Success at Spa, then problems brought on by a wet weekend in Magny-Cours – it’s all been happening for Adam Christodoulou, former British Formula Renault Champion and BRDC Rising Star turned tin-top racer.
Christodoulou, 22, from Lichfield has been working with McLaren Automotive this year as a development driver for the company’s new 12C sports car.
Its racing equivalent, the 12C GT3, is now well into its development programme and Adam has driven the car in the 24 Hours of Spa this summer as well as a more recent endurance event at Magny-Cours this weekend.
Working alongside co-drivers Pierre Kaffer and Klass Hummel, he took part in two days of testing at the former F1 circuit, experiencing both wet and dry conditions and reporting improvements in the car’s development since its Spa outing.
His qualifying time saw him topping the leaderboard during the first session – but a premature end to the second session meant the regulation stating all three drivers must qualify had not been met.
Thus the car was relegated to the back row of the grid – a position Hummel was unwilling to accept, propelling the car up to 23rd position in the first three laps. By the 45-minute mark it was 18th, but then it was forced to retire with mechanical problems.
Speaking afterwards, Christodoulou said: “Everyone is gutted. Looking at our pace, a top five or even a podium finish looked to be a real possibility. The car had so much grip and the speed was fantastic, but it just didn’t work out for us.”
He returns to the UK for his next race in the McLaren at Silverstone on October 8-9 as well as heading to Austria for his debut appearance in the Ferrari Challenge.
However, in the run-up to the Magny-Cours race, he explained what it has been like to be involved in the car’s development via a Q&A. Here are his thoughts:
You raced the 12C GT3 in the Total 24 Hours of Spa in July. Despite the challenges presented by endurance racing, you were able to set a best lap time faster than the 3rd placed driver overall. Were you happy with the performances of you and the car?
I thought the performance of the car was incredible. I’d really like to congratulate McLaren GT for developing a great car in a short amount of time as entering a 24 hours race as part of a development programme is almost unheard of. The 12C GT3’s a real pleasure to drive and after completing a 2 hour stint, I could have continued for that again. You get in the car and you just feel as one.
The 12C GT3 features technology supplied in the 12C sports car and by McLaren in Formula 1. How does that level of technology make an impact when racing at such a demanding circuit?
The traction control works beautifully, the ABS is the best I have felt in a race car and compared to other manufacturers we are able to brake much later thanks to our partners from Formula 1, Akebono. The paddle shift gearbox is almost seamless and with all the controls at your fingertips you can really concentrate on achieving the ultimate lap time.
How is the 12C GT3 responding to the challenges presented by the Magny Cours circuit?
The Magny Cours circuit provides different challenges to Spa. It’s my first time here but because of the amount of grip the car produces it’s really easy to drive. Learning the track has been straight forward and as we proved in testing, there’s been no problem for the team to get on the pace.
How would you describe the opportunity to work with McLaren GT on the development programme of the 12C GT3?
It’s been one of the turning points for my career, for sure. To work with a manufacturer is any racing driver’s dream and who better than McLaren? I’ve been very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. It has been a real eye opener and I’ve learnt so much this year being part of the development programme, seeing what goes on behind the scenes of GT racing and benefiting from nearly 50 years of Formula 1 experience.
You’re also a development driver for McLaren Automotive. How does the 12C sports car stand up to track tests?
I’ve been very lucky to drive a number of pretty exotic super cars over the past few years, but the McLaren 12C is the best handling car I have driven to date. Wherever you point it, it goes. And when you need it to stop, the brakes are just amazing.
What are your personal and team goals for this race?
We have proven the car can last 24 hours and today we are racing to be on the podium.
You can find out more about McLaren’s 12C GT3 programme on its website here.