INSIDE GP Extreme. Showroom, simulator, race team. Dubai, UAE


Of course, you may well be wondering why a motorsport showroom ‘needs’ a simulator. That would be because, before striking out into the consumer world of motorsport, GP Extreme had already established itself as a fully-fledged racing team.

Rather than keeping its GP collection under lock and key with the family silverware, the team has competed with several machines in the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship since the series’ inagural season in 2013. Amongst its most memorable to-date was Formula 1 supporting races in Monaco and Singapore with a Hesketh 308, specifically chassis 002 as driven by James Hunt across the 1974 and 1975 seasons, and most notably raced to the Brit’s first F1 victory at the ’75 Dutch Grand Prix. It’s far from GP Extreme ’s only heritage outings though: for the last two years, the Hesketh has run Goodwood’s famous hillclimb, and been joined in the paddock by a 1976 Surtees TS19 and a 1974 Amon AF 101. Interesting fact, the former is the only known F1 entry for Durex – pun very much intended – and even forced the BBC to cancel live coverage of the season on the grounds of ‘good taste’. The latter meanwhile raced only once, with team principal Chris Amon at the ’74 Spanish Grand Prix, having failed to qualify four times in six attempts, across nine seasons.

Again, motorsport nerd.

Much like the simulator though, the reasoning is much bigger than a bunch of motorsport fans cocking around. As if racing quarter-million dollar examples of F1 history is not pressuring enough, the FIA Masters Historic series will not permit entries that are not 100 percent period-specific. Thump the car into the barriers and the mechanics will be expected to source genuine period parts for the repairs. It’s a risk, but one the GP Extreme team is more than happy to take:

“The exposure is nice but that’s not the main reason we do it. We do this simply because we love it. It’s always good to see old school, high-powered F1 cars with manual gearboxes being raced on-track rather than kept in lock-ups. It’s what they were designed to do, so why wouldn’t we want to celebrate that? But our target – actually our dream – in the next two or three years is to compete at Le Mans.”

This year, GP Extreme is taking on its first full season in the endurance-focused 24HSERIES against some of Europe’s most prolific GT teams. Its weapon of choice is a Renaultsport R.S.01 with which lead driver Jordan Grogor became very familiar during last year’s Renault Sport Trophy with V8 Racing. At its heart is a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 producing 550bhp and 465lb ft of torque, lashings of carbon fibre and aluminium bodywork ensuring weight is kept to a respectable 1100kg. And although GP Extreme ’s R.S.01 is only three races into its 24HSERIES campaign, so far things have been going well. Legislative issues ahead of the team’s debut at the 2016 Gulf 12 Hours left only two days preparation time ahead of the race, local track knowledge helping to bring the car home third overall just over a lap the Ferrari 488 GT3 duo of Kessel Racing and UAE neighbours Dragon Racing. Not a bad start.

Fast forward to this year’s Dubai 24 Hours, and while Stéphane is non-committal about the team’s goals ahead of the event, he’ll admit to feeling quietly confident of a good result, especially on home turf at a circuit its drivers knew better than their own parking garages. Qualifying 12th and 24th respectively in a 100-strong grid was also a solid start. The race itself though started in bizarre fashion, 24HSERIES organisers Creventic explaining that the A6-Pro #28 car could not compete with its current line-up, necessitating some shuffling around between the cars, much to the chagrin of former F1 driver, and GP Extreme representative, Jean-Eric Vergne. Ultimately engine maladies halted the #28’s charge, but the #27 still went on to finish 9th overall and 2nd in the A6-Am class.

“We did think about whether we wanted to continue, I must be honest. But at the end of the day, we didn’t want to be childish. We’re all too old for that! Plus we still want to reach our target, which is to learn, first of all – that’s very important – and to make some good results as soon as we can. There are big line-ups for these races – around 16 in our class alone – and yes, we do eventually hope to challenge for wins. Because of the balance of performance, we are a bit slower than the other Pro cars, but we’re confident we can still get some good results this season.”

Since Dubai, GP Extreme ’s Renaultsport has gone on to take 2nd in-class and 3rd overall at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, all eyes still firmly set on Le Mans. How their first full season of competition will continue remains to be seen. Back in the showroom though, as Stéphane smiles to a couple taking interest in the bronze sculpture celebrating Ayrton Senna’s life, the team will always be happy to talk with anyone about their passion for the sport, the experience of a simulator, and their exploits on-track, good or bad. Motorsport nerds. My kind of people.

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