Downtime with Kevin Estre

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If you don’t know who Kevin Estre is, you should.  He’s the factory McLaren driver in the Pirelli World Challenge and the Blancpain Sprint Series in Europe.  Check this article out about who the best GT driver in the world is and you’ll see how revered Kevin Estre is.  Friday was a slow day for Kevin as the GT class were the last ones to go out for practice around 6:30pm.  I was invited to come and meet Kevin.  This is the first year Kevin has written for Open Wheels and the first chance I had to meet him.  I’m sure we each thought we’d talk for maybe 15 minutes max but before you knew it, 45 minutes had passed.

IMG_1959Kevin and I talked about racing and life.  It felt like we had been long time friends.  Kevin lives in Austria and when he has to fly to the United States for PWC, he flies out of Germany which takes him nonstop to New York.  As you can imagine it’s a loooong plane ride.  I asked him if jet lag is worse coming to the States or going back to Austria and he said definitely going back to Austria.  He said some of it depends on how much he can sleep on the plane.  Kevin was very personable and I found out that he has a fiancee and will be getting married in the next year.  Of course they need to see his racing schedule for next year to set a date.  He loves to water ski and snow ski.  His home is very close to the water and the mountains.  I had to ask him since he was the factory McLaren driver if McLaren gave him one to drive for personal use.  Kevin said rule #1 is that when McLaren has you be their factory driver, you do not get one.  He actually isn’t home much so he said it wouldn’t do him much good.  If you are curious what he drives, he drives a Volkswagen.  He’s in good company because I drive a Volkswagen also.

He has really enjoyed his time in the Pirelli World Challenge.  The race format is set up in a sprint format so it favors aggressive driving.  The frustrating part for Kevin has been the BOP changes since the beginning of the season.  The Series has reduced the McLaren’s horsepower by 70 which has killed it’s straight line speed.  If there are fast corners, it hurts him getting off the corner as well.  What’s interesting is that heading into Mid-Ohio, the points leader was Beretta and his Ferrari has had zero BOP changes.  Hopefully the series will give some of the horsepower back to Kevin to even the competition up a bit.  Take a wild guess on how much the steering wheel costs for Kevin’s McLaren? 12000 pounds which equals $18,000!  If you want to replace grips for the wheel, that alone will cost you another $3-4,000.  The team has been performing brilliantly and given Kevin a great car each time he goes out.

Now that the weekend’s over, Kevin did about as well as he could.  Until the BOP is changed, you can expect 5-7th place finishes.  As I watched the two races, you can really tell he has no straight line speed.  He could never get close to the car in front of him.  He would catch him in the corners but the minute they hit the straight, the car in front would pull out a good 20-30 car lengths.  Kevin sits 4th in the championship and said he is not giving up.  He believes he can still win it all.  Something that Kevin is working on is designing a helmet for his dad who will be racing a few events in Europe.  His dad has coached 20 different Formula 1 drivers and Kevin is figuring out a way to incorporate the names of those drivers on his dad’s helmet.  Make sure to follow Open Wheels for all of Kevin’s race recaps.  Go to the Open Wheels facebook page to see all the pictures I took while I was with Kevin.  I took several of his helmet as there was a lot of significant items Kevin has placed on there.

 

Tony Tellez

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