By: Kobe Lambeth
I had the pleasure of talking to FIA World Endurance Championship driver, David Heinemeier Hansson. In the past few years, I started following his career and his accomplishments are fantastic! He is one of the drivers that I have been anxious to chat with. Let me tell you one thing, it is very interesting how “DHH” became interested in sportscar racing.
DHH said, “A friend of mine took me to the Autobahn Country Club near Chicago in 2007, I got a taste of driving on the track, and that really sealed it. This was just two years after I had gotten my driver’s license! But I had played Forza Motorsports, Gran Turismo, and pretty much every other racing game for years. So while I didn’t have much experience driving real cars, I did have a fair amount of experience wrangling the joystick!”
Wow, quite a way to find your way into motorsports! Many young individuals (including myself) dream of becoming a race car driver someday. David Heinemeier Hansson shows us that ANYTHING is possible at any age! Imagine playing video games for years, then accomplishing your dream of becoming the racer that you have always wanted to be.
DHH continued, “A couple of years later, in 2009, I finally got involved in some real club racing with the Cayman Interseries, which lead to the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge in 2010, then a bunch of different one-off races in 2011, That was really the season where things got serious. It was also my first year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
How amazing is it to go from test driving a car to drive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans? DHH should inspire any person currently working a “typical job” to never give up on their dreams of making it onto the race track. I repeat myself, anything is possible if you are willing to put in lots of hard work and have dedication. There are many opportunities for beginners to work their way through the ranks of a specific series that interests you. Speaking of beginners, DHH is definitely not one! He is one of the fastest and most accomplished “silver” drivers in the world. And this guy has not been racing his entire life! What a fantastic story of a young man who wanted to race and his hard work put him where he is today. His entry into the motorsports is very inspiring, but DHH also advocates for safety.
DHH explained, “I made a proposal earlier this year for IMSA to adopt ACO-style tire and fueling practices. It’s sad to see that we’re still running such needless risks. After my proposal, there were plenty of examples of drivers going on track with loose belts, as well as the dangers demonstrated by having cars running, and potentially spinning wheels hitting crew members.”
Heinemeier Hansson made some great points on the safety in sportscar racing. It is extremely dangerous for the drivers to ride around with loose belts! What would happen if a car became airborne and the driver had a loose belt? I do not want a nightmare like that to occur in real life. Also, I agree that IMSA should consider the ACO’s tire and fueling practices mentioned by DHH. It decreases the risk of injuring crew members. We saw a scary accident at last year’s Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring. A crew member was injured when the Number 50 Highway to Help Daytona Prototype struck him in the pits. We should not witness scary moments like that. IMSA might have a few things to consider with safety, but the ACO has room for improvement according to Heinemeier Hansson.
“But the ACO also has plenty of room to improve. Mostly around track safety at Le Mans. It was very scary to see Roald’s Aston Martin crash at the exit of the Porsche curves into a concrete wall. Race cars and concrete walls mix very poorly. So I hope that led to yet another full review of safety at Le Mans.”
Safety is the most important thing in all of motorsports. Why do we not have SAFER barriers EVERYWHERE? I hope that the ACO will consider adding more “soft walls” to Le Mans in the immediate future. If the safety does not improve, then we might, unfortunately, see fatalities. “Slow zones” are another concern of mine. I have no idea how this process is supposed to work. Do you remember last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans when there was confusion with the slow zones? I remember seeing an accident as this rule appeared to confuse some of the drivers. Slow zones are my biggest fear as I remember an incident at Le Mans before this rule was installed by the ACO. A few years ago, some of you might remember Mike Rockenfeller’s scary accident during the night when he was trying to get around a GT car. I fear that confusion with the slow zones might lead to an incident of that nature. Hopefully, there is a solution to prevent further confusion and “limit” danger as the ACO (wishing) improves safety.
Previously, I referred to David Heinemeier Hansson as one of the most successful amateur drivers in the world. However, FIA Driver Ratings have become a major topic of discussion in the sportscar racing world. Heinemeier Hansson had plenty to say about the pain of driver ratings.
“I believe in the concept of the ranking system: That gentleman drivers who pay to fill the grids should have categories where they can compete for wins. In WEC, we have GTE-Pro and LMP1 that are exclusively for all-pro lineups. Unfortunately the implementation falls far short of the concept.”
“There are now so many professional drivers who’ve managed to secure an amateur ranking that it’s rendering the whole thing a bit ridiculous. I can certainly understand why some pro drivers look at their colleagues who managed to get an amateur rating and say, hey, that’s BS!”
Well said, Mr. David Heinemeier Hansson! Nobody else could have said that any better. Makes me wonder why drivers like Scott Pruett and Katherine Legge are classified as amateurs. Is there a way to fixed this flawed system?
DHH said, “I believe the system can be fixed, but I don’t know if the powers that run that believe so or are even interested in it. It’s frustrating.”
How should the FIA Driver Ratings Dilemma be solved race fans? My answer is simple, drop them ASAP.
Heinemeier Hansson spent only one season with Tequila Patrón ESM. He reflected on the frustrating 2015 season.
“It was a tough year. First, we got a brand-new HPD package that simply didn’t deliver. The fundamentals weren’t there, so the team had to scramble after the first race at Daytona to come up with a new plan. That meant using the old HPD for Sebring and Silverstone, and then switching to the Ligiers from Spa. That naturally put the entire program on the backfoot. Which wasn’t what a team already rookies to the WEC needed. So the poor results weren’t exactly unexplainable, when you look at all that, but still frustrating.”
Totally understandable that Heinemeier Hansson was frustrated after a disappointing season. 2015 might have been a down year, but 2016 is going to be better for DHH!
“I can’t wait for the 2016 season to start with Porsche. I’ve been a huge Porsche fan for many years. My first sportscar was a Porsche and my current daily driver is a 911. On top of that, my first professional driving coach was Patrick Long, who I’ll now have the chance to drive with all season. It’s going to be great!”
It is definitely going to be interesting to see DHH and Patrick Long team up in GTE-Am this season. DHH appears to be excited about the new season.
“Additionally, it seems like the Porsche package is finally in a really good place. The car has struggled in past WEC seasons with poor tire wear, but after developing a new tire together with Michelin, those problems are clearly behind us now. The car was very strong all year in 2015, which will be the exact package that we’ll be racing next year.”
Although DHH will race in GTE-Am this season, a return to LMP2 in the future is definitely a possibility.
“I’d be happy to return to the WEC and Le Mans in an LMP2 in the future. It’s really exciting with the new cars and engines from 2017. So we’ll see what happens for the season after this. I intend to be racing in the WEC and at Le Mans from many years to come. Privileged to have had the opportunity to race both GT and LMP2 with success. So hoping back and forth isn’t a concern for me. I just want to race with a great team, in a great package, and have a chance to win.”
IMSA fans, please keep an eye out for an exciting announcement soon!
DHH explained, “I’m close to announcing a deal for Sebring and Petit Le Mans. It’s going to be great. After Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring is my favorite event. And after Sebring, my third favorite is probably Petit Le Mans. So to combine both of those with a WEC program is the perfect schedule for me.”
It will be fantastic to see DHH racing in the United States for two races! 2016 is looking to be a big year for Heinemeier Hansson, but life as a sportscar driver is going to be pretty good according to DHH.
“I think overall sportscar racing is looking incredible strong. It’s a pleasure to see the WEC grow. But there are many unresolved areas to work on. Driver rankings remain a real annoyance, as mentioned earlier. Anyway, far more to celebrate than to complain about at the moment.”
*Thanks to David Heinemeier Hansson for this wonderful interview! I wish you a successful 2016 racing season.*