose in the footwell. I don’t know what else to call them: they were small boxes, connected with the onboard camera we were carrying.

“Every stop they had a look to try and do something about it, but there was never time to sort it out properly, without losing track time.

“Nearly every lap at the Porsche Curves it was a problem, because when we turned right, the boxes fell towards our feet, so you had to kick it away as you went round the next left hander.

“The spin was at turn one chicane, and one of the boxes fell against my foot, and wedged itself between my ankle, the brake and the throttle. I was in the position where my foot was jammed on the brake, so the only option was to spin the car, and then untangle my feet.

“So that wasn’t a mistake…. Yes, I did have one spin, in testing at Monza, but that was it for the year.”

Fastest Lap at Le Mans

“Johnny was in the car for ‘happy hour’ at Le Mans, which is when the fast laps are usually set, but we’d had the problem with the rear suspension, and it had been getting worse during the night. It was hurting the front tyres more and more as the night went on – to the extent that we could only triple stint the tyres, whereas the Goh Audi was getting four stints out of its tyres. We weren’t necessarily losing time on the track – I’d been doing 3:35s and 36s, although Guy and Johnny then had the worst of it – but we were losing time on the stops.

“For Johnny’s dawn stint it was getting quite dangerous, and although the team changed the rear bodywork (just to make sure it wasn’t the wing slightly out of position), we then knew that we had to fix the rose joint.

“When I took over at about 7.30, that’s when they made the repair: it was a rose joint on the rear suspension, something (again) that had never happened on an Audi.

“We’d led the whole race up until that point, at which time Chris Gorne told me to ‘push it like ***’ We were a lap down after the repair.

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“I’ve never driven a race like it – I can’t remember one single lap when I could actually have gone any quicker. At that point (after 7.30am), I set four lap records on consecutive laps, but even on the best one I had traffic at Tertre Rouge, and lost a little bit of time.

“With the suspension fixed, the car was the best handling it had been all year. Of course, in the LMES, you’re pushing hard every lap, but when the car isn’t quite to your liking, you don’t get the feedback from it and the lap times are never quite where you want them.

“At Le Mans, the Audi responded – you put the effort in, and the lap times came as a result. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to catch the Goh car, so it was second place for us. We were disappointed, of course, but we couldn’t have done any more.”

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Veloqx

“Over the three years of Veloqx Motorsport, I think I’m the only one still with the team who was there at the start. I look back with a sense of pride at what we have achieved in this time, from winning the British GT Championship, to 2003 at Le Mans (winning the GTS class with the prodrive Ferrari) and in FIA GTs, and then with the Audis this year.

“2003 was a tricky year. The Ferrari 360 could be very fragile, although it was certainly very competitive at the beginning of the year. It was difficult to make it last at Spa, and although we kept it going for the 24 Hours, we scored something like one and a half points, for all that effort.

“Tim Mullen and I won at Magny-Cours, but typically we’d have a gearbox problem about half way though the races, and end up with no gears. It wasn’t the team’s fault, but it took a long time to trace the cause of that problem.

“For most of 2002, we only ran the one car in British GTs, so there was never an issue over team orders, but with two cars in 2003, the only instruction was not to take each other off. I wouldn’t do that anyway, as I think of myself as very much a team player.

“So Sam’s view has always been that we’ve been free to race, and from the start of this year, there was never any talk of it being any different. Both Audis were capable of winning the races, so both teams went out to win.

“When Veloqx ran two and three cars at the end of 2002, it was more a case of Sam wanting to see how the team managed with more than one car, in readiness for the following year – rather than trying to take points off other teams. He knew where he wanted to be in 2003, and that was FIA GTs.

“My association with Sam Li came about through a mutual contact, who was looking for sponsorship for me. Introductions were made, and the deal was done. Calum Lockie and I tested the 360 at Donington Park, then we set off for Brands Hatch, and the first race.

“Some people have suggested that I was taking a step back from F3000, but sometimes you have to do that. But all along I knew of Sam’s commitment, and it’s turned out very well.

“It was difficult to start with though – not with the team, but with the Ferrari 360. It had come straight over from Australia, and it had loads of understeer. You had to throw it into the corners, then sort it out – which limited our lap times. We didn’t have a flat patch to start with (because everything came together so late), and we had the slow paddle shift gearchange, but once we went to the sequential change, the times improved.

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“Everything happened at Snetterton that year. Calum started the race, but spun on the first lap. He charged back, then pitted for me to take over. I think it was a TVR which then tapped me into a spin – and I’ve got my father to thank for winning that race. He’s always told me that if you spin, get the clutch in straight away. I was heading backwards, but going down through the gears furiously, so that when I came to a halt, I was already in first gear, ready to race off again.

