This Saturday will be the first round of the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series (iWCGPS) at the usual opening venue, Autódromo José Carlos Pace, or Interlagos for short. 50 of the fastest open wheel racers on the iRacing platform will take to qualifying at 1:30pm UTC in the hopes of claiming one of the 35 grid slots up for grabs. This year, Apex Racing UK will be fielding 8 drivers for this years campaign;
Alex Simpson (UK) – Graham Carroll (UK) – Peter Berryman (UK) – Antoine Higelin (FRA) – Patrik Holzmann (GER) Michael Dinkel (GER) – Jamie Fluke (UK) – Marcus Jensen (DEN)
With 6 seasoned WCS drivers, making debut, Jamie Fluke and Marcus Jensen will be out for blood in their rookie season of the series. New for this year also, is the Apex Racing Academy team with 4 of the Academy’s top finishing drivers from the 2016/17 Pro Series;
Pashalis Gergis (GRE) – Kevin Ellis (SCO) – Ferenc Kern (GER) – Alex Bergeron (USA)
I caught up with a few of the drivers while gearing up for the championship opener, working hard on all aspects of setup, telemetry and driving. Joining me are 3 drivers from the main team, Jamie Fluke, Graham Carroll and Peter Berryman, along with 3 academy drivers, Ferenc Kern, Kevin Ellis and Alex Bergeron.
How’s the team motivation heading into the new season?
JF: “Motivation in the team is pretty good. We know that we aren’t far away from regularly challenging the very best and the talent is there in the team, it’s just piecing it together.”
GC: “The teams motivation is good we have a good line up heading into the season so looking forward to it!”
PB: “Team motivation is varied I think. The new guys coming in are eager to prove themselves and the rest who have had at least 1 season are knowing what to expect from this year. There is definitely a hunger to bring in the results and improve though.
FK: “The team motivation is spread a bit, because we have drivers with different pace, but all in all it’s the goal to perform well as Apex Academy Team.”
KE: “Motivation from everyone has been good. We were put together at quite short notice but seem to have adapted very quickly and gained a lot of trust. We have all benefited from this opportunity.”
AB: “The team motivation is pretty high since we are all reaching for a good result this season and to show quite decent pace.”
How do you expect the competition to have developed over the winter break?
JF: “I think the competition will be as fierce as WCS has ever seen. There are a lot of strong drivers coming through from the Pro Series and the lesser motivated drivers from last year have made way. It should make for an incredibly tight field.”
GC: “I think its still going to be Greger and Martin who are the main competition for everyone this year but will be good to see some new faces on the grid.”
PB: “Competition wise, I don’t expect much to change. As for the new pro guys there is maybe 1 or 2 I see could challenge for Top 5’s but I’m pretty sure it will be the same names fighting for the same places.
FK: “The competition will be higher, especially in the midfield, due to the strong newcomer from the Pro Series. I think the winter testing didn’t make that huge difference.”
KE: “I’d say it’s the most competitive year ever. Drivers like Mack, Bono, Jamie, Freek, Marcus, etc. All very fast drivers who really showed pace in the pro series.”
AB: “I think it’s going to be tough. Everyone’s pushing hard and it’s going to be intense, also for me doing the NPAS and this championship also.”
In terms of the team, how has preparation been heading for the new season?
JF: “Preparation has been decent over the last few weeks, a lot of time has been dedicated to this and the last week especially has been very good. Hopefully we can turn that preparation into a strong start to the season.”
GC: “Preparation hasn’t been the best for us at Apex this season to be honest but I am sure all the guys will be ready and fast as ever come Saturday!”
PB: “Preparation heading into this year has been good the team is working hard together to hopefully try and challenge the top guys.”
FK: “Coming from the Academy 2.0 for the Pro Series, we reached a new level of preparation now. This means for us to practice more and harder than ever before, to get to our best performance.”
KE: “We have worked very hard to get to the standard that required for qualifying especially. Most of us are outside the top-35 “safe zone” where we know we can qualify in to each race even if the lap is just “average”. We HAVE to set 2 solid laps to even have a sniff at beating the other 14 drivers that could knock you out.”
AB: “The team preparation has been very efficient and I think we can do well for the first race and the rest of the 2017 season. Team work is the key to success for me”
What’s your opinion on shortened calendar for this year?
JF: “Although it helps with my Blancpain duties, I’m not a fan of it. 16 was a good number, even if the series went to unsuitable tracks for the modern F1 car. I think it was the wrong call but I hope I’m wrong.”
GC: “For me the shorted calendar this year makes no difference really basically less races to catch up but could work in your favor happy either way.”
PB: “It’s a bad thing in my opinion, the season should have kept the 16 races at least and spread the season out more as there is a 5 month break between championships but there are other championships to fit in the schedule so it is what it is but definitely a shame in my eyes.”
FK: “I don’t like the shortened calendar, because I don’t like that it’s focused for just the BGT guys, we’re our own championship. We have a lot of practice for this high level and only 12 races.
KE: “Not a fan at all. I don’t agree that guys who accepted the increased work-load for double duty, should be able to change the series for the larger majority who are exclusively F1 only. They knew the work-load”
AB: “For me, the shortened calendar is good and bad at since we have more time to practice, but then a lesser amount of good results to get!”
And finally, what personal goals have you set for yourself as a driver?
JF: “I’m under no illusions as to the task ahead of me and the competition I will face. I’d be happy with 3 solid finishes in the first 3 races and evaluate my goals from there.”
GC: “I’d like to be on the podium more, finish in the top 3 at the end of the year and get a win! We seen the level of driving in Vegas for some of these quick guys so no reason we can’t be strong again!
PB: “Personal goals for this year is to try and score more podiums but I’m mainly looking for top 10 finishes as consistency is what its about and that can hopefully lead to a top 5 in the championship again.”
FK: “As the lesser fast guy of the team my first personal goal is to make every grid and the second one is to keep the licence of course.”
KE: “Need to make the grid in every race and looking for a top 25 in Round 1. Ultimately this season is just about gaining experience and respect as I develop my race craft and set-up building skills.”
AB: “My goals for the 2017 season is to get good results in each Qualifying, to get a grid slot and hopefully a few top 20’s. Of course also to keep the license to come back next year in force.”
Again, the first round of the championship begins this Saturday, with Qualifying at 1:30pm, the race then starting at 2:00pm UTC. Also be sure to catch the Renault 2.0 and Porsche Supercup support races before the Grand Prix too on iRacing Live!
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