Ahead of Round 6 of the British GT championship from Spa-Francorchamps, Racing.GT met up with Ross Gunn to discuss his first season as an Aston Martin factory driver and his unique experience of the Le Mans 24 Hours…
Following an interview with Aston Martin Managing Director John Gaw in the days building up to the Le Mans 24 Hours, conversation turned to the 19-year-old Aston Martin driver given responsibility for covering Andrew Howard, Liam Griffin and Gary Hirsch’s prowess on Beechdean AMR’s social media channels.
“He’s got a bright future ahead of him”, Gaw said, adding that he had been suitably impressed by the youngster’s maturity and positive attitude.
Indeed, where some drivers might have considered the task as beneath them, Ross Gunn treated his role with the same diligence and consideration that he has applied to his first season in GT3 alongside Beechdean patron Howard, the reigning British GT champion.
— Racing GT (@RacingGT) June 14, 2016
Gunn has come an awfully long way in a very short space of time. After 20 months sat on the sidelines due to a lack of budget, Gunn impressed Howard and Jonny Adam at a test in a GT4 Aston Martin and was promptly signed up alongside Jamie Chadwick for 2015. Not only did he take the title, but he capped off the year by becoming the inaugural winner of Aston’s Evolution Academy scheme and helped himself to an Aston Martin factory contract in the process.
However, despite being let loose with the Vantage GTE up the Goodwood Hill, that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing him in the WEC for the time being. Aston Martin are aware that they have a precious talent on their hands and see no reason to rush his progression. As Gunn explains, his low key Le Mans was just an important part of that development process, which will pay dividends when he does one day take part in the event himself.
“A lot of mechanics took photos of me sleeping during the night stints which got all over social media within a couple of seconds and a lot of people got the wrong end of the stick with what I was doing,” he said.
“The whole point of me going to Le Mans with the team was to track what the drivers were doing, understand what sleep they wanted, foods they were eating and then what they were doing with the car, how long the stints were, tyre-wear, everything that was going on really. It’s going to be in the back of my mind if an opportunity maybe arises next year – if Beechdean are there, I’d love to be driving for them.
— Goodwood FOS (@fosgoodwood) June 26, 2016
“There was a lot of meeting partners and people within Aston I hadn’t met before and I was also involved with the social side of things, writing press releases and also doing the Facebook, Twitter and all the Instagram stuff as well.”
Gunn has made a very encouraging start to the year, although that hasn’t really been reflected by the results.
It’s easy to forget that he was second only to Seb Morris in qualifying at Brands Hatch, though it counted for nothing because Howard, busy racing in the ELMS at Silverstone, didn’t set a time. Coming through from the back of the grid to fifth in the race wasn’t a bad result under the circumstances and was followed by a debut podium at Rockingham after a late penalty call for Adam Carroll and Liam Griffin’s Barwell Lamborghini.
However, Oulton Park and Silverstone were missed opportunities, with pitlane penalties and wrong tyre calls consigning them to the ‘weekends to forget’ column.
“It hasn’t been easy recently but I’d say it’s been a very good start,” he said. “I had my expectations of where I wanted to be coming into the season and it was just a case of making sure that happened. Straight away from the first qualifying session at Brands, I felt at one with what I was driving and it all came a lot easier than I thought it would, which has made the whole learning process a lot easier.”
— Ross Gunn (@RossGunnRacing) July 8, 2016
Of course, having the likes of Aston Martin stalwarts Darren Turner and Jonny Adam to call on for advice has also been hugely beneficial to Gunn’s development, although Adam has since gone from mentor to competitor after switching from Beechdean to the rival TF Sport squad.
“It’s a very exciting time for me personally, I’m in a very good position and I’ve got time on my side,” Gunn continues. “I’ve had a lot of access to a lot of people in different organisations like Aston and Beechdean who have helped me along the way. Darren and Jonny have been two key people for me this year, just watching the way Darren carries himself around a team is absolutely unbelievable because he does the out and out 100% professional job.
“I work part time for Aston and virtually full time for Beechdean, which has been very beneficial for me. The environment Andrew has built up for me this year has been near-perfect, I can’t really ask for much more. I’m in a perfect position.”
So what does his future hold? Gunn is highly rated by the people making all the important calls and hugely popular in the team for his willingness to get stuck in with everything from cleaning the car to making the tea, but his short-term future will likely depend on whether he can retain his Silver driver grading.
“Personally I’d love to be in a GTE very soon, but whether that’s next year or the year after I don’t know, it’s not really in my hands as such,” he said. “Andrew looks after everything I do and he does a great job. If an opportunity arises for next year then I’ll take it with both hands, but if it doesn’t then I’ll keep pushing with what I’m doing.
“GT3 is a fantastic class, but the opportunities within Aston going forward are predominantly in GTE, so that’s where I’d like to envisage my future. In five years’ time I’d love to be nestled in a GTE factory car and by that point I’ll be 24…”