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Interview : Luke Hines: I could be back in the BTCC a better driver

Luke Hines: I could be back in the BTCC a better driver Luke Hines: I could be back in the BTCC a better driver

Thu 27th January 2011 It's been a few years since Luke Hines appeared in the BTCC, having enjoyed success in the now defunct Production Class prior to racing for the factory Vauxhall and SEAT teams – taking three victories in the process.

By Matt Salisbury

Since then, Hines has tasted success in sportscar racing around the globe, running in a range of machinery from a GTC-spec Porsche in the American Le Mans Series to a full-blown LMP1 prototype as seen in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Now however, Hines is at a crossroads in his career as he looks at the options available to him after a year competing in the United States in both the ALMS and Grand Am and he could yet find himself returning to a series where he feels he still has unfinished business.

We caught up with him to discuss how his move into sportscars has gone in recent years and to find out more about a possible BTCC comeback in 2011.

Q:
Since leaving the BTCC, you've done a wide range of things, so how did 2010 go?

Luke Hines:
It was my first experience over in America racing in the American Le Mans Series and also doing a bit of Grand-Am. It was a young team so we had to do a lot of work and I was able to use my experience of racing in touring cars with factory teams. We got the car going well although we had a lot of bad luck due to some failures with the car... Luke Hines

Q:
And a sizeable accident with Jonny Cocker as well…

Luke Hines:
Yeah that really upset me as there are a couple of British drivers racing in the ALMS and one of them had to take the other one off. I was leading the GTC race and it was looking pretty good for us.

We'd had niggling problems with the car at the start of the year but I had led most of the races and it was a good experience in the States for me. I now have interest in America but I always want to race back in Europe. There is FIA GT1 but funnily enough, there is also some interest from touring cars – so there could maybe a return there. I am in talks with teams in FIA GT1 and have some options open but we have to think long and hard and make the right decision.

Q:
How hard was it to race in the GTC class in America because of the speed difference with the LMP1 cars? Was it tough to do the job you have to do and also keep out of the way of quicker cars?

Luke Hines:
There were problems and quite often in the briefing, things would get heated. The experienced LMP drivers would understand that the GTC cars were trying to get out of the way but would also understand that you don't have the aero and can lose grip pretty easily. A lot of the big names like David Brabham would fight the case for the GTC drivers but some of the less experienced drivers couldn't see it the same way. That caused the problem at Mosport, which I was shocked about as it was a big shunt. It wrote of the car, I snapped the seat and the steering wheel was caved in. I was lucky to walk out of that, although I was sore and a bit sick that night as my insides had been bouncing around a bit! It woke me up but upset me a lot because we'd been leading.

Q:
Did you learn more from a season in the ALMS?

Luke Hines:
It has helped me as they do things different over there and the car was different as well. I'd get to the circuits and not know them, and my team-mate – who pretty much owned the team – would get most of the running. I'd turn up and would have two 20 minute sessions to learn the track and then it would be time for the race. It also takes time with the Porsche to learn about the car so it was an eventful year and I know that I did the best I could every time I was in the car. But I'd like to go back into FIA stuff or back into British Touring Cars.

Luke Hines

Q:
So what is the preference?

Luke Hines:
There is some interest in FIA GT with a team that would excite me quite a bit – it's a very interesting team. I would love to go that way but I have unfinished business in touring cars as well. I feel I left a bit early and didn't really prove myself enough.

Q:
How was the change from touring cars to GT racing?

Luke Hines:
With the changes I have had in the last few years, from touring cars to LMP1, GT3, GTC, Formula Le Mans – I've driven everything! The change from touring cars at first was difficult but I have had to adapt very quickly to anything I have gone into and it has made me a better driver. I am better with data as a lot of the time it has been me and data, like when I went to Petit Le Mans and had to really work with the data. It's made me a better driver.

Q:
Would you look at doing GT races as well as touring cars if you could?

Luke Hines:
I would love to do both – that would be a highlight if I could do both. I have to see what the best direction is for me but it is hard at the moment with money. There aren't sponsors backing the teams at the moment and there are teams who would like to have the big names but can't. It is difficult for a driver who is trying to prove himself and be with the right team when he has a small amount of budget. Luke Hines

Q:
So when will a deal be done?

Luke Hines:
The deal will be done in the next few weeks. I believe it will be in either in the FIA GT1 World Championship or in the BTCC.

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