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Farm Boy Tandy On Top of the Endurance World

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 19 2015
Nick Tandy, left, co-drove a Porsche 919 Hybrid to victory at Le Mans this year. Sharing the wheel were Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenburg. (Photos courtesy of Porsche North America)

Nick Tandy, left, co-drove a Porsche 919 Hybrid to victory at Le Mans this year. Sharing the wheel were Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenburg. (Photos courtesy of Porsche North America)

By Jonathan Ingram  | Senior Writer

AUSTIN, Texas – As life’s rhythms go, Nick Tandy is in a groove. He’s been clicking off major endurance race victories since the Petit Le Mans two years ago, a skein that culminated with a stunning co-drive to victory for Porsche at the Le Mans 24-hour in June, which brought the German manufacturer back to the top step of the podium for the first time since 1998.

Tudor logoIn an unusual symmetry for most, when Tandy’s not globetrotting as a factory driver, the 30-year-old Englishman lives with his wife in a village near the farm he grew up on in Bedfordshire. “I like my private life at home,” he said during a break in preparations for Saturday’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at the Circuit of the Americas, where he will co-drive a Porsche 911 RSR with GTLM class pole winner Patrick Pilet.

“I think it’s nice when you can switch into race mode when you go to the airport and then switch out of it when you come back. It’s good to have breaks for your mind, for your attention, for your focus.”

A young man who thoroughly enjoys winning, sometimes more than actually driving, Tandy’s methodology is working well. He followed the Petit Le Mans triumph by co-driving to victory in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona before this year stepping up to the daunting challenge of racing the Porsche 919 Hybrid at Le Mans.

To get that job, Tandy had to survive a tryout including other Porsche factory shoes before he

The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy. They will be racing at COTA this weekend.

The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy. They will be racing at COTA this weekend.

joined Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenburg in the “third” 919 Hybrid at the great French race that comprises the centerpiece of the World Endurance Championship.

By time the 24-hour was over, the reserves had trumped Porsche’s A-team as well as the armada of Audi Sport. Tandy earned kudos for a quadruple stint in the night that turned the tide for his teammates aboard a hybrid car that requires extreme concentration to use the usual form of petrol power while generating the electric oomph during braking.

Acknowledging that he has fielded this question about the night stint ever since the race was over, Tandy’s drive was not unlike a novelist who simply downloads a winning story as fast as he can type it. Driving the 919 Hybrid became effortless as all the doors opened up before him on the stage of the world’s biggest sports car race.

“It was the first time that I felt one with the 919, when the car becomes part of you, you become part of the car,” he said. “It’s like an extension to yourself. It was very calm and relaxed. It sounds silly but it was easy because we were going so well. The other thing that I remember was that we were passing more cars than were passing us. It’s only after I got out later that I realized what inroads we had made into the opposition.”

All this began in the unlikeliest of places – on urban ovals on board the English version of stock cars, known as ministocks, at the age of 11. For most future professional race car drivers, the talent shows early and Tandy was no exception to this rule when he ventured out of the countryside onto the quarter-mile flat tracks.

“The biggest thing that I took out of ministocks was the expectation to win,” he said. “It’s all

Nick Tandy loves checkered flags.

Nick Tandy loves checkered flags.

well and good competing, but if you’re used to competing and you might occasionally win, which is great, then you lose to the guy who expects to win every time you do something. If you don’t expect to win, then you’re mentally behind the guy who expects to win. By winning a lot in the ministocks when I was very young, I learned to expect to win.”

And win he did, from Formula Ford to Formula 3 and then in Porsche GT cars, which led to his deal in 2013 to become a factory driver. Up until then, Tandy had his focus on reaching the top of the open wheel ranks and Formula 1. “You have to have a single goal,” he said.

Eventually, the allure of a steady drive in sports cars won over. In 2008, Tandy earned a guest drive in the Carrera Cup race at the Silverstone circuit in a preliminary to the British Grand Prix and won the first time out in a Porsche. “It was very nice (to win), but it by no means changed my mind about what I wanted to do.” Even then, the blinders were still on for F1. But after two years in British Formula 3 and the tragedy of losing his brother Joe to a fatal highway traffic accident, Tandy’s racing career took a turn in another direction. Tandy’s brother had owned the Formula 3 team and his death meant looking at alternate paths forward.

An invitation from Franz Konrad to drive in the Porsche Super Cup led to opportunities on the international scene in Porsches and then a coveted Porsche Cup title – awarded to the best non-factory driver competing on board Porsches worldwide. Tandy then landed the offer from the factory in 2013 and soon finished third at the Sebring 12-hour with Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler, which forecast the trio’s success in the Petit Le Mans later that year when they beat the factory entries with the privateer Porsche run by Derrick Walker.

Tandy has sustained his winning groove this summer. Following Le Mans, he co-drove to

Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy were GT Le Mans winners at Road America this year. They're in the 911 again in America this weekend.

Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy were GT Le Mans winners at Road America this year. They’re in the 911 again in America this weekend.

victory in an LMP2 entry during the WEC race at the Nurburgring. He’s also helped Patrick Pilet sustain his points lead in the TUDOR series’ GTLM class by co-driving to three straight wins.

He expects to return to a similar schedule next year of supporting a variety of Porsche programs, but Tandy has his eye on the 919 Hybrid that is sharing the paddock this weekend with the TUDOR Series entries during the U.S. round of the WEC. Tandy has yet to win a professional championship and believes starting at the top is the way to go – in the LMP1 category of the WEC.  “I would like to have a chance to become a world champion at the top level,” he said.

In any event, this farm boy has come a long way from the days of venturing into the cities to drive ministocks on quarter-mile ovals.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 19 2015
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