Adam Jones – Making It In The LMES

We’re posting two interviews simultaneously here, something we haven’t done before. This material with Adam Jones is being posted ‘alongside’ a similar feature on Frenchman Stephane Daoudi. Their ages may be quite different – Jones is nearly 24, Daoudi nearly 33 – but there are a number of parallels in their careers so far. A current one would be that both were hoping to be racing in the Spa 24 Hours later this week, but as of this moment, perhaps neither will be. Of course, they both deserve to be racing at Spa, but success in motor racing isn’t always just to do with what a driver deserves….. At least they’re both racing in the LMES – as rivals in the GT Class. Both have made a considerable impression in the two races so far, and their speed and success were the catalysts to contact each of them.

dailysportscar.com“I’ve yet to race at Le Mans, but out of the events I have done, I’d choose Spa as the race to do,” says Adam Jones (at the time, hoping to be among the drivers racing at Spa this week). Oddly enough, he raced there last year, in the 24 Hours, with none other than Stephane Daoudi.

So you’ve got a full time job Adam, but you’re also regarded as a professional racing driver. Please explain.

“Yes, I work full-time in the family business, a car body repair centre in Birmingham. It was founded by my grand-parents, and now it’s run by my father and two uncles. I’m very fortunate: I’ve got the family business to fall back on, and I’ve had some support to help fund my career.”

This subject – funding - of course came up with Stephane Daoudi: it crops up with all racing drivers. The sport is so expensive, and the road to the top is always a rocky one, with pitfalls and problems along the way. Many start out on that road, but many don’t make it to professional drives, even in F1.

“Sponsorship is so difficult to find, and it’s been very hard, getting this far. I’m lucky though, I receive support from close friends and family, but that doesn’t cover the whole cost of going racing, or anything like it. But yes, I’m getting to the stage where I can be called a professional driver.”

Adam’s early career was typical of many, starting out in karting… but then he headed to France, to race in the Formula Campus series.

“I won the series in 1999, my first year of car racing: that was the one that Westley Barber won the previous year. I was lucky: I had a scholarship funded by Elf, and there I was, based in France, and living with, and racing against, drivers from all around the world – Patrick Friesacher, Patrick Long and Sebastien Bourdais, for example.

“I was offered the chance to race in the B Class in French F3 for 2000. I only had 12 months’ racing experience, and it seemed like too much of a leap to race in the A Class. The only drawback of the Campus series was that there was no car set-up work. We each drove a different car at each race, so my lack of experience with set-up made it difficult to graduate straight to F3, to the A Class.

“But the year went very well: I beat my team-mate and all the other B Class cars, and I had a fantastic year. I had a great relationship with the team, and at the end of the year, they wanted to keep me. They were fed up with losing drivers after one year, so we had an agreement that I would race in the A Class with them, then move up to F3000.

“Then Elf pulled the plug on the La Filiere scheme….”

Having raced in France for two years, no one knew much about the young ‘Brummie’ back in the UK.

“I was left right in the ****.”

There was more bad news ahead though. Adam’s close friend and mentor, James Prochowski, was diagnosed with leukaemia. James helped Adam any way he could, and is in the business anyway, building rally cars and fast road cars at his Birmingham workshop.

“That news was a big shock. James remained in hospital for 12 months, and at one point it would be no exaggeration to say that he was on death’s door. He did recover from it though, as best you can, at least, from something as serious as that.

“Towards the end of 2000, my grandfather had passed away. I found it very difficult to do the last race of the year, but I saw it through, doing it for him. He was a big influence and had been my greatest supporter.

“I knew it would be very difficult to get to F1, but I was doing everything I possibly could, winning championships, beating everyone. But then everything seemed to fall apart.

“Gary Paffett had done the B Class in England, and he gained a lot of good press, but no one seemed to know what I’d done. I felt pretty hard done by. How do you find half a million pounds to do F3, when people don’t know what you’ve done?”

Enter Rob Schirle and Les Latham.

“I’d known Rob for a couple of years, and Les has always been a close follower of my career, having been the mechanic for my brother and I in karts. Les has always had close connections with Rob, and Rob was keen for me to do something with him at Cirtek.

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“I did some British GT races in 2001, sharing with gentleman drivers, in a Cirtek Porsche. Everything was new, but I enjoyed it. I was frustrated that I couldn’t do a whole season, but was fortunate that the drivers I was partnering were helping to support my limited budget.

“2002 was pretty much the same again, with the occasional drive in the FIA Championship. I’d done the Spa 24 Hours in 2001, and did it again in 2003, in a Yukos-RWS Porsche, with Stephane Daoudi as one of my partners. I did one or two FIA races last year, but the best chance I’ve had was the last FIA race in 2002. Cirtek was loaned Romain Dumas, because Porsche wanted to stop the Ferrari winning points, and Romain and I finished second, right behind Ortelli and Maassen.

