IMSA champion Trent Hindman and his longstanding teammate Alan Brynjolfsson were fortunate to win at Sebring in the recent IMSA Prototype Challenge race. A late caution played right into their hands as the No. 7 VOLT Racing with Archangel Motorsports Ligier JS P230 squad went from a distant finish to vying for the win with Hindman installed to race to the checkered flag.
Luck aside, the victory also showcased the development of a new LMP3 team and the undeniable progress of a Michelin Pilot Challenge GS veteran who wants to continue challenging himself in faster machinery. It’s here where an avid racer and successful businessman like Brynjolfsson and a talented pro like Hindman form the kind of combination that sustains sports car racing.
“I was thinking about that after Sebring; how fortunate I am to – and have been able to – drive all sorts of different stuff, different platforms with Alan for the last couple of years, in GT4, and now prototypes even,” Hindman told RACER. “It’s all mutually beneficial, but the biggest thing is it wasn’t my decision to go prototype racing, that’s a hundred percent Alan! He was interested in it for a long time. It was a bit intimidating for him, but at some point very late last year, he more or less said ‘Let’s do it.’
“And it’s taken quite a bit of work. We didn’t have really any time before we got to Daytona in terms of preparation, so I think maybe that reflected; we had our fair share of bad luck there, and we’re still learning the car. And then we find ourselves in Sebring eight weeks after Daytona and win our second time out. It’s remarkable.”
Brynjolfsson’s story is a familiar one in IMSA. Starting in its lower training categories, he’s put in the time and built the skills to add the next step on the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship ladder to his schedule. With more mileage gained in the day-glo yellow Ligier LMP3, and his ongoing education in the matching Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4, Brynjolfsson seems destined for a leap to IMSA’s top series in the near future.
“I’m here to have fun and do something I’ve never done before and challenge myself,” he said. “I’ve now done four years of GT4 driving, and I’m of course still learning and I’m getting better and better. But, I was just plain old curious. I kind of had a bucket list to try all forms of racing. I could try GT3 and the 24-hour race. I wanted to always just try a prototype to see what it’s like. I’ve actually liked to try doing a stock car on an oval, just try it. So, part of it was just exploration.
“And then being a dream, IMSA has really opened up the LMP3 category, bringing into WeatherTech Championship and really pushing it. And so I thought, ‘This is my time. Let’s give it a shot.’ It’s a hell of a ride. I’ve driven a lot of different GT cars, and moving to the LMP3 is a very different step.”
Rather than kicking things off in the WeatherTech Championship’s LMP3 category that races among give unique classes, starting in the calmer waters found with IMSA’s Prototype Challenge series has helped with Brynjolfsson’s adaptation to LMP3. Set among nothing but LMP3s, the learning process has been vertical.
“There is just so much less margin for error; everything is much faster; it’s a lot more physical; there’s a lot more Gs, and you have to be very precise in your game,” he said. “You cannot bring it over the edge and then catch it. Once you go over the edge, it’s a crash. So, I liken it to putting on greens at Augusta with extra-small cups. It’s very fast, very precise. You can screw up very easily.
“And what I like now that I’ve got just a couple months under my belt is LMP3 is the ultimate training for GT4, because after putting to these very tiny shrunk down cups, when I get into the GT4 car, it’s like putting into a basketball hoop sized cup. Everything is really slow, I’ve got so much time, everything is very forgiving, everything is very relaxed. And it has really improved my GT4 driving, because with the level of concentration and preciseness in LMP3, it’s like super-intense training.”
And with Hindman as his familiar co-driver and mentor, Brynjolfsson is fortunate to have a partner in the LMP3 car whose teaching style is tailored to his needs. Together, the foundation they’ve built in the Michelin Pilot Challenge has successfully transferred to LMP3.
“When it comes to the GS and LMP3 side, my main responsibility is looking after Alan from a performance perspective,” Hindman said. “Getting into LMP3 this year, it’s been using the basis of what we’ve done in GS, and then bringing new coaching things to him with a car that’s lighter, comes with more power, and has a lot of downforce for the first time.
“So it’s a fluid situation right now as we’re learning the Ligier, and I’m pushing Alan to learn a lot every time he’s in the car, and adjust when we go back to GT4. That’s where I’m fortunate to be able to draw upon the experience from doing the same thing – jumping around from all types of different cars – and apply what I’ve learned to the current challenge Alan’s accepting.”
Along with the new driving techniques he’s exploring in LMP3, Brynjolfsson is enjoying the technical challenges that come with operating a bespoke racing machine. With his production-based Aston Martin, the range of suspension tuning options are, by comparison to the purebred Ligier, rather limited. Delving into the JS P320, with dampers and heave springs that control ride-height, and all the other new tuning items on the menu, has certainly piqued his interest.
“I want to understand the importance of setting up race cars, and more specifically in a GT4, there’s about four primary variables,” he said. “We’ve got essentially two spring packages; there are some damper settings and ride Heights, and camber is all pretty straightforward. But on the prototype, we have about 10 different springs. In addition to the regular springs and the regular dampers, there’s two additional ones, the horizontal front and rears and the car is much more sensitive to ride height.
“So it’s like instead of doing a Sudoku game that has three sides, three vertical and three horizontal, now you’re doing one with 10 on the left, 10 on the right. It’s kind of exponential, so instead of there being nine variations now there’s 100. I look at this as a learning experience, to continually try and improve, and I’m at the very early stages.”
Despite earning the Sebring IPC victory, Brynjolfsson is adamant it won’t change his views of what lies ahead.
“So yes, it’s great we won, but we still have a long way to go,” he said. “And I just consider every LMP3 race a challenge; that’s what I like most about it. It’s very difficult. Something that’s hard and takes a lot of commitment and practice for a team to succeed at, is what I like. So it’s that pleasure you get of doing something that is challenging and hard to do, which makes it that much sweeter if you are successful. But you also realize that it’s not a cakewalk. One win won’t make the next race easier.”