British GT up-and-comer Matt George was a guest of Aston Martin Racing at the 6 Hours of Bahrain last weekend and watched as Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen wrapped up the World Endurance GT Drivers championship. In a Racing.GT exclusive, George (right) explains what he got up to.
As a part of the Aston family this year, having raced with them and worked with their road car dealerships, I was invited out to Bahrain with the idea of seeing how the team works and how the drivers conduct themselves, so I could gain a better understanding of what I, myself, can do better. I’d been working in Dubai a year previously, but it was my first time to Bahrain, which is a really cool facility.
It all started with the flight out there. I met up with a couple of the Aston people on the way and when I arrived on Thursday night, I found I was staying at the same hotel as the team, so I was able to have a fairly long chat with the Team Principal Paul Howarth to see what their aims were for the weekend and to catch up on how practice had gone.
The next day, I went to the circuit and sat in on all the drivers’ briefings. Aston always do a meeting before and after every session with all the engineers and tyre guys where they discuss the aims for the session at hand. It was really interesting to be a part of because they went into a lot of detail and talked about things which I never really thought were as important before, like stopping on your marks, coming into the pitlane on the right line and all those sorts of things that tend to get overlooked. Things like that will be very important once I get into the longer races like the Gulf 12 Hour in Abu Dhabi next month, because it’s essentially free time.
I had my radio on during the sessions, so I was able to listen in and understand the different programs each car was going through. I found they had slightly different aims for the race weekend. With 95 and 98 able to win the championships, they were mostly about having a well-balanced car, whereas 97 focused on pace. After that, it was straight into qualifying and obviously they came out with a 1-2 in Pro and first in Am, which was incredible.
It was really interesting to see how the engineers conduct themselves with the drivers and how the drivers responded to that. Since this was my first year, I really have no experience other than this to relate to. We were a one car team, which obviously made life fairly difficult as I never really had any data to compare against that I could use to improve myself. But having spent a lot of time with the guys at the weekend, I learned that there are a number of ways you can improve yourself without necessarily relying on other people.
There’s definitely a lot more to getting a career out of being a driver than just being able to drive fast – it’s about the whole package. You need to be someone who can go to any team, alongside any driver in the paddock and have a positive impact. If you can do that, then you’re a much more valuable asset than someone who can just drive fast. Probably the biggest thing I took out of the weekend was to know more of what’s expected of a professional driver, how to achieve that and how a professional team works, so I can do a better job in the future rather than just driving around in circles.
Bahrain was also hosting the World Karting Championships, so we walked over to the go-kart track to have a look around. I was amazed how fast they looked having left go-karts a year ago, but at the same time, it also opened my eyes to how much I’ve moved on from there. When I was in karting, it was like the be-all and end-all; if I wasn’t going karting, then life wasn’t worth living. But when I watched it, it just wasn’t overly exciting anymore, which was quite a big thing for me. I expected to miss it and want to be back there, but it wasn’t like that at all!
— Matt George (@Mattgeorge19) November 21, 2016
Apart from that and going out for a meal with all the guys, I stayed with the team because you can also learn a lot from the downtime that they have, and I didn’t want to miss that. There’s obviously an awful lot of time standing around at race circuits, but it’s what you do with that time that is important, so seeing how the drivers keep themselves focused and all those sorts of little things that everyone misses was really interesting.
Obviously I’ve known Darren Turner from working for him, but this was the first time I’ve ever been able to see the other side of him, essentially for what he’s best known for, so that was brilliant for me. It was actually a really good weekend to go to, not just because the team was on form, but also because Darren was racing with Jonny Adam, who has made the step from the British GT championship where I’ve been racing. It was really inspiring to see how he’s progressed in the last five years from not too far away from where I am now, to being a headlining driver in WEC.
I’d like to add a huge congratulations as well to Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim on their World GT Drivers Championship. I met Marco and Nicki right at the start of this year, so I saw either side of their season having not driven the car and what their expectations were, then chatting to them after the race and all the emotion in winning the race and the championship. Obviously you always want to win, but when you see people who you can look up to winning and doing such an amazing job, then it makes you want to work even harder!