“That was a chance for Cirtek and myself to show what we could do, and to finish right up there in second place seemed to confirm that we could both do it.”

That result helped Freisinger Motorsport to seal the N-GT teams title, because Jones and Dumas beat the Ferrari 360s, the most significant contender being the JMB car, of Pescatori and Bertolini.

On the subject of Rob Schirle, Adam Jones comments that “Rob works very hard, sometimes too hard. This year he’s got it right: he’s got a couple of really good people on board, and they’ve taken the pressure off him. He’s now got a really professional team.

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“It probably helps that he’s got the Frank Mountain Ferrari going so well (following Adam at Monza, above). The drivers in that car all seem to be enjoying themselves, and Rob’s in a position where he can do a good job with the Porsche.

“So can I! I’m still struggling to get my head round the fact that I’m doing a full on championship, the LMES, with Sascha Maassen, and support from Porsche.”

Acknowledging that Sascha Maassen works extremely hard as a factory Porsche driver – “He’s always racing or working, doing track days and so on with Porsche” – perhaps Adam would like that kind of work?

“What a job! I could put up with the demands of work like that.”

Adam Jones acknowledges though that he’s got his hands on a really good drive this year – his only regret is that there is such a long gap between each of the LMES races.

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The first of them, at Monza, didn’t go quite as planned, the Cirtek RSR suffering from a duff alternator, which cost enough minutes to track down and fix to drop Maassen and Jones out of the lead battle.

“Approaching the Nurburgring race, we were very keen to show what we could do. Sascha set the qualifying time, and after Friday, we were on the provisional pole, but Mike Rockenfeller just pipped us in the race morning session.”

Talk us through the race then Adam.

dailysportscar.com“Sascha started the race, and he was lapping very quickly, tracking Mike Rockenfeller. We knew that Mike would have to hand over to slower drivers, so things were looking very good early on. Then the rain came: I’m always keen to get in the car at any time, but especially in the rain. I love the rain, and Rob knows that, so he wanted me in it. I think I got in at about the 75 minute mark, on wets, and I was pulling away from the rest the whole time.

“When the rain stopped, the track dried very quickly, but the rain came again, and then dried again, but we stayed on wets the whole time, looking for the wetter areas as it dried each time.

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“Sascha then drove the third stint on slicks, and I took over on wets for the last stint. We’d led all the way, but I had Emmanuel Collard chasing me. Rob was on the radio the whole time, keeping me informed on the gap. I was content to let Emmanuel catch me slightly. I did have a little spin at the third corner, losing about ten seconds, but typically if he caught me a little on one lap, I’d get it back on the next, by pushing a little harder.

Rob Schirle provides the detail on the last 20 minutes of the race: “We had to make a splash before the finish, but we’d made our previous stop after the Freisinger car, so we waited until they made their splash before we did. We pitted straight after them, and we reckoned we’d have 11 litres left in th etank at the end of the race. In fact, we had 10 litres.”

“So to our surprise,” continues Adam, “the Freisinger car pitted on the last lap, apparently out of fuel, and that was it, the race was ours.”

Adam Jones was extremely complimentary regarding the Dunlops he was using at the Nurburgring.

“We’ve got a very good relationship with Dunlop. They’re a fantastic bunch of guys, and Firdos (one of the technicians) even dropped me home after the Spa Test Day: he lives five minutes up the road from me. I travelled from the ‘Ring in the Cirtek truck, and wasn’t really looking forward to travelling home in the truck, but the Dunlop guys brought me home.

“To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet – or rather now that I’m on holiday (in Greece), it is starting to sink in – that we won at the Nurburgring. It’s great racing in the GT Class, and I’m sure part of the reason that Porsche is putting so much effort into it is because we’re up against the JMB Ferrari.”

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So just a couple of weeks to wait now until the Silverstone LMES race, and Adam Jones’ third (or fourth?) endurance event of the year. As this is written, on July 27, we’re still not sure if he is going to be racing in the Spa 24 Hours – and neither is he..

Jones and Maassen lead the LMES GT points, but not by much. 2004 champions to be perhaps, or will Stephane Daoudi have something to say about that, at Silverstone?

1 Adam JONES 3 10 13
- Sacha MAASSEN 3 10 13
3 Kazuyuki NISHIZAWA 6 6 12
- Haruki KUROSAWA 6 6 12
- Manabu ORIDO 6 6 12
6 Roman RUSINOV 8 3 11
- Stéphane DAOUDI 8 3 11
8 Stéphane ORTELLI 10 - 10
- Romain DUMAS 10 / 10
10 Jaime MELO 8 / 8
- Xavier POMPIDOU / 8 8
- Marino FRANCHITTI / 8 8

 

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