Adam Jones – Making It In The LMES
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
“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
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.
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
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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