Jake Dennis will head into his maiden GP3 Series season high in confidence after a strong 2015 FIA European Formula 3 Championship campaign that took him to multiple wins, while he will also step into LMP2 machinery for the first time in 2016.
The 2012 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner will race for Arden International in GP3 while also competing in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans for JOTA Sport this season.
Dennis’ 2015 saw him race for multiple Formula 3 championship winning team Prema Powerteam and finished third in the championship, securing six wins, and felt happy with his performance.
“2015 was my second year in Formula 3 and I moved to Prema, obviously known for being a very strong team, and from the start of testing we knew we were in good shape with at least trying to win the championship,” said Dennis to The Checkered Flag at the Autosport International Show.
“The start of the season started off pretty good, we were top three or four the whole way, and the championship spread into a four horse race, the top four including myself pulled away from the rest of the field. We kept on changing positions; I think the highest I got into was second place, but I had some bad luck halfway through the season that dropped me back down to fourth and without a realistic chance of winning the championship at that point.
“I managed to have a few good rounds at the end and managed to get some points back and managed to take third overall. It was pretty good overall, I managed to have the second most number of wins in the championship; six poles and six wins so overall it was a good season and I’m happy with the result.”
Despite the language barrier, Dennis admitted he had never experienced such a tight-nit team before with Prema, and felt he had a number of good results because of the preparation the team put in ahead of each round.
“It was the first time I’ve driven for a non-English team in my four/five years of single seaters, and it was quite a nice change,” revealed Dennis. “They are a nice team family, I got on with them really well. Rene [Rosin], the team manager, wears his heart on his sleeve and really welcomes you to the team and make sure they look after you.
“I’ve never been so well looked after and involved with a team with making sure my preparations and race kit, just making sure all I had to do is drive the car and that is exactly what happened really. I think that paid off, I had some really good results.
“Yes the language barrier was a bit of an issue but to be fair I learnt a bit of Italian and their English was pretty good so when it came down to the nitty-gritty stuff it wasn’t so bad.”
Dennis admitted he had very little influence on his 2016 plans, with Racing Steps Foundation boss Derek Walters finding him a GP3 Series ride with Arden International as well as a part-campaign in the FIA World Endurance Championship with JOTA Sport. The Briton is looking forward to compete in what he describes as the ‘biggest race in the world’ the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016.
”I wasn’t too sure really [how the double deal came about],” said Dennis. “I went for a meeting with Derek [Walters] around November time and he said ‘we’re looking to get you into a dual programme with Arden who have a link with JOTA, so it kind of made sense.
“I didn’t think much of it from there, I just kind of sat and waited, and then he said ‘I’ve managed to get you a dual programme!’ I didn’t have any influence on how the whole situation worked, but Derek’s done a fantastic job of getting me a great opportunity in 2016 and now it’s up to me to deliver.
“It’s a really exciting programme, I’m really looking forward to stepping into something different, not just single seaters. Obviously I’m not going to have too much testing in the LMP2 so its going to be difficult going into the Spa 6 hour and Le Mans 24 hour but it’s obviously the biggest race in the world.
“I can’t wait, I’ve got too really good team-mates, I’ve got a silver [rated driver in Simon Dolan] who’s really good for the category he’s in, and I’ve got Giedo van der Garde, who’s an ex-Formula 1 driver and obviously myself, I’ll be the one on the back foot a little bit, just because I haven’t really driven the car but I really can’t wait.
“I’m really excited to see how the programme works out and if I do a good job, the aim is to get a manufacturers seat in something like LMP1 or just a paid drive in 2017. I’m not too sure, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The British driver’s main aim in 2016 is to show good speed and challenge for the GP3 Series championship in his rookie season with Arden International, but knows the series will be competitive. He also feels with the new car and engine package could offer some opportunities should it have any reliability issues.
“[In GP3] I think it’s going to be extremely tough,” insisted Dennis. “There are a lot of drivers coming out from Formula 3 which are pretty good, and there are some drivers staying from GP3 from last year like Matt Parry and Antonio Fuoco – those two guys will be extremely competitive straight away.
“My aim is to win the championship but you have to realistic, anything can happen. It’s a brand new car and a brand new engine, so reliability could be a bit of an issue.
“If you’re on the lucky side of that and your car is reliable and other team’s are struggling a little bit, then you can get some good points on the board very early on in the season, and just try and maintain that, but if you’re the unlucky one and your car is always breaking down then it’s going to be very difficult. I just hope it doesn’t influence the championship, which can be the problem when new cars come out.
“They are a well established team in GP3, they’ve won the championship before, finished third last season. They are a very well known team, it’s just down to me to put in some good hard work with them, try and develop the car as much as possible in the pre-season testing and go from there really.”
Dennis spoke highly of his time being supported by the Racing Steps Foundation, and showed pride to be associated with them for another season in 2016, with the Brit aiming for a strong season that will hopefully see him continue with them into a tenth season in 2017.
“I’ve been involved in the Racing Steps Foundation for now nine years this year,” said Dennis. “I’ve been lucky enough to be sponsored by them and fully funded ever since I was twelve.
“There is no way I’d be involved in single seaters without them. I’ve got another one year contract with them like always and hope I can perform and do a good job, and then they’ll manage me going into 2017 and hopefully the aim is to try and get paid around 2017/18.”