by Russell Atkins

Chris Dymond has the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours round-the-clock classic in his sights after signing to compete for Team Berlanga in the FIA GT3 European Championship this year - something he describes as a 'very exciting' challenge.

The 2007 Renault Clio Cup Rookie of the Year will campaign one of the squad's Ascari KZ1-Rs alongside Erik Zwart, son of Ascari Cars owner and team founder Klaas Zwart. The squad will be run by experienced British F3 and A1GP outfit Alan Docking Racing, and with the first round at Silverstone now less than a fortnight away on 18-20 April, Dymond has been getting into gear by joining in with the two-day group test at Nogaro in southern France.

"It's a very exciting deal," the 20-year-old enthused, speaking to Crash.net. "It's going to be a little bit different, but the test went pretty well and I'm going quicker every time I get in the car.

"I needed to adjust a little bit from a 200bhp, front wheel-drive car to a 500bhp rear wheel-drive one; I had to change my style quite a lot. The braking was the main thing. There are no real comparisons to make, though - the only similarities are that both have four wheels and an engine!"

A double podium for Ascari in the 2007 season finale in Dubai has given Dymond hope that he and Zwart will not be far from the front-running pace come round one, despite his lack of experience in both the car and hotly-fought series. Last year there were six different race-winners in ten races, and the Race Drivers' Academy member and Loughborough University sports performance student predicts more of the same in 2008.

"It's going to be tough," he mused. "A lot of guys have a lot more experience of GT racing than I do and know the circuits. I've never actually raced at any of the other tracks before, so it will be a bit of a learning year.

"It's good to start on home turf on a circuit I know well, and a grand prix circuit at that. I don't know if we will get to test at the other tracks [Monza, Oschersleben, Brno, Nogaro and Dubai] before we race there or not, though obviously we will have the Friday practice day before the race weekend, and they don't generally take long to learn. The guys in the team have all the data from last year and the year before too.

"Erik and I have gelled really well. Everyone is working really well together. I haven't actually had the chance to share the car with Erik yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to partnering him. He is a quick driver who obviously has a lot of experience with the car, and I think we can be strong together.

"The times we were doing in testing showed we were more-or-less on the pace straightaway. That was encouraging, so I think we will be running towards the front. The team know what they are doing, the car is very strong and I think the driver line-up will be very strong too, so I don't see any reason why we can't challenge for podiums and race wins.

"I'm perhaps a little bit nervous I guess, but it's very exciting at the same time. I'm looking forward to the whole thing, especially to getting some experience of European tracks. It's the path I want to go down, with Le Mans being the ultimate goal."

 

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