Last year Alexander Mies shot to fame when he won the VLN championship with might. Eight wins in ten races together with co-pilot Michael Schrey caught the attention of GetSpeed Performance, who have signed the young German for a season in the Vodafone Porsche 991 GT3 Cup. On the eve of the new Nordschleife season we talked with the champion about what brought him here and where he wants to go.
Racing is in the blood of Alexander Mies. Ever since he was a kid he traveled to the Nürburgring with his family to watch his father Peter Mies race in VLN.
“It’s already been a few years since my father raced in VLN,” Mies recalls the weekends spend in the Eifel. “When he was my age, beginning to mid-20s, he raced rally cars and did that very successfully. He was set to become a factory driver but ran out of money that same year.
“So, he had to concentrate on the business instead. We have an aluminum firm that he built up. After that he just raced as a hobby, starting in a BMW and ending with a Porsche 996 Carrera Cup car. It was more of a hobby for him and so my brother [reigning ADAC GT Masters and VLN Speed Trophäe champion Christopher Mies] and I, we grew up at the Nürburgring, going to ten races each year and driving our city rollers through the paddock.”
Years later Mies found himself racing the Nordschleife, taking class wins in the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, class wins in VLN, the championship’s Junior Trophy and then, in 2016, the biggest prize of them all: Together with Michael Schrey he drives the Bonk Motorsport BMW M235i Cup to championship victory in the BMW Cup and VLN overall.
With the goal of becoming a fulltime professional race car driver, the only way from the BMW Cup is up. Mies and Schrey’s performance didn’t go unnoticed to GetSpeed Performance owner Adam Osieka. The team owner was sufficiently impressed to offer the champions a ride in his Vodafone-branded Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, marking the return of a Mies brother with the Meuspath-based team.
“Adam [Osieka] came to us last year and asked what our plan is and I said I want to move up and he gave me quite a good option.
“If you want to race in VLN and be successful, you probably have two options. One is GT3, and there you have to pay a lot of money and you’re not sure if you can race at the front because of all the development tyres and everything.
“Then there’s the Porsche Cup. It’s the fastest thing besides a GT3 that you can drive on the Nordschleife, but it’s still a Cup car so everything is the same for everybody, that makes it quite interesting.”
Mies will make his Porsche debut sharing the car with top tier racers Tim Scheerbarth, himself a VLN champion in 2011, and Steve Jans, a Luxembourgish pilot with international GT3 experience. Absent from the team, however, is co-champion Schrey, who initially was announced to race the Porsche alongside Mies and Osieka.
“It was planned a bit different, as you might have read in the press release at the beginning of this year that said that Michael Schrey and I will race together. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it happen.
“Then Adam went and got other fast drivers. Tim, he’s also a VLN champion, and has a lot of experience with fast cars and the Porsche on the Nordschleife, and so does Steve.
“I can learn a lot from them, I’ll have to. They are teaching me very well and I think that we’re a very good combination.”
That learning process started at the VLN Probe- und Einstelltag, held the weekend before the season opener.
“I had my first run on Friday already, on the Grand Prix track, to get used to the car. Of course, coming from the BMW going to the Porsche, it’s a totally different car, but I was surprised by how easy it is to drive, I expected it to be trickier than it was.
“I had about an hour to an hour and a half to get used to the car on the Grand Prix track, where you can try different things without the risk of crashing as you have a lot of space there.
“Then on Saturday it was raining, but the car felt very good, even in the rain on the Nordschleife. You can image that it wasn’t the best condition for your first test on the Nordschleife with a new car, but it went all very well. I was quite fast, as fast as my team mates.”
Because of the vast difference between the BMW and the Porsche the 24-year-old had to adjust his driving style, he explains.
“The BMW has a front-engine and rear-wheel drive, while the Porsche has its engine in the rear. For the weight transfer and the balance of the car that is very significant. In the Porsche, when you step on the throttle you have all the weight on the rear wheels because of the rear-engine and this makes for very good acceleration. Also, there’s no traction control, but because of the weight in the back there’s no wheel spin either.
“On the other hand, you have to work a lot with the brakes to produce enough pressure to the front of the car in the corners to prevent understeer.
“The BMW is different because of the front-engine. This makes it very hard to get the weight to the rear so you often have oversteer. But then you don’t have understeer in the corners.
“So, you must completely adjust your driving style to it, but that’s going quite well. The Porsche gives feedback very well so you know when you’re braking too long, you can directly feel it. It’s a real race car, you directly feel that everything is different including the feedback from the car which is much better.
“It’s a big step. From the lap times it’s a difference of 30 to 40 seconds per lap on the Nordschleife. Maybe some say it’s too big a step, but I don’t think it is. The car isn’t easy to drive, but if you’re a race car driver you directly feel comfortable with the Porsche.”
Last year saw regular fields of 18 cars in the BMW M235i Cup, making the Cup one of the best points-paying classes for a championship assault, which Mies and Schrey with eight race wins took ultimate advantage of onwards to their title. This year, however, Mies’ class won’t be as generously paying due to low car counts, removing a title defense from the list of goals he’s set.
“We don’t race for the championship as we don’t have the biggest class. We expect maybe five or six regular cars in the class, which will not be enough for the championship, so our aim will be to go from race to race and get the trophy for first in class at every race.
“But we will have strong competitors. Within our own team, for example, with the J2 Racing car, or Timo Bernhard’s team. They’re going to be exciting races, for the spectators as well.
“The goal for myself is to just get up to the level of Steve and Tim quickly. Then I think we can be very competitive in our class and that’s our main goal.”
In the long run, Mies has set his sights at following his brother into GT3 racing. Porsche Cup therefor seems like the perfect stage to show himself.
“If you have good races in the Porsche Cup then GT3 teams will see your results, see that you’re fast, and maybe an opportunity presents itself when someone needs a driver sometime.
“Before [my brother] went to Audi he had a couple of great races in the Porsche Cup and that’s when Audi and the other manufacturers noticed him. That’s what you need.
“The opportunity last year was very good because it’s one of the most competitive classes in VLN from both the quantity as well as the quality on the drivers’ side as there are a lot of fast young drivers, but if you drive a production class no one will give you a seat in a GT3 as it’s on a whole different level. There are a lot more opportunities in the Porsche class to move up.”
Until the day comes when the opportunity to become a fulltime race car driver presents itself, Mies will have to be content with combining his day job with racing in the weekend. In that regard VLN is the ideal championship.
“VLN is a great series. I still work besides racing, I don’t live from racing, so from Monday to Friday I work in our company. VLN is only on Saturday so you can arrive on Friday morning or if you’re needed at work you can also arrive in the afternoon and still do the track day sessions. It’s easy to combine it with your personal life and job.
“There are so many classes and you have so many choices of where and what you drive, you can drive nearly any car.
“It’s now very competitive. When my father was driving, there were maybe a handful of good drivers, but if you look now, there are in nearly every class very highly competitive drivers, even in the production classes.”
Finally, Alex Mies shares the mindset with which he goes into the new season.
“Like last year, there is no pressure. When we started the season, we said: We drive from race to race, and that was the key to our success. There were barely any mistakes from the drivers and the team, and if we go into the season with the same mentality as last year, the success will come.”