Alexander Sims is an established works driver, boasting a resume stacked with experience in Formula E and sports cars for BMW and, most recently, Corvette Racing. But he had never competed in the top prototype class.
That’s set to change because the 34-year-old London native was recently announced as a full-time driver for six-time IMSA champion Action Express Racing as part of Cadillac’s two-car attack on the new GTP class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Sims will co-drive the team’s Cadillac V-LMDh with 2021 DPi champion Pipo Derani.
With Chip Ganassi Racing’s drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande already set, the only real question about the 2023 Cadillac driver lineup was who would partner Derani. Along with Cadillac, Porsche, BMW and Acura will also field two-car factory efforts in the GTP class starting next year. JDC-Miller MotorSports has been named as a Porsche customer team as well.
It was Sims, who joined Corvette Racing in 2021 for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events, who got the nod with Action Express. He made five worldwide sports car starts for Corvette Racing over the last two years, co-driving to a second-place finish in the 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona, in the process impressing GM’s Sports Car Racing Program Manager Laura Wontrop Klauser. Prior to that, Sims shared in five GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victories when he drove in the WeatherTech Championship full time for BMW M Team RLL in 2017 and ’18.
But perhaps even more important, as IMSA introduces a new hybrid element to the powertrain of GTP cars, was the knowledge he accumulated racing electrified cars during his five years competing in the full-electric FIA Formula E championship. Sims split his four seasons between BMW i Andretti Motorsport and Mahindra Racing, claiming one race win and three podium finishes.
Even before he got the call from Cadillac, Sims noted that his key goal for 2023 was to land a full-time seat in the WeatherTech Championship. For it to be in the top GTP class with a factory team was an additional bonus.
“The priority was to get back to racing that I enjoyed, which was racing in IMSA,” he said. “If that were in GT or prototypes, the same fulfillment in that criteria would have been there. When prototypes were discussed, the opportunity for a race driver is pretty exciting to run in the top class of any championship.”
Sims had a brief test run at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in the No. 31 Cadillac DPi car that Action Express fielded in this year’s WeatherTech Championship as an audition prior to his hire. He said he feels more comfortable in a prototype every time he gets behind the wheel, especially after IMSA’s recent three-day GTP test at Michelin Raceway.
“I’ve got experience at all these tracks but nevertheless I’m lapping 10-15 seconds faster than the GT cars that I’ve driven before,” Sims related. “There is some adjustment needed. Road Atlanta was actually the first time I felt calm. I was changing settings multiple times per lap and didn’t feel under pressure. I was changing settings to see how they affected performance in different corners, and it was starting to come a bit easier.
“It was nice to feel a bit more on top of things. They’re really quick cars. It will not be that straightforward, especially when you bring traffic into the mix.”
He was pleased with his physical conditioning, having altered his training plan to match the increased demands that are a product of the LMDh car’s greater cornering, braking and acceleration capabilities.
“The cars that I’ve driven for the last five or six years haven’t required too much neck training,” he said. “I keep myself in good physical condition, but specifically the neck is the big difference. The length of time you actually have on each straight feels daunting to start with. The corners come up fast and you’re not processing things in your brain quickly enough.”
Sims immediately impressed Derani, who is hoping that he and the Action Express team can recapture their previous championship-winning form.
Derani and Sims competed against each other in the 2013 FIA Formula 3 championship, sharing a podium at the Vallelunga circuit in Italy (Derani was second, Sims third, in a race won by works Mercedes-AMG GT competitor Raffaele Marciello).
“I think he’s going to help us a lot over the development of the new car with his electric and hybrid experience,” Derani said. “His driving style is, in a way, similar to mine, which is a help. We seem to need more or less the same things from the car to go quick, and it’s been quite a pleasure to be sharing and learning from what he brings to the program from experiences he’s had from other series.
“By the time we get to Daytona, I’m sure it’s going to be smooth, and we’ll be thinking only about performance.”