British racing pilot Andy Meyrick spent part of Friday afternoon steering a golf cart around the outside of the race track at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, studying the lines that other drivers were taking while practicing for races this weekend.
"It’s best to know that before going out and getting a nasty surprise."
Meyrick, who co-drives the exotic and technologically advanced DeltaWing racing car in the P1 class of the American Le Mans Series with fellow British racer Katherine Legge, had never raced at the circuit formerly known as Mosport International Raceway and was keen to observe how others were facing up to the challenges.
And he’s thrilled that his partner this weekend is the well-travelled and talented Legge, whose curriculum vitae includes stints in Champ Car, the German Touring Car Series (DTM) and the IZOD IndyCar Series, as well as sports cars.
"She’s done a brilliant job (in the DeltaWing)," he said. "We like the car a similar way and, obviously, we’re both Brits so we speak a common language. She’s got her head ‘round it and she’s been doing a really good job."
The Delta Wing has half the weight and half the power of conventional racing cars (a 4-cylinder, 1.9-litre engine vis-a-vis 8-cylinder, 3.4-litre engines in other P1 cars) but also uses half the amount of fuel. That it’s experimental in the extreme makes it a true test for its drivers.
"You definitely drive the car differently than you would drive a ‘normal’ car," Meyrick said over the roar of passing Porsches.
"We have a lot more weight in the rear, for example. Under braking, you normally would have a lot of ‘pitch’ in the car; with our car, you don’t feel that as much.
"The (lack of) weight makes it much more nimble," he said, "and makes it incredibly responsive on initial turn-in (to change direction). From that point of view, it’s much better.
"The first time I drove the car was at Atlanta, before Sebring. And, you know, you look at the car and you think, ‘Okay, how’s this going to work?’ But after five laps, you know it can do the job and that gives you confidence."
It hasn’t been all clear sailing this season for the DeltaWing, however. After a dismal start at Sebring, where the car finished dead last, things haven’t improved measurably in the two races it’s entered since (32/36; 32/33).
"There’s no doubt that there’s been some frustrating issues in recent races," Meyrick said as he navigated the golf cart closer to the fence at the entrance to Corner 4.
"But that shouldn’t overshadow the advances that we’ve made. If you look at Lime Rock (the last race before this weekend), we qualified 12th and were running P6 and in front of a number of LMP2 cars (before dropping out). There’s no doubt in my mind that the issues we have can be overcome. They’re not design issues; they’re just niggelty little problems."
The DeltaWing has had its problems in another area. Twice – maybe more – it’s wound up in the tires or collapsed against a wall because it’s been clobbered by a a bigger, heavier car.
Having said that, the damage has been confined to the car; none of the drivers in accidents at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Petit Le Mans in 2012 were injured.
Said Meyrick: "I have 100 per cent confidence in the car and I feel safe in it. It’s not a concern for me."
Unlike most of the drivers who will be in action in the Mobile 1 SportsCar Grand Prix on Sunday, Meyrick was a late bloomer so far as car racing is concerned. Now 28, he didn’t even get into a race car till he was 19.
A former professional football (soccer) player ("a lot of people thought I was mad when I quit"), Meyrick went car racing with a buddy for a lark.
"I think, because I was late starting, that I didn’t have the stereotypical ‘pushy parent’ that you often get in motorsport, where the parents are trying to live their own dream through their child. I went racing for the right reasons.
"I had a bit of cash around, saved up from my football career, so my friend and I went racing together (Formula Fords) and he had some mechanical ability so I’d crash the cars and he’d fix them and we had a right old time."
He started in the British northern Formula Ford championships, where he raced against young up-and-comers like himself and some wily veterans in their 30s and 40s who had no ambition to make a career but were really good racers.
Meyrick wasn’t starting a climb up any particular career ladder, but he did realize he had some talent, so went into the British Formula 3 championship.
When he recovered, he went into touring cars and sports cars (he’s driven frequently for Aston Martin) and this has been his career path since.
His ambition, of course, is to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the closest he’s come was 4th overall in 2010 – and to continue developing as a racing driver.
He’s also very philosophical about racing and the environment, and this brought our conversation back to the DeltaWing.
"In terms of the future, we have to accept that the world is a changing place," he said as he dropped his passenger off in the paddock. "Sadly, some of the best things in life are running out and therefore we’ve got to be more efficient with what we’ve got.
"In terms of the DeltaWing, I personally believe that it is the future. Even if it isn’t the future, it still makes you question the way we go racing.
"I can’t see that in 10 years’ time or 20 years’ time that we’re going to be able to continue racing in the formats that we are now."
POSTSCRIPT: Later Friday, Andy Meyrick took his first tours around CTMP and Tweeted his reaction. "Really enjoyed my first laps of Mosport. Awesome track , @DeltaWingRace feels good also."
Keep an eye on Andy and Katherine in the DeltaWing on Sunday. One of these days, they're going to put it all together and then, watch out.
Practice and qualifying for the ALMS race plus support races continue today (Saturday). The Le Mans series held three separate test sessions Friday while the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin, Cooper Tires Prototype Lites, Pro Mazda Championship and the SCCA Playboy MX-5 Cup held their first practice and qualifying sessions.
Saturday's action begins at 8 a.m. The headliner ALMS will hold their qualifying session in four groups beginning at 3:30 p.m.
And listen up. The ALMS feature race on Sunday starts at 12 noon.
- NORRIS McDONALD