22 January 2007
Q&A: Richard Lloyd, Apex Motorsport – EXCLUSIVE.
Having tasted success at Le Mans and in the BTCC, Apex Motorsport is hoping to make an impact on the FIA GT3 European Championship with the stunning Jaguar XKR – unveiled to the public at the recent Autosport International show.
One car has already been purchased by Stuart Scott, who will compete in a six-race programme with an un-named co-driver with two other cars currently under development at the Apex base in Buckingham.
Crash.net caught up with Apex's Richard Lloyd to see how things are progressing…
Richard, could you just bring us up to speed on how the project is going…
We are in a very early stage of the programme as we didn't sign our deal with Jaguar until around the 1 September and did get our first car until roughly the 28 September, so its been a vertical learning curve since then. Here we are at the beginning of January and we have a virtually specified car here [at the Autosport International show] on the main stand and cars two and three are in various stages of build. We are just about where we expected to be and aren't out testing yet, we'll be doing that a little bit later.
It's a very interesting project and has caught peoples attention. What was your thinking behind going down the Jaguar route?
It's actually a funny story. A friend of mine simply said to me one day, 'What about that new Jaguar, the XK?' and I started looking into it. I contacted Jaguar and I found some enthusiasm right away. Then we started looking at the technical aspect and it's a very interesting proposition because its all aluminium, has a good supercharged V8 engine so we don't think it would take too much to make it into a good race car. So that is how we got into it.
In the short space of time from September to January where we are now, how much work has had to go into the development of the car?
We have done a lot of work on the design front because while you might think that GT3 is a fairly basic type of championship – because GT1 and GT2 are above it – it is a very interesting championship because there aren't really any technical rules. The technical rules stretch to about three pages, but the homologation paper is about 120 pages, so it's all about being creative with your packaging. The engine has to remain standard and the pick-up points have to remain standard, but there is an awful lot that you can do to optimise the car and that is what we are doing at the moment. We are starting with a fantastically good base car, the XKR is a sensational road car and having driven it, it is simply astonishing. Therefore, we believe it will make a very good race car.
From a team point of view, the GT3 Jaguar is also going to be something to different to what Apex has done in the past…
You're quite right. Historically, my racing in the corporate world has been Audi or Bentley presenting a car to us and saying 'We want to go racing, you run the project for us and try to win some races' which of course we did. With Audi we won the BTCC title and with Bentley we won Le Mans. Here, the tables have turned as we have to come up with the whole technical package, we have to design the components, have to make sure they are serviceable and, at the top of the list, we have to make sure that the car is relatively simple to drive because these cars are being driven by mainly non-professional drivers. There are very strict rules and you can't put a hot-shot in the car and if you can he has to be paired with a gentleman driver so the overall result is measurable against other cars. That is the great thing about this series, there are six of each brand so it can't be dominated by Porsche or Viper and there is a good mix of drivers – that is why is it so entertaining.
From a driving point of view, has there been a lot of interest from people who want to drive the Jaguar in 2007?
There is a lot of interest but the key fact is that we have to sell the cars, we aren't in the business of looking for drivers and deciding which one to run, it is down to the owner of the car, who might be a driver himself, to find someone to drive it. From our point of view, it is building blocks for establishing a business, rather like Prodrive, so we are selling cars to private individuals who will look for drivers. We will run three cars ourselves and we hope to do well.
In terms of numbers of cars, what do you think we'll see?
There'll be a minimum of three Jaguars in the pitlane at Silverstone on 5 May and a maximum of six, so that is really where we are. Other championships like the German, Brazilian and Belgian series will take second stage for us because we have to get the FIA cars built first. Silverstone will be a remarkable event in May because it will be the first time that a production Jaguar has been seen racing, we think, for around 25 years.
Is this a season that you approach as a development year with an eye on winning in 2008?
Not really because you have to come out fighting in this series. If you win every race, you'd get weight thrown at you, told to run hard tyres or have the ride height put up and you'd be nowhere, so we'd be very happy if we could win a race – that would be sensational. Our target really is podium finishes and consistency that would push us up the ladder.
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