All along, Adrian Fernandez said he felt like he still had a lot to offer in sports car racing. The Mexican racer has his chance to prove he's right after Aston Martin Racing announced him as an official factory driver for its LMP1 program in 2010.
The deal actually goes beyond that – it's a three-year deal, Fernandez says. The 2009 American Le Mans Series LMP2 co-champion will drive a Gulf-liveried, Aston Martin-powered Lola prototype in at least three events this season: Sebring and Long Beach in the American Le Mans Series, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
His first time in the seat will come in the ALMS Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway on Feb. 22-23. The prototype is the same car AMR entered at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Le Mans Series in 2009, with some small evolutions in the areas of the engine, aerodynamics and suspension along with modifications to meet the 2010 regulations for the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), the sanctioning body for Le Mans.
“I wanted to look at different options and I wanted to continue at the top,” Fernandez said. “I had to see where would be the best place for me. I talked to Aston Martin but, at the beginning, they did not have any openings. A couple months later we saw there was an opportunity. I talked to Lowe's to see if they could be a part of it. After several discussions, they decided they could help given their plans for the European market.”
The possibility remains for other events post-Le Mans. There are a number of factors, including Prodrive's work on a car to meet the 2011 ACO rules.
“We're working on it now,” he confirmed. “They are focusing on the 2011 car and everything we do is for Le Mans and then the new car. At this point, I don't have an idea to what our other plans will be.”
Currently, however, the immediate focus is preparing for Sebring. It will be Fernandez's first run in an LMP1 machine, although not his first in a closed-cockpit car. He has competed in a variety of NASCAR disciplines in the last three years.
“You get used to it,” he said of driving in an enclosed cockpit. “The first thing is that I won't have as much visibility and it will be a different feeling. From what I understand, the car is quite a bit different than (the Acura-powered Lola LMP2) I drove before in 2007. Certainly it will be much more powerful. At this point, I'm so new to the whole thing that I will be able to remember what I did in the P2 car. It is such a different animal for me.”
He will have plenty of time to adjust for AMR's primary focus for 2010: the 24 Hours. Fernandez will be racing at Le Mans for the second time. Three years ago he qualified on the LMP2 pole position in a Lowe's-sponsored Zytek, and placed second in class.
“I loved Le Mans,” he recalls. “The experience in 2007 was phenomenal. I couldn't be in an environment better than Aston Martin. They want to win as much as I want to.”