Ross Gunn will step up to the European Le Mans Series in 2017 with reigning GTE champions Beechdean AMR.
The 20-year-old AMR Evolution Academy winner will join team patron Andrew Howard and Darren Turner for the six-round series, having previously sampled the latest-generation Aston Martin Vantage GTE at the WEC’s Bahrain rookie test in November.
He replaces Alex MacDowall as the team’s Silver-rated driver, after MacDowall was upgraded to Gold.
Gunn won the British GT4 championship in his first season of GT racing in 2015, before stepping up to GT3 last year and taking a debut podium at Rockingham.
“It’s a big step up, it’s the first time in my whole life that I’ll be racing at an international level, which is a big thing for me personally,” Gunn told Racing.GT.
“I’ve spent the last year going to all the races, watching with a head-set on, so I know how the events work and having that head-start can only be beneficial for me.
“It’s pretty much the same car that I drove in Bahrain in November that I’ll be racing this year, so it’s good that I’ve got a little bit of seat time under my belt. It’s a nice car to drive and once I can get to grips with it, we’ll be on our way.”
Gunn concedes that there will inevitably be pressure on his shoulders coming into the reigning champion team, as the Silver driver is responsible for the lion’s share of driving during the race.
With renewed competition from the JMW Motorsport Ferrari and a new addition to the grid from Le Mans Cup champions TF Sport, featuring WEC GT Drivers champion Nicki Thiim, Gunn knows Beechdean won’t have it easy, but is determined to reward Howard’s continued faith in him.
“There will be pressure on the team obviously as they’re reigning champions and of course we want to win, but I’m under no illusions about how difficult it will be,” he said.
“The ELMS is a very hard-fought championship with the LMP3s and LMP2s, it’s a multi-class frenzy and anything can happen.
“Last year the ambition for the team was to finish in the top two or three of the championship, so they overachieved in that they won the title in the end under really strange circumstances, but the second year was all about trying to go all out to take the championship and obviously that’s what we’re working hard towards.”
Gunn was moved across to Beechdean’s GT4 car alongside Jack Bartholomew when Jordan Albert’s funding dried up for the final two rounds of the championship, and is confident that this experience will prove useful in the multi-class ELMS.
“It definitely will, I’ve had a lot of experience now in GT4 and I’m used to driving in my mirrors, which I’ll have to do a lot next year,” he added.
“We’ll have LMP3 cars that will be at a very similar speed on the straight, if not slightly slower, and they’ll be lunging into corners to get in front of us, so that’s going to be tricky, but LMP2s should be fairly easy to deal with.”
Beechdean’s driver roster for Le Mans has yet to be confirmed.
Ross will be a regular columnist on Racing.GT throughout this year. Stay tuned for more updates.