“We just about beat Tim Sugden to the line, and then went on to win the Championship. It was a very enjoyable year.”

Nurburgring

“I qualified the Audi at the Nurburgring, and in the first session, on Friday, it was dry for only a few minutes at the start. I put slicks on and went for it, and that was provisional pole.

“I was on a quick lap in the second session, but was baulked at the fast chicane near the end of the lap, so we started from third.

“Blimey, what didn’t happen in that race? When the rain came towards the end, I was on slicks, and I made the call for wets – but was told to stay out, for what turned out to be another seven laps.

“With all the weather information the team has, they were simply trying to cover all the options. The rain wasn’t supposed to last long at all, so that was the thinking behind leaving me out. But Allan had come in and put wets on – leaving me out there, doing as I was told. It was very difficult even keeping the car on the track, and eventually I was called in (for inters), but by then we’d lost too much time.”

Silverstone

dailysportscar.com“Johnny and I have the same outlook going into a race – we’re always there to win it. Although the understeer was still there at the ‘Ring, you have to approach the next race in a clear frame of mind, ready to go out and try and win it.

“But it just didn’t happen for us at Silverstone. We couldn’t get rid of the understeer, and we couldn’t understand why. The other car was running a new splitter, and the Audi is particularly sensitive to changes, however slight, at the front – but we were stuck with oversteer going into corners, then understeer coming out. It was as it had been at Monza – fine on new rubber, but not ideal once the tyres wore a little.

“Johnny qualified, and we didn’t concern ourselves too much with a qualifying time, because we were looking to improve the car for the race.

“The Zytek went off into the distance at the start, which we knew it would – but we also felt that the race would come back to us. For the first 15 minutes, I pulled away from Pierre, and my best time was eight tenths quicker than his best, but then we lost the balance, and he caught and passed me.

“We lost second place in the end, to the Goh Audi – but Johnny and I were both sure that we could reverse the trend at Spa.”

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Spa

dailysportscar.com“Both of us only had one thing on our minds – winning the race. We were both completely focused on that aim from the start of the meeting, and we were both out to make the most of the chance that we had.

“The plan was that Johnny would do the first two stints, and then I’d take it to the end. The Monza plan had been for me to do two stints, Johnny to do three, and then I’d do the end – but the weather came into play there, and it made sense for the guy who was familiar with the car to stay in.

“Pierre pipped me to the pole in first qualifying, but we were more interested in accumulating data for the race, and we knew what lap times we could do on inters and on wets.

“It all happened at more or less the same time: Pierre had his accident, and then soon afterwards, the rain came. Chris Gorne made a great call to go to intermediates, while the Goh car went for wets – and Johnny made up about three quarters of a lap.

“We were actually more concerned with fuel consumption on our car than on the no. 8, and when I got in the car at about the 50 lap mark, I was in fuel saving mode, to avoid an extra pit stop. So our lap times weren’t as good as they could have been, and the Goh car was gaining on us a little.

“But once we’d saved the fuel, I was given the instruction to go for it, and that’s when I set the fastest lap of the race. When I pitted for the last time, we had a slightly faster stop, and I came out right behind Dindo Capello, and I followed him up the ‘rally course pit exit’, and was a bit quicker getting the power down – so we ran side by side up towards Les Combes, looking across at each other.

“I was on the left, Dindo on the right – and I had to be a bit careful, because I was on fresh rubber. I braked as late as I could, Dindo missed the corner on the right so I ducked back to the inside of him, we had a full lap’s lead – and then I backed off at the end for a bit of a photo finish. The fiftieth for the R8 – and the LMES title for Johnny and I.

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“Dindo was absolutely fair – and I had an amusing moment with him at the press conference.

‘You know, I was on new tyres, and I have no grip,’ he told me.

“I couldn’t resist pointing out that I was on new tyres too.”

‘You were on new tyres as well?’

Weight

“It wasn’t that I suddenly lost weight – I’ve been working very hard all year, but perhaps I wore tighter fitting jeans one day, and tucked my shirt in… and suddenly people seemed to notice that I was slimmer. In this game, you have to maximise everything, and knowing how light Allan is, I felt had to lose some weight, although I was never particularly heavy. Anyway, over the year I went from 75 kg to 63 kg – and those 12 kg might have made a difference somewhere this year.”

2005

We can’t include Jamie’s thoughts on 2005, because at the moment, no decisions / announcements have been made – so we’ll have to wait and see what next season holds for the man from Yeovil. Will it be as eventful as 2004? Let’s hope so. The two Audi Sport UK / Team Veloqx R8s have certainly contributed immensely to the drama that has been the LMES, Sebring and Le Mans.
MC

 

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