Have a go hero: When an F1 stalwart floundered in an underbaked Aston - Motor Informed
GT

Have a go hero: When an F1 stalwart floundered in an underbaked Aston

Splitting his time between driving Mercedes and Aston Martins at grand prix weekends, 2003 British Formulation three champion Alan van der Merwe has a job that will be the envy of many. However, whereas his function as Formulation 1’s medical driver means he’s not actively racing anymore, the 41-year-old does have expertise of racing an Aston on his CV from a quick spell in sportscars.

The South African had accomplished simply two races with a roof over his head earlier than agreeing to hitch the James Watt Automotive group that had been chosen as one of many first buyer squads to run the Aston Martin Vantage GT2 within the 2008 Le Mans Collection.

His first had been six years beforehand within the 2002 Daytona 24 Hours, the Bell Motorsports BMW M3 GTR he’d been entrusted with halted prematurely by gearbox issues, whereas the opposite got here on the Nurburgring 24 Hours in 2006 with a rally-spec Subaru Impreza that “actually didn’t need to be on the Nordschleife”.

It was due to this fact one thing of a departure for ex-BAR-Honda F1 tester van der Merwe, who describes it as “a really odd stage in my profession the place I didn’t fairly know the place it was going to go”.

He had represented his nation within the A1GP championship in 2006-07, however a thriller sickness that he suspects right this moment was a post-viral an infection picked up whereas doing PR occasions for BAR accomplice Fortunate Strike left him “hanging on for expensive life” and meant “the automotive was driving me ultimately”.

“I’d misplaced an enormous quantity of weight and I wasn’t bodily robust sufficient to drive the A1 automotive,” he tells Autosport of a interval that finally lasted 18 months earlier than he acquired again to full health. “I used to be losing away, I had no power.

“I went to see tropical illness specialists, I used to be busy with some oncologists as effectively. There have been all kinds of theories and all fairly scary issues. I had biopsies and I used to be high-quality, however docs principally really helpful that I shouldn’t be competing anyway.

Mystery illness hampered his time in A1GP and prompted van der Merwe to look for new opportunities

Thriller sickness hampered his time in A1GP and prompted van der Merwe to search for new alternatives

Picture by: Motorsport Images

“I did attempt, however you’re solely nearly as good as your final race. I saved having these dangerous performances and it doesn’t actually matter why you’re not performing, the underside line is that you just’re not.”

Upon shifting to GT racing, van der Merwe admits he felt “very a lot out of my consolation zone”, a lot the identical as he had whereas testing a year-old Mercedes DTM automotive within the winter of 2004.

“I at all times knew I might take a very good season or two to essentially determine it out,” he says, “and at that degree, you don’t actually need to be studying anymore.”

“I feel it was simply dangerous timing. Possibly I shouldn’t have been concerned in that very early course of” Alan van der Merwe

Sadly for van der Merwe, the automotive that will go on to attain Le Mans 24 Hours class wins in GTE Professional (2017) and GTE Am (2014) in a prolonged competitors profession with the Prodrive-operated manufacturing facility group was, in 2008, considerably under-baked.

A deliberate debut at Barcelona was referred to as off – “it was one thing to do with a timing belt or oil feed, we may have gone racing however we had been in all probability going to finish up blowing one thing up,” he says. Then his expertise of racing at Silverstone was solely forgettable, 13 laps down on the GT2 class-winning Virgo Ferrari within the automotive he shared with Tim Sugden and Michael Outzen.

“We had been miles off the tempo there, all we did was drive round fairly slowly,” he remembers. “We had been by no means actually going to be setting the world on fireplace. You might inform the automotive had potential, but it surely wasn’t actually aggressive but. On straightline velocity, we had been very far off and Steadiness of Efficiency was nonetheless fairly new again then, there was a number of variance.

“I feel it was simply dangerous timing. Possibly I shouldn’t have been concerned in that very early course of. Aston Martin went on to have a number of success with that automotive within the palms of extra skilled drivers and with Prodrive working it.”

Van der Merwe's only race in the Aston at Silverstone was entirely forgettable due to its lack of performance

Van der Merwe’s solely race within the Aston at Silverstone was solely forgettable resulting from its lack of efficiency

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Van der Merwe says that he “didn’t actually get pleasure from” his sportscar stint, even earlier than off-track issues clouded issues additional and conspired to place him off looking for different alternatives.

“It was the same old motorsport story, I didn’t find yourself getting paid the best way I used to be speculated to,” he says. “So there weren’t actually main discussions [about continuing].

“I’d at all times be concerned with very skilled, just about the perfect outfits round. Haywood Racing and Carlin, on the time you couldn’t actually get higher, so then having this wake-up name the place you may not receives a commission, to me it simply wasn’t racing.

“I used to be used to a really pure, very single-minded method after which coping with all of these things… my introduction to sportscars was fairly chaotic and I feel that in all probability performed into it.

“It simply fizzled out ultimately. Possibly I may have gone on to have a good profession in that, however I don’t actually remorse it.”

He was near getting “a daily workplace job”, recognising that “my momentum had began to drop and entering into seats that I might have discovered worthwhile was getting increasingly tough” when he acquired an out of the blue name from his former Carlin F3 group supervisor David Lowe.

His first assumption that Lowe had “referred to as by mistake as a result of I hadn’t spoken to him for seven years” couldn’t have been wider from the mark.

Van der Merwe has served as the medical car driver for F1 since 2009

Van der Merwe has served because the medical automotive driver for F1 since 2009

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“He simply mentioned, ‘Charlie [Whiting] has requested me to search out anyone to drive the medical automotive’,” remembers van der Merwe.

Initially not sure what this is able to entail – “I didn’t know that there was such a factor as a medical automotive driver!” – he agreed to a gathering with Whiting at Heathrow, the place they shook palms on a deal that will take impact from the beginning of the 2009 F1 season.

It will successfully demand that van der Merwe quit racing and so was a reasonably vital private alternative. However, apart from a return to A1GP for the final-ever assembly at Manufacturers Hatch in 2009 on a non-clashing F1 weekend, he has caught to the settlement ever since.

The medical car

The medical automotive

Picture by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

shares

feedback

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Ultimate classification – GP Inside
“Valentino Rossi … what bullshit in Malaysia 2015”
McLaren completes buy of majority stake in Arrow McLaren SP
“The 12 months of my life by which I’ve progressed essentially the most”
“When Frank Williams calls me, how can I say no?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *