This article first appeared in the June issue of Motor Sport magazine
It was Patrick Head who once said that racing drivers are like light bulbs. ‘You just screw one in and then replace him with another when he’s done.’
Well, if you were to follow his rather brutal wisdom these days, you may be interested in meeting Alexander Sims. Both on and off track the 23-year-old is efficient, not only in terms of pace and results, but also in a genuine willingness to be his own sustainable entity.
Sims also just happens to be a very sought-after racing driver. As he consistently proved in a diverse 2013 season and in keeping with his growing image, a little bit of Alexander Sims goes a long way!
Last year he began with one focused programme, as a factory McLaren GT driver, taking in the Blancpain Endurance Series with the French Hexis Racing team and a McLaren MP4-12C. A superb second place in the over-subscribed and intensely competitive series proved a worthy highlight. However, at mid-season things started to get busier for the Cambridgeshire based driver.
“Status GP called me to deputise for one of their drivers in the GP3 race at Nürburgring . Then a few weeks later Carlin did the same for Spa,” says Sims. “In addition to that Three Bond/T-Sport needed someone at short notice for the remainder of the FIA F3 season and I ended up completing the season with them. All of a sudden I was in demand and racing pretty much every weekend.”
Sims did an extraordinary job in both GP3 and F3, scoring a superb win in the former at Spa and then notching up five podium positions in the latter. Prior to these cameos he had actually scored all of the Status GPs teams season points in one weekend – at Nürburgring. His combined efforts with Status and Carlin saw him finish and take points in every race he started. He topped the season off with a fighting 4th place at the Macau Grand Prix last November.
So as well as guaranteed results, efficiency is a strong trait of Sims’ make-up and not only on the racetrack. What sets Sims apart from many of his contemporaries is his genuine interest in zero emission electric vehicles and the technology that drives, maintains and develops them.
“I’m a real geek when it comes to electric cars and love how they can contribute to a more sustainable life,” says Sims. “Obviously as a racing driver there is that natural element of burning fossil fuels but then that means there is all the more reason to be environmentally aware when you are away from the racetrack too. Highlighting personal responsibilities on how small changes can make a big positive impact is how I like to view things.
“I have driven a Tesla for a few years and really enjoy it,” says Sims. “To me it represents what future motoring can be all about. The fascination for me is with the simplicity of it all and how the performance always surprises people when they experience the torque in particular. But once the novelty factor wears off you actually forget you are driving an electric car. It’s like anything that is well engineered and thought out. It is a great way to travel.”
Along with outlook on the bigger picture when it comes to transport, Sims also discovered a different outlook to his racing modus operandi in 2013. He not only shifted his emphasis in the off-season of 2012/13 to focus more on GT racing, but he also found that as a driver he was a subtly different racing animal.
“I noticed that I had slightly changed in the sense that I actually enjoyed the racing more and found a better balance,” he recalls. “I was no less intense in the car but it was actually how I was out of it that reaped the results last year. I realised you don’t need to be overly severe away from the cockpit. It actually wastes mental energy to be overly ‘tight’ when you are not driving, which gives a pay back when you actually do come to compete.”
“My more relaxed demeanour definitely helped me last year to perform better in the car,” he continues. “My friends and family noticed it and I felt it myself. Perhaps it was getting away from the cut and thrust of single-seaters for a while, who knows? Whatever it was helped me as a person and to have a more balanced outlook on life.
So for 2014 Sims is again a driver in demand and this time a more rounded and worldly one. The year started in the best possible way as he was snapped up by BMW to become an official factory driver. He will race in both the Nürburgring and Spa 24 Hours endurance classics as well as the majority of the British GT Championship. As opportunities go, impressing a major automaker and one that is so deeply entrenched in motorsport culture, this one is huge.
As he sits in a BMW i3 electric road car (kindly loaned by ELMS BMW of Cambridge) that he is testing for the day around the lanes of his home in Soham, Cambridgeshire, Sims also ponders the inevitable links with the new and innovative FIA Formula E Championship. His knowledge, passion and genuine understanding of electric powered vehicles make it an obvious fit for a crack at the series which kicks off this September, in Beijing.
“I admire what the FIA Formula E Championship is creating and it is of enormous interest to me, irrespective of whether or not I am directly involved,” says Sims. “FIA Formula E from where I stand looks to be a good way to engage a youthful market and to make low carbon racing cool. That can only be a good thing for future generations.”
There is no doubting that Sims is a major asset to the BMW GT programme in 2014 but as it is so often the case with one of racing’s more thoughtful and interesting characters there is much more going on underneath the surface.
For more on alexander sims follow him on twitter www.twitter.com/AlexanderSims