Courtesy of American Le Mans Series
by David Phillips
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Adrian Fernandez has just about done it all in racing: Motocross rider, Formula Ford, Indy Lights, Champ Cars, IndyCars, NASCAR, LMP2 and LMP1 driver; team owner in CART, IRL and ALMS. This year finds him in the midst of yet another chapter in his varied and successful career: driving Aston Martin’s Vantage GTE in the FIA World Endurance Championship and selected races in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
“At this stage of my career it’s perfect to be able to enjoy racing in a more relaxed way, even though any time I jump in the car I keep pushing hard,” says Fernandez. “But I enjoy driving these beautiful cars on beautiful tracks in series that are still very enjoyable and very competitive.
“I was talking with Scott Pruett at Long Beach and I said ‘Well amigo, not many of the guys from our days still racing.’
“It’s one thing to be driving. A lot of guys are still driving, but to be competitive… I’m sure I have lost a little bit, but I’m still quite competitive and it keeps me hungry for a few more years. I think I have another three years in my career.”
Fernandez was speaking from his hotel near Spa-Francorchamps, where he is racing this weekend’s FIA WEC event. Amazingly, at 49 years of age and with more than three decades of world-class racing experience under his belt, this is his first visit to Spa.
“We drove around the track today in our rental car, got out and walked parts of it,” he says. “It’s very beautiful. It reminds me a lot of Elkhart Lake, a track I absolutely love, so I think this will be one of my favorites now.”
Next weekend, Fernandez gets to visit another of his favorite tracks – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – for the American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón. Dating back to the early ’90s, one would be hard-pressed to find a year when Fernandez hasn’t raced at Mazda Raceway be it Indy Lights, Champ Car, LMP2 or LMP1 … but never GT.
“Laguna is a very special race track where I have competed for so many years,” he says. “It’s a track I absolutely know and love, but also I have driven in so many different classes and types of cars. Now I’m going to be in a GT car, which is totally different from what I’m used to or what I know.
“It’s such a different type of driving, so I have to adapt to something that I’m not used to, but I’m happy with my progress and performance this year. I enjoy it. I have a very open mind. I have great teammates, but I think the main thing is I still love to drive so much. Two weeks ago we raced in Long Beach and it was fun, fun fighting for positions. I had a good race, a clean race, didn’t make any mistakes and that’s what I’m looking for.”
All sentiments aside, there’s another reason Fernandez is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Mazda Raceway The first two rounds of the ALMS series were not exactly tailor-made for the Aston Martin Vantage GTE which finished 10th and fifth at Sebring and Long Beach, respectively. Fernandez expects that to change at Spa and at Monterey.
“With its long straightaways and fast corners, Spa is a fluid race track and we feel from what we’ve seen from the car, it will suit our car more than the tight courses like Long Beach,” he says. “Even at Sebring there are tight corners that do not suit the car so well. Laguna should definitely be better than in Long Beach.”
After joining Aston Martin Racing in 2010, Fernandez and his family moved to Switzerland. This year they re-relocated to Miami.
“I wanted to be close to the team, so that is why we moved to Switzerland,” he explains, “and also for my family to experience living I Europe. But it was always our plan to move back to the United States after a couple of years.”
Having moved back to the USA this year, it’s ironic that next weekend’s race at Mazda Raceway figures to be Fernandez’ final appearance in North America as a race driver … this year.
“Whoever wants to see me, they need to go to Laguna Seca,” he laughs. “And we’ll have some fun.”
One thing is certain: Fernandez is having some fun in this latest chapter of his career. Who knows what new chapters await in the next three years.
David Phillips is one of North America's most respected and renowned motorsports journalists, having been featured in AutoWeek, RACER and other prominent motorsport magazines. He will be a regular contributor to ALMS.com.