Frenchman Tom Dillmann was left on the sidelines in the GP2 Series in 2014 despite showing strong pace throughout 2013 for Russian Time. He has being racing for Porsche in the Carrera Cup in France, but has been a super-sub for both the Arden International and EQ8 Caterham Racing teams in GP2 this year, impressed everyone with his pace and skill behind the wheel.
Dillmann was due to continue with the Russian Time team for 2014 to build on what he started with the team in 2013, but the untimely death of Team Principal Igor Mazepa, and the departure from running the team of Motopark Academy, ended that chance, and the Frenchman was left on the sidelines. It was a major disappointment for the 25-year-old who was hoping for a breakthrough season in GP2 with a potential championship challenge.
“[It was] disappointing because 2014 was really the year where I had the chance to show my worth,” said Dillmann to The Checkered Flag. “I only had half a season of experience when we started 2013. To have 1.5 seasons of experience and with a good team was my chance to prove how good I am.
“I believe we would be a title contender together with the Motopark squad. I don’t say I’m Formula 1 material, I believe I have the talent but still I need to prove it, which I didn’t. But I also hadn’t a fair chance. 2014 was supposed to be that chance.”
The loss of the Russian Time drive meant a change of career direction for Dillmann, and he joined Porsche as a professional driver in the Porsche Carrera Cup in France, but could not help but jump at the opportunity to stand in for the injured Andre Negrao at Arden International for the Spanish rounds of the GP2 Series in 2014, nor Alexander Rossi’s drive at EQ8 Caterham Racing for the rounds in Germany and Hungary.
“Since last year I started to be a professional racing driver,” insisted Dillmann. “I’m now professional and I enjoy racing in GP2 when a team with potential needs me. All the teams and engineers I have worked with are very satisfied and that is why you still see me in GP2.
“I think it has been good, made the maximum of what I had in qualifying and in the races. Mostly helping both Arden and Caterham results in qualifying or races and giving them good feedback to improve their cars.”
Dillmann knows that performances alone are not enough to keep him in GP2, with the drivers expected to bring some sort of budget to be able to compete. He was happy to step in when needed, and trusts his own abilities behind the wheel, with the justification coming from the podium in his weekend in Spain with Arden International, a result that still is the teams’ best this season.
“In GP2 none of the drivers are professional, they must bring budget so of course performances aren’t enough,” insisted Dillmann. “Honestly I am sure I could perform even without touching a GP2 car for a year. I know what I have to do in the car and it is like bicycle you don’t loose your abilities. I was satisfied to deliver a very good weekend for the team and score a podium.
“The fact that I am the first driver most of the teams call in case they need a driver shows that I have a good value in the paddock. Not only for the speed but also on feedback.”
Rossi’s departure from Caterham left the team searching for a driver for their second car alongside Rio Haryanto, and Dillmann was picked up, initially only for the weekends at Hockenheim and the Hungaroring. The Frenchman admitted that Caterham were not the only team he had the opportunity to race for in these two events, but it was the team in green for which he chose to compete.
“The team needed a driver to deliver results and help them to improve the car,” said Dillmann. “I had the possibility to race in Hockenheim for different teams but I chose Caterham for both Hockenheim and Budapest and I enjoyed working with them a lot.”
The race weekends in Hockenheim and the Hungaroring began impressively, with a fourth place grid slot in Germany and a second place starting position in Hungary, but unfortunately for the Frenchman he could only take two points away from the four races (for a ninth place in the Hungaroring Feature race) due to a number of issues and some bad luck.
“There is not much you can do to improve the car during a season because you simply have not enough free track time,” stated Dillmann. “Free Practice is mostly used to get up to speed for qualifying. We had two great qualifying results with 4th and 2nd even though I’m not a full time driver and jumped in their car first time in Hockenheim.
“But we still lack on the race pace. I know what the car needs and the team made good steps towards that. We just need to keep pushing and the race results will come. The team has great potential and we have a good chemistry.
“The Hungary feature race was an unlucky one for many front-runners and lucky one for many back markers because of the safety cars so the result isn’t representative. Having said we didn’t quite have the pace of Nasr and Palmer but were still looking good for a podium thanks to a smart race keeping the tires and Vandoorne behind. But that’s racing.”
The Hungaroring Sprint race was another race that did not go to plan for the Frenchman. He was challenging Adrian Quaife-Hobbs for the final point in the closing stages, but was forced off the track by the Rapax driver, resulting in a spin and a final lap retirement.
“We made a good step on the car [overnight] but I could still not push as hard as the top 3, I had to race at a rhythm that would allow me to finish the race with some rubber left, which I did,” insisted Dillmann. “We had a better pace to the cars around me in the end and I was gaining positions. When Quaife-Hobbs made a mistake in Turn 5 I was able to be alongside him going into the chicane for the final point. He simply run me on the inside kerb and I had no choice but going airborne and spinning. He was judged at fault and got penalised.”
Dillmann admits that due to the budget shortfall he faces to progress in the world of single seater racing, that he wants to be a factory driver in the future, perhaps even in the World Endurance Championship for Porsche. All he wants to do is show his passion for racing cars.
“I want to be a factory driver,” insists the Frenchman. “I’m now racing in Porsche and my immediate goal is to follow the Porsche ladder. It is one of the best ways for a driver like me, who hasn’t got the budget to become a professional racing driver and live of my passion. I would love to race in an LMP1 car.”