VICI Racing wrapped up its 2008 track programme with two days of testing at the Sebring International Raceway just before Christmas; evaluating three promising young drivers, as the team looks toward an expanded line-up next year. Lance David Arnold, Christer Lindholm, and Johannes Stuck all took turns behind the wheel of a VICI Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on the short configuration circuit at Sebring, in Central Florida. Overcast on day one, a heavy early mist quickly cleared to leave a bright and sunny final day, allowing the team to complete working through the two-day programme.
Three drivers took to the cockpit of a 2008-specification Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, and at the end Technical Director Roland Wall expressed himself pleased with how each driver performed. “I’m pretty satisfied with how the test went,” he commented. “All the drivers were fast and adapted well, though I expected nothing less.”
Lance David Arnold has some cockpit time in the GT2 category machine. The 22-year-old German youngster, who includes driving the 911 Cup version for the UPS Porsche Junior team in the Porsche Carrera Cup series, raced a 911 GT3 RSR in the Italian GT Championship at Monza earlier this year, planting the car on pole, and comfortably leading the pack from the front right from the green light, untroubled until he handed over to his team-mate at half-distance. Highly focused, Lance, who lives in Duisburg, Germany, was the first driver in the car both days of this test, tasked with running the installation laps.
Swedish driver Christer Lindholm is a former motorbike star who has made the transition from two- to four- wheels with much success, and he comes to the team’s attention after a handful of impressive seasons in the Swedish Porsche Carrera Cup. Three times German Superbike champion for the Yamaha factory, counts amongst his many bike highlights. In fact Christer was Swedish champion in different classes of Superbike and Supersport no less that 10 times and one memorable, and very hectic, year saw him winning every race of the season in both classes, while also squeezing in enough races to finish as runner up in the European Superbike Championship. With an ALMS programme now under serious consideration, he can also count on plenty of long-distance racing experience: as a Yamaha factory rider Christer finished on the podium several times at the motorcycle Le Mans 24 Hours and the Bol D’or 24 Hours at Paul Ricard. In 2005 Christer, who lives in Stockholm, put his glittering two-wheel career to one side to take up the challenge of sports cars, and in three seasons contesting the Swedish Porsche Carrera Cup (the third biggest in the world) he hasn’t finished outside the top-3 in the championship’s final positions. Out on the Sebring ‘short course’ that we have been using this week Christer was immediately smooth, fast and able adapt to driving the RSR with ease.
Located in Central Florida between Orlando and Miami, the Sebring International Raceway is one of sports car racing’s most legendary tracks. If anything can break during the famous 12-hour race, it will, and the bumps, mixed surfaces of this former WWII airfield are the perfect choice for evaluating drivers and introducing them to the rigorous demands of top-level ALMS sports car racing.
A very welcome face too at the test was Hans-Joachim Stuck, in attendance to keep an eye on son Johannes, who is following his father and grandfather’s footsteps, and proving to be a highly promising young racer. Stuck Senior really needs no introduction – as one of motor racing’s greatest legends his career has spanned everything from touring cars and sports cars to the pinnacle of all motor sports, Formula 1. His roll call of wins include two victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and here at this almost deserted Florida circuit this week, three times in the past he has etched his name into the roll-call, reserved for only the very finest, as the first driver to see the chequered flag (1975, 1986 and 1988) after 12 hours of unrelenting racing. The historic connections at Porsche always run long and deep: Hans and team owner Ron Meixner both were on the driver roster at the famous Joest-Porsche team, sharing garages at races such as Le Mans; the relentless will to win cementing a long standing friendship.
Johannes, who lives in Lichtenstein, meanwhile is perfect proof that racing really does run in the blood, and he’s out to emulate his father’s impressive on-track achievements. Cool and down-to-earth, though not quite as tall, he has plenty of experience of the 911 GT3 RSR having raced it this season in the VLN, driving alongside regular VICI Racing pilot Marc Basseng, the duo also sharing the top step of the podium.
Roland Wall, Technical Director VICI Racing: “I’m pretty satisfied with how the test went, all the drivers were fast and adapted well, though I expected nothing less; particularly as Lance, Christer and Johannes all know Porsches well. Lance and Johannes I expect to be fast straight away as they have raced the RSR, and I know what they can do, and they didn’t disappoint me at all. Both are very young but drive with lots of maturity and learn quickly, I am quite sure that they can be winners in ALMS and deal with all the new scenarios they will experience here, such as the traffic. Cup racing is a good education. I engineered Lance’s car when he took the first win for Porsche in the ADAC GT Masters, and he is a product of the UPS factory junior team in Germany [Porsche Carrera Cup]. Christer I have known for a long time as he was riding [in the Superbike World Championship] when I was engineering the Hondas. I have also engineered in Swedish [Carrera] Cup and he has been really quick there since going to cars, and that’s a tough championship. He has taken a good bike style and adapted well to the Cup. He had a step to make though this week, but I have been very impressed that he settled into very quick times straight away. The two days went well, all the drivers were able to get a lot of laps in, and we even got a little unexpected rain testing right at the end. The data was all good; they can all crack ALMS for certain. The team has worked very well; they are a smooth unit and know the incredibly high standards that will be needed to win in ALMS next year. We keep working hard over Christmas and I think we will be in good shape for Sebring [12 Hours].”
Lance David Arnold (Germany): “It’s my first time at Sebring, although I have driven at Daytona for the last three years, but I’m impressed at how bumpy it is, but the track is good to drive on, although we are on the short course. I’m happy to work with Roland [Wall] as I worked with him earlier this year in [ADAC GT] Masters and the car was superb and set us up for a good win, but Ronny Meixner is also a really good guy, I like him and the crew too, they are very good, so I’m really looking forward to work with these guys.”
Johannes Stuck (Germany): “It’s good to be here and I have enjoyed the two days, this is a very good team, the crew are good and work impressively, and I would like to be in the team to join their push next year. After racing in Cup and VLN it is time for me to get out of Germany and ALMS is where I want to go. I know Roland well, he has engineered cars for me before, and Marc [Basseng, VICI Racing driver this year] has been my team mate this season in VLN. I look forward to working with Marc again, he’s been a big help to my driving, and he’s taught me a lot, doesn’t keep any secrets and shares information to help me develop. I know the RSR well as we use it in the VLM but with some modifications, bigger wings, spoilers, no restrictors, but car is much the same, though it’s stiffer here as we have a softer car on the Nordschleife. This track [Sebring] is very bumpy but I am enjoying it, this sorts the boys from the men. It’s my first time on an American track so that’s good, I have visited tracks with my Dad, Mosport, Sears Point, Road Atlanta, Elkhart Lake, but I have been keen to get on one.”
Christer Lindholm (Sweden): “I’ve enjoyed this test, my first time in the RSR, it’s responsive, the chassis, brakes are good and it’s a lot easier to driver than the Cup cars I’m used to, it’s more responsive too, and very forgiving. It does what you want and there are no problems with understeer and oversteer so far. [Sebring] is my first time on an American track, very different to European tracks, but good fun to drive on. I didn’t push much as it was my first time [in the RSR] so I needed to get used to it, but I had no dramas at all. Racing [in ALMS] would be good for me; only one or two races clash with [Swedish Porsche Carrera] Cup races so I hope I can put programme together for 2009. I know Roland [Wall] firstly from Superbikes and then in Swedish [Carrera] Cup and I respect his engineering ability a lot.”
VICI Racing will be back on track testing in January as the team continues the build up to a second season in the American Le Mans Series.