2019 British GT Championship GT4 drivers champion Tom Canning will be leaving for the UAE shortly to compete in the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series. Tom will be driving alongside double-24 Hours of Le Mans class winner Jonny Adam and 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Pro-Am drivers champions Ahmad Al Harthy in the #97 Oman Racing With TF Aston Martin Vantage GT3 as part of a two-car GT3 entry from the Redhill-based team.
Tom Canning has previous race-winning experience with Al Harthy when the duo took the Pro-Am victory in Race One of the Spa round of the 2020 International GT Open.
Tom spoke to EnduranceandGT’s Andy Lloyd about his preparation for the demanding ‘four races in two weekends’ format of the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series and his thoughts on the future.
Tom, the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series is fast approaching with a unique format of four races over two weekends. How excited are you at the prospect of 16 hours of top-level GT3 racing in the space of eight days?
“Very excited! It’s very nice to have it finally here. We’re going to two awesome tracks and I get a lot more seat time in the Vantage GT3 which was obviously limited last year because of COVID. It’ll be great to get more seat time, especially alongside Jonny and Ahmad because there’s a lot I can learn from them as they’ve got a lot of experience in that car.”
With Ahmad Al Harthy and Jonny Adam, you’ll have two highly experienced and very successful drivers alongside you.
“Yes, I think we have a really strong line-up and we should be fighting for the top spots in GT3 hopefully. Besides that, it’s how much I can learn from them that is the big thing for me. It’s still early in my GT3 career and it’s important for me right now to be around people like that to learn. There’s no better way to pick it up than having four races within eight days!”
You’ve previously driven at the Dubai Autodrome in the 2019 24H Dubai. What experience do you have at Yas Marina?
“I did the Gulf 12 Hour with AMR in 2018 in my first year in GT4 and that was a really cool week. I love both circuits and I’m secretly happy about how it’s all turned out, even though it’s got there in a weird way. I know a lot of work has gone in and I can’t thank the guys and girls at the Asian Le Mans Series enough for getting it all sorted.”
How have you prepared for the demands of the next two weeks?
“We’ve had a lot more time to prepare than usual so I’ve been on my basic sim at home and I’ve managed to work a lot on my fitness. Like a lot of drivers over lockdown, I’m now the fittest I’ve ever been. I’ve also had plenty of time to watch on-boards and go through data from previous times at the circuits.
“We also managed to get time on the sim at Base Performance Simulators just before they closed for the third lockdown and that was very helpful. It’s such a high level sim, and so close to real life, that having that facility has been very helpful for us. It really does make a big difference and makes the first few sessions at the circuit move a lot quicker when you get there for real. I was very fortunate to get those sessions in before it all closed for lockdown.”
Looking back on 2020, how did you keep yourself race-ready after the disappointment of your British GT entry being withdrawn?
“Last year was tough but you’ve just got to accept it and move on. As soon as British GT was cancelled for me it was like; ‘Right, forget about that’ and focus on the chances to get into cars later in the year. So it was head-down and full-on for fitness and being ready for when the opportunities arose.”
With Aston Martin’s announcement last year that it was axing its GTE Pro programme in the FIA WEC, has that changed your career planning moving forward?
“In the short-term, it hasn’t affected me too much. Aston Martin still has the Pro-Am programme running and they’re working even closer with customer teams. There are still the Pro-Am Aston Martins racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, just with customer teams, so that’s still a goal for me.
“My next goal was always to try and get in a Pro-Am car in WEC and that doesn’t change for me. All I can do is just do the best I can. It’s how racing is, isn’t it? You’ve got to jump at opportunities when they come and be ready for when they do. The rest of it is all out of my control so I don’t spend too much time worrying about it.”
After the Asian Le Mans Series, where else can we hope to see you racing this season?
“Right now it’s hard to tell. Usually you’d have all your programmes sorted by the end of the previous season and for sure by the end of the year. With seasons starting later in 2020 and finishing later as a result, it has been a bit different this year. I did have few worries at the start of the year but everything is happening so much later. We are talking to people and it’s very hard to tell at the moment but I’m sure there is going to be something.”
The opening round of the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series takes place on February 13 at the Dubai Autodrome.