Snowfall at Silverstone! The capricious British weather dished up some surprises for Giorgio Maggi on his European Le Mans Series debut. As second-youngest driver on the grid, the 18-year old defied the inclement conditions to put in a convincing performance in the 420hp LMP3 racing car. In the highly competitive LMP3 class, the reigning Asian Le Mans Series champion posted the fastest lap for his Swiss team Race Performance and finished sixth in his maiden race. A total of 44 cars lined up for the four-hour event staged in the context of the WEC World Endurance Championship weekend.
Giorgio, let’s talk first of all about the crazy weather at Silverstone. Snow in mid-April – were you expecting that?
No, that was absolutely incredible. Real Swiss weather in Silverstone, you might almost say. I should have brought my skis! Seriously, I was worried about whether the weather would prevent the race from going ahead. Even the free practice session for the WEC had to be cancelled because of the slush accumulating on the grass next to the track. Luckily, the weather improved, but considering this was my very first race in the European Le Mans Series, it did present an additional challenge.
The team had confidence in your talent and let you drive the important start stint. What thoughts were going through your mind as you lined up in a field of 44 cars in such difficult conditions?
Obviously, I was nervous with it being my very first race in a Le Mans prototype. But that was mainly due to the weather and the track being wet at the start. The spray from the other cars made it even trickier for us all. A few metres after the start of the race, some cars spun round in front of me on the straight. I kept my distance from the car in front and managed to steer around the chaos. After that, it was catch-up time!
And you were successful in that regard. It was due in no small measure to your good stint that your car advanced from grid position 15 in the LMP3 class to finish sixth.
I am really happy about how my debut went. In the race, I was able to keep up with the other cars in my class, although most of the drivers had a lot more experience than me. With so many vehicles on track, traffic obviously plays an important role – especially because of the different power classes – but I had no problems in overtaking the GT cars. I had several really good one-on-ones with my LMP3 opponents. That was fun, and I’ve learnt a lot for the next race.
How did the collaboration with your Race Performance team go?
Firstly a big ‘thank you’ to my experienced team-mates Marcello and Bert! The crew also did a great job. Sixth place is the result of a combined team effort. Thanks also to the whole team for their hard work over the weekend. Early on, the setup of the car wasn’t perfect; in qualifying we were struggling with understeer. Without these difficulties, I feel that a better result might have been possible. Then we made some changes to the setup – and that paid off. The team took a big step forward, and I felt a lot more comfortable in the car during the race.
After Silverstone, you’re off to Imola, another track where you’ve never raced before. How will you be preparing yourself for the second race weekend of the ELMS in Italy?
Just like Silverstone, Imola also has an incredible motorsport history. A shiver runs down my spine when I think of the earlier Formula 1 races there. I’ve never driven at Imola and will use the free practice as best I can to acclimatise myself to the conditions. By way of preparation, I’ll be familiarising myself with the track layout on the simulator and watching onboard footage. Silverstone was a good start to the season. If we continue to improve at this rate, I think I’m in with a chance of a top result in the next race.