Rapid young French racer Kévin Estre joined the Hexis McLaren squad for the Baku World Challenge by Aztexnika last week. With an impressive reputation, Estre who is domiciled in Germany celebrated his 25th birthday last Monday by getting his first taste of the Hexis McLAren MP4-12C at Paul Ricard where just 24 hours before he had taken a double at the French GT season closing event driving a BMW.
We caught up with Kévin as he celebrated his call up to the Hexis team and planned his Baku World Challenge weekend where he will share the car with experienced McLaren racer, Rob Bell.
How did this opportunity to drive for Hexis during the Baku World Challenge by Aztexnika come about?
“Actually, I was really interested in doing this race and especially with Hexis Racing, as it is a great team. So I spoke to Philippe (Dumas) during the summer and asked him if they were planning to do it or not, and if yes, if they already have the drivers lined up. But at that time, he was not sure at all to take part in this race so the discussion did not go further. Then, last week, he called me and asked if I still wanted to race at the Baku World Challenge and if so, would I be interested in testing the McLaren on Monday 28th October at the Paul Ricard track. Of course, I agreed and as I raced there for the last French GT round during the weekend, I just had to stay on site and do the test. The test day went very well, I was competitive, I had good feedback from the engineer, and I did not do any big mistakes, so I think that Philippe in taking me.”
You are used to driving Porsche (Carrera Cup France, Germany Supercup…), did you already race a McLaren MP4-12C?
“No, actually last Monday during the test day was the first time I drove a McLaren MP4-12C. Before last weekend, I never raced in another car other than the Porsche GT3 R and the BMW M6 Alpina that I drove during one round of the FIA GT3 in 2009 (at Paul Ricard). But at least I now have a bit of experience on the McLaren MP4-12C thanks to the test day with Hexis Racing.”
How did the car feel?
“I actually got used to the McLaren pretty quickly, but for sure, compared to driving a Porsche, it is very different! First of all, the engine is very distinctive because of the turbo, there is a torque that we don’t have on the Porsche! The behaviour of the car is pretty different too. There is a big difference in terms of balance and weight of the car between the rear mid-engine of the McLaren and the engine of the Porsche. But the McLaren is a good car, it is balanced, with good brakes, and a good aerodynamic kit. The advantage, and this is what everyone is saying, is that when you know how to drive a Porsche, you can drive anything. And it has been proven a few weeks ago during the French GT round where I raced, I got used to the car very quickly and we eventually won both races.”
Do you know your teammate Rob Bell?
“One week ago, I did not know him actually. Of course I knew his name and I knew him as a driver, but we never met personally. But he was there for the Paul Ricard test too, so I finally got to meet and know him more. He is a great guy, with a lot of experience. During the test day, we had the opportunity to drive the same car with the same conditions, which was good for Philippe because he was able to draw a comparison between the two of us. What is good is that we had the same feeling with the car, which is great and easier for the set-ups. Of course, he gets more experience with the McLaren than I do, but I felt at ease pretty quickly. We had a good feeling together.
Is it your first experience on a city racetrack?
“No, it will not be my first time on a street track, as I already raced at Pau in Formula Campus, Monaco in Supercup, and also in Baltimore over in the US. I love street circuits. Racing in a city gives a kind of adrenalin rush that we hardly get on other circuits. I also love the atmosphere, which in general really nice on street circuits because spectators are often all gathered in a small area, which gives a very nice atmosphere. So far, my best results on street circuits are 2nd at Monaco and 2nd at Pau. I have never won on a street circuit, so this is the aim for Baku!
How are you going to train for this race? Any testing planned with Hexis? And for the layout of the circuit?
“I had a look at the Baku World Challenge circuit layout, and it seems very nice but it will be hard to train before getting there. Indeed, I did not race there last year, and even if I did, the layout is not the same. This is also a problem because looking at onboard cameras from last year will not help me. We will work hard on the layout with all the team on the Friday before the race and we will try to do as many laps as we can, whether it is by foot or with a scooter. It should be fine.”
What do you think of the competition in the FIA GT Series?
“The FIA GT Series is a really strong and competitive championship with many great drivers and teams. As for the Baku World Challenge it is going to be even stronger with all the guest entries. It is going to be absolutely great and I cannot wait to be in Azerbaijan!”
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