Another new challenge for Daniel de JongAnother new challenge for Daniel de Jong
Having moved up quickly through the ranks of various junior single-seater categories, talented Dutch driver Daniel de Jong is set for his first full season in GP2, together with his Dutch team Manor MP Motorsport. This weekend, however, he is up for an entirely new challenge as he is competing in the Dunlop 24H DUBAI for the first time.
Daniel, you have mainly raced in single-seaters so far, including GP3, GP2, AutoGP and Formula Renault 3.5. Now, you will race in Dubai for the first time. How did this come about?
I have known Dutch driver Bert de Heus, the owner of the Dodge Viper we are racing here in Dubai, for a long time already. He comes from the same area in The Netherlands as the team and myself, and there was still one vacant seat in the team for this race, so they asked me whether I was interested. Of course, it didnít take long for me to say yes! Some people asked me why, because there is no direct connection to my single-seater racing, but I am convinced that you can learn from every race you take part in.
Racing a GT car in a 24-hour race is a completely different affair from what you are used toÖ
Yes, it is. The car is much heavier than a single-seater, the driving style is completely different and you have to cope with a lot of traffic during the race. On top of that, you have to think about the car more. In a sprint race, you always try to go flat-out, run over the kerbstones to be quicker, but in an endurance race, you better stay away from the kerbs to reduce the risk of damaging the car. The race goes on for 24 hours, so it isnít really a problem when you lose one second every now and then or lose a few places at the start. You never win it on the first lap!
Do you have any previous experience in endurance racing?
In fact, I have already done two 24-hour races. I once raced in Oschersleben and I took part in the 24-hour race in Barcelona with and Audi R8, so it is not entirely new to me. We will still practice driver changes to make things go more smoothly during the pit stops, also because we need some adjustments to the seat belts and the like. In terms of car set-up, we keep the set-up as basic as possible, to make it easier to handle for all the drivers. You donít want a car that is too aggressive.
How did you prepare for this race in Dubai?
As I have never raced at the Dubai Autodrome before, I spent a lot of time on the simulator to get to know the track and also watched a lot of on-board footage. It saves you a lot of time when you actually get there and you donít have to learn the track first. It is the same way I prepare for new circuits in GP2 or AutoGP. Manor MP Motorsport have their own simulator, so that is always very helpful.
During your career in racing, you have kept a rather low profile, but you have made it all the way to GP2 alreadyÖ
Yes, and that is the way I prefer to do things. Unlike some other drivers, who are making bold claims and shout out loudly about what they are doing or what they intend to achieve, I rather stay quiet and just try to do my best. Of course, having made it into GP2, media attention is increasing.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
I will be doing my first full season in GP2, in which I did a couple of races with Rapax already last year. Now, I will be competing with Manor MP Motorsport, for which GP2 is a new category, so we will both have to learn a lot. Still, having taken over the Coloni outfit, we know that the basis is good and our aim is to be regular top ten finishers and score points on a regular basis. We will also be doing another full season in AutoGP together, and there, the title is our goal after our fifth place from last year.
And for this weekend?
So far, I am really having a good time here! The weather is nice, the atmosphere in the paddock is great, also between the various teams and drivers. Of course, making it to the finish is our first goal, and then we will see where we end up!
Back to news overview