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That career defining moment?

As a former winner it’s not a huge surprise to hear me tell people just how great I think the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award (AMABA) is.  It probably seems obvious to say that it’s an incredible opportunity, but as with all experiences in life different people can find different moments defining.

Whether or not it’s commonplace, sometimes you can pinpoint an event from your past and say “that really helped launch my career”, and in many ways winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award in 2008 (as it was then) did just that for me.

I was already committed to my following season in European Formula 3 so whilst the award didn’t catapult me into a race seat per se, what it did do was create an invaluable sense of self-confidence that I perhaps hadn’t had up to that point.

At a young age the learning curve is so steep, not just in terms of honing your race craft but also in learning how to process the sheer volume of advice and information coming your way…often conflicting.  Winning the award confirmed to me that I was on the right path and that I was correct to trust my instinct and judgement.  Looking at the stellar names who’d won before me I felt that if I continued to do what I was doing that I too would have a chance of becoming a professional.

Now alongside the other award judges, offering advice is the main part of the role we perform, and having been through the AMABA process and the progression in to the professional motorsport ranks, I’m keen to ensure that my door is always open for any young driver taking part that feels they could benefit from another perspective.

Aside from offering advice, I’ve also been asked in the past – in the absence of an active and available expert – to help by  setting a benchmark lap time in an LMP3 car .  I did this both in 2018 and 2019 and it was something that came with a great deal of stress!  As a competing racing driver I was always keen that I had the same scenario to contend with as the contestants, so I’d have a three lap run followed by a six lap run on old tyres then a further three flying laps to finish.  You’d get brand new tyres for the final stint and I had to balance setting a good target time despite not really knowing the car or the tyres against compromising the opportunity for the finalists by ruining a set of tyres for them, or worse still, crashing the car.

Thankfully there’s now an LMP3 specialist in to perform this job which has removed a lot of anxiety, although that said my benchmark times were only ever beaten by the eventual award winner so it was good to know you could still mix it with the kids!

I still feel their pressure just the same however.  It’s an unusual scenario in as much as there’s no real racing taking place.  Each challenge is more akin to a qualifying session with the pressure just ramping up as you move through progressively more complex machinery.  You have to adapt very quickly, getting only limited running.

The one constant is obviously the track but I recall when I was in the shootout that I had a wet track in GT4, before a greasy drying track in a DTM and then fully dry track in an F3 car, so you could never switch off.

That DTM run was huge pressure for me at the time.  I recall asking the team boss for a clue as to which gears to use in specific corners given the inclement weather and he just said to me, “you tell me after your run”!  In hindsight whilst it was daunting, that probably empowered me to find the answers to the question myself.

Whilst you obviously want and need to beat your competition, without the actual racing the focus has to be all on your own performance and maximising lap time, every time.  That tends to lead more often than not to a standout winner on the day.  This year however it’s been so challenging to separate the finalists.  Alongside the other judges we’ve had to delve deeper into the data, also looking at results from the SIM test at Mercedes F1 and even fitness test feedback to discuss and ultimately agree on the next winner of this prestigious award.

What is already certain in my mind however is that whoever the winner is, they will fully deserve it and that they’ve not only had a once in a lifetime opportunity but also hopefully their defining moment that launches them on a path to success.

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About Alexander Sims

The 36-year-old Corvette Racing driver has been involved in motorsport since he was 10 years old, initially racing karts before moving on to single seater, GT and Endurance racing and most recently four seasons in the all-electric FIA Formula E World Championship. With wins across the board including Spa 24 hours, Nurburgring 24 hours, Petit Le Mans and the Diriyah E Prix Sims continues to showcase his skill and race raft on the global stage.

Alongside his racing activities, Alexander is a passionate advocate for sustainable technology and electric mobility on the road, having owned and driven EVs since 2012, and aims to incorporate sustainable choices in his daily lifestyle wherever possible.