Audi factory driver Christopher Mies says he feels like a “30-year-old rookie” who is “starting from zero” coming into his prototype racing debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The Nürburgring 24 and Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour winner is gearing up for his first-ever LMP2 outing at this weekend’s IMSA season-opener, where he’s sharing the No. 82 DragonSpeed Oreca 07 Gibson with Fabian Schiller, Devlin de Francesco and Eric Lux.
Mies, who has been driving Audi R8 LMS GT3 machinery for more than a decade, told Sportscar365 that his experiences during last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 precursor event hammered home the stark differences between LMP2 cars and GT3s.
His last outing in a car that wasn’t a GT3 Audi came in 2015 when he drove a Porsche Cup car in a handful of VLN events.
“The running time was quite limited, and it was a last-minute project a bit, so we missed the first session which wasn’t ideal,” he said.
“But after that, we got some quite good running in. It was good fun. It was my first time in a prototype car, and it’s basically starting from zero.
“All your reference points and feelings are so different: the seating position, the weight, the power, the carbon brakes.
“My whole experience of the past that I have done with GTs, I can’t use because everything is different.
“I feel just like a 30-year-old rookie now. I was completely surprised with how different it is. It has nothing to do with the GT3 car. It’s a different world.
“In total I did 32 laps in three days, including in and out laps, which is not a lot to learn a new car. So I won’t feel completely comfortable until after the first stint.”
Mies explained that the Oreca 07 Gibson’s in-car experience presented one of the most dramatic departures from his times behind the wheel of the Audi R8.
“The car is so loud from the inside, you can’t hear your own words,” he said.
“If I’m saying something on the radio, I know I’m saying it, but I can’t hear my own voice because it’s so loud. The car vibrates a lot.
“It’s so, so different to a GT car. Nothing is comparable and I can’t use anything as a reference.”
Coming in as a rookie, Mies is drawing on the experience of the DragonSpeed crew including his teammates in the American squad’s No. 81 driving crew.
DragonSpeed is targeting its third straight Rolex 24 class win and is running defending winner Ben Hanley in the No. 81 alongside Rinus Veekay, Garett Grist and Rob Hodes.
“We said in the beginning that it’s not so important to develop the setup on our car, because we first of all have to understand and learn the car,” said Mies.
“It’s good that we have the strong sister car because they can focus on setup.
“Coming to the race weekend, we can copy and paste the setup from them and then work our way through FP1 and so on, on the setup that we want to have for the race.
“It gives us more flexibility and time. We don’t need to make any big changes.”
Mies Eyeing Future Prototype Drives, Audi LMDh
While the Daytona enduro is currently the only confirmed LMP2 ride for Mies this year, the 31-year-old is hopeful of getting more prototype outings under his belt in the future.
One of his targets is a position on the Audi LMDh program which is due to bring the German brand back to the top level of prototype racing in 2023, after seven years away.
“I hope this leads to some more races, if not this year then maybe next year,” said Mies.
“Obviously the aim is to try to get a shot at the LMDh project. This is what it’s all about.
“I wouldn’t mind doing more prototype stuff. But in the end, we need to see how it works. My main program is with Audi, so I need to see how I can combine those things.
“But it’s also in Audi’s interest if I get more prototype experience. Because it also gives me a bit of a step into the Audi prototype program.”
When asked if his appearance at Daytona will double up as a fact-finding mission for Audi, Mies said: “I don’t think I can help there!
“They’re good guys and know what to do. I don’t know if I can tell anything which they don’t know already. This week in particular is just to enjoy, have fun and learn new things.”