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The sports car racing world is surprisingly small. Despite the number of racing series around the world, whether they include prototypes or are GT only, the pool of ace drivers is fairly small. Sometimes that means particularly busy schedules like the last two weeks, when many drivers went from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to Belgium for the World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, and back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend.
It’s not just the jet-setting challenge, either. It’s the fact that teammates one weekend are rivals the next as competitors change to co-drivers. At Mid-Ohio this weekend, Oliver Jarvis and Alex Lynn are on different teams, racing for different manufacturers, and each will be doing everything in their power to beat the other. Last weekend at Spa, as they will be in a few weeks at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they were sharing the seat of a United Autosports ORECA LMP2 car as they worked together toward mutual success.
“It’s definitely an interesting dynamic,” says Jarvis, driver of the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura. “At Laguna, there was a point in Turn 2 where I was thinking, ‘You know, this could be awkward when we go to Spa in a few days!’ But you’ve just got to put that aside and race each other hard and fair. Unfortunately, occasionally incidents happen. With the experience you learn that it’s bound to happen and you just try and leave it at the racetrack and get on with life. So I’ll race him hard, like I race everyone, but just try and be fair, and, hopefully, as long as we respect each other, we won’t arrive at a WEC weekend in an awkward situation.”
Lynn is racing the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac against Jarvis’s Acura in IMSA. In the sister United Autosports USA LMP2 car in the WEC is a driver from a third team — Filipe Albuquerque, driving the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura in IMSA. At Le Mans, Albuquerque will be competing against his WTR co-driver, Ricky Taylor. The Glickenhaus Racing camp at Le Mans sees Pipo Derani and Richard Westbrook as teammates, albeit in different cars, whereas in IMSA they’re on competing Cadillac teams.
“The world of sports car racing is not that big,” notes Derani. “So you get to know the players, you get to know the teammates, and sometimes it’s your teammate, sometimes it’s your your opponent. But it’s all good fun. You get to work with so many different people, different mentalities, different ways of working and and you just get better with that. You absorb all you can — the good and the bad from all of them — and try to be better yourself.”
As Jarvis noted, there is always the possibility of drivers who will be teammates at the next race having an issue in another. The intermingling and changing relationships require drivers to leave last week’s events behind them. The upside is getting to know the other drivers a bit better.
“It’s funny in racing — as soon as you spend a race weekend under the same team with another driver, quite often you become friends,” explains Westbrook. “And I saw how [Derani] works. He saw how I work and obviously we’re fierce rivals over here. We’re trying to maintain a good record over here and he’s one of our competitors. It doesn’t matter what happens on track, we’ll always have a beer after the race. We’re experienced drivers and we know how it works.”
Of course, with Derani in the Glickenhaus at Le Mans, one of the teams he’ll be trying to beat is Toyota Gazoo Racing, where Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez share a car. Who is in the sister car to Derani’s No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac for the Michelin Endurance Cup races? Lopez and Kobayashi, joining Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48.