Conducted by Tom Evans and Sasha Macmillen
Written by Olly Radley and William Stephens
Edited by Haneen Abbas
Dennis Lind is an established talent within the single seater, and GT racing world, winning multiple championships and races on his path to becoming an all time GT great. Myself and Sasha Macmillen were lucky enough to sit down with Dennis for an interview about his achievements to date.
Sasha: You had 2 years of karting in 2006 and 2007, and then afterwards you came 2nd in Danish Formula Ford in 2008, but you didn’t have previous experience. Did you expect such a result straight away in Danish Formula Ford?
Dennis: I did have quite a lot of go-karting experience, to be honest. I think it’s only the recorded sort of results that were done at that time. I actually started when I was three with national karting but we could never really find the budget to do it internationally. The first year was again some previous competition. I mean Kevin Magnussen was the guy who won the championship the first year. We came pretty close in the end. We felt quite competitive from the get-go.
Sasha: He’s your cousin isn’t he?
Dennis: Yeah we are sort of half cousins. The family story is quite complicated on that part but we are as good as cousins.
Tom: Was that friendly competition or did that spur you on during the season?
Dennis: I think it was a bit of a family split at that point to be honest because obviously both Kevin and I were very competitive, and we come from very different backgrounds, so the support he got from various sponsorships was quite different to the budget that I could come up with at that time. So obviously there was a bit of a split with who should get what. In the end, Kevin and I have always been good friends and we can see differences between competition and everyday life. We pretty much grew up together since we were 2 or 3 years old so we’d known each other for a long time prior to that competition and we’re still good friends now so it didn’t really change a whole lot but it was good. He’s always been a sort of sparring partner to me so it was cool to race him in the junior formulas as well.
Tom: The year after, you won the Danish Formula Ford championship, but we’ve looked at your career path and you’ve decided not to keep pursuing single-seaters, is there a reason for that?
Dennis: So I won the Formula Ford Festival in 2010 I believe and in 2011 I did half a season in Formula ADAC Masters in Germany. It was on my contract basically so it was sort of my first pro career where I didn’t have to bring sponsors or anything into it. I had quite a bad accident in Zolder and I had to retire from that part of the season because of a back injury and I didn’t really recover. So the way back into formula cