Adam Christodoulou is back for another season in British GT championship with team-mate Richard Neary in the Team Abba Mercedes-AMG GT3. The media day at Donington Park saw Team Abba return to the championship giving the them a much needed opportunity to re-acquaint themselves with the AMG.
“They rebuilt the car over the winter, did a quick shakedown, and we did our first proper test at Donington last month,” said Adam Christodoulou.
“It was good to compare ourselves to the other cars. We were sort of blowing off the cobwebs, but the team has been pretty busy in the background. I felt the test went OK. Another Mercedes ended up quickest in one session – so I’m sure the Mercedes is going to be really competitive this season.
“I think a lot of teams will be holding back a little during the first test sessions. There are a lot of new cars out there so they want to keep their true pace under wraps until the first race, which is sort of standard procedure when there are new cars entering championships.
“After round one we’ll be clear on who’s more competitive and who is less so. But I felt the day went pretty well. It was dry and sunny, which is a bit of a surprise in the UK! Hopefully the good weather will continue throughout the season.”
Christodoulou will continue to co-drive the Mercedes-AMG GT3 alongside Richard Neary with 2019 being their first full season together.
“I’ve done selected races in the British GT with Richard over the last two years and this will be our first full-season challenge together. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we get on. Richard has made huge progress over the last two years which is great to see and be a part of.
“We’ve done quite a bit of testing to get the best out of the car. At Silverstone for the last two years we’ve been fastest in Pro qualifying both times. Hopefully we can have a repeat of that this year. I think we had a really strong shot at winning last year at Silverstone, but we unfortunately had a bit of a rare mechanical failure. The Mercedes is known as being one of the most reliable and safest cars out there so we were really unlucky to suffer mechanical issues when we were running in such a strong position in the race.
“This year the first race is at Oulton Park, one of the best UK circuits. It’s got plenty of elevation changes, it’s very old-school, there is no more than a metre of run-off at a couple of places. It’s a little bit like a mini Nordschleife. There are trees covering part of the track so if it rains it dries in different stages. There are lots of things about the track that make it one of the best in the UK for drivers and spectators.”
As well as outings in British GT, Richard Neary has also been honing his craft in the Britcar championship which has proved to be a useful training ground for many on the way up the GT ranks. With Christodoulou serving as Neary’s coach, the Abba Commercials owner has been steadily improving his skills.
“2017 was Richard’s first year in British GT with the AMG and of course it was a big step and a bit of an eye-opener. I think it definitely improved him as a driver. Last year he decided to dip in and out of the Britcar championship and he had some great success in that.
“Any seat-time is valuable because the cars are getting more sensitive due to the aerodynamics and getting more powerful and much quicker. I think the new generation GTs are going to make the season really exciting, different circuits seem to suit different manufacturers which is what I think makes GT racing so varied and competitive.”
Having raced for so long with GT3 top tier team Black Falcon, what are the differences between them and Team Abba Racing?
“Abba Racing is a family-run team. They operate on a smaller budget and on a smaller scale, just one car. Of course, this mean we don’t have the amount of data and comparisons as a large team but Abba do a really great job every weekend. British GT teams are made up of just two drivers per car combinations: A Pro driver and a Pro-Am or gentleman driver. I think it’s really rewarding to work one on one in this way to develop Pro-Am drivers.
“The Pro drivers are generally within a few tenths of each other, but between the Am drivers there’s a big range between the fastest and the slowest due to experience, age and confidence. I think that with the way Richard has come on over the last two years we’re definitely going to be fighting for podiums in most races – that’s the plan.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with the AMG engineers for the last few years, helping me to better understand set-up and strategy. Two years ago, Team Abba was introduced to a new car and they had to understand what changes needed to be made, what and how to unlock the pace and make it faster. It’s not always easy to do that, and I’m fortunate enough to get to drive the cars a lot during the season so I know how the car feels at its best. Driver feedback is so important, the team works with it so much to get the car to its best set-up.
“Abba also have another car: A team-developed BMW GT4 that is quite a few years old, they’ve raced in Britcar and a few other championships and then they got the AMG which is a full-blown GT3 race car. Every time we go out, we learn something new about the car and how to unlock a little bit more performance.
“Team Abba are a small team which makes it a bit more personal which I like, but it is hard to compare them to Black Falcon. Black Falcon is an AMG-supported team of 20-plus full-time mechanics and engineers, whereas Team Abba is a small team with one full-time race technician. Both are fantastic to work with.
“We’ve seen over the years how successful the AMG GT3 can be, having won some pretty amazing events such as the Nürburgring and Dubai 24 Hours, COTA 24 Hours, and last year the Blancpain GT Endurance championship. Compared to these successes the British GT Championship may seem small but it’s my home GT championship and I’m really excited to be part of it. It’s great working with Richard and all his family, it’s a real great atmosphere. Like at the end of the Saturdays we can have a barbeque out at the back of the truck, relax, and prepare for the next day – if the weather is good, of course!”
Despite having to sit out a couple of races due to an injury, Christodoulou competed in a total of 18 races and this year is looking to be another busy season.
“I guess I can’t complain that last season was quiet. I got to experience China for the first time, race in America again and race for 8 different teams. It was really cool to meet so many new people and work with them and to understand what they do things and how they run the team and the car.
“And this year it’s looking like it’s going to be equally as busy. I’m doing the British GT Championship, but sadly there’s a clash with the Nürburgring 24 Hours with one of the rounds at Donington Park, so frustratingly I’ll miss that, it would’ve been nice to do the full championship.
“So I’ve got the Nürburgring 24 Hours, British GT and a few VLN rounds in the diary, also I’m doing the Intercontinental GT Challenge which is great, as we’ll go to a few new tracks. Laguna Seca where I won the Star Mazda championship in 2009, Kyalami in South Africa where I’ve never been before and also Suzuka. I’ve got loads of things to look forward to this year, including returning to the Chinese GT championship again with Eric Zang. It’s looking like another busy season with plenty going on.
“I’m looking forward to an exciting season with AMG. To be contracted to a top manufacturer, obviously, is any drivers’ goal and dream, so to continue my relationship with AMG is always a privilege, I’ve hopefully got a lot of trophies to collect this year!”
Jurek Biegus contributed to this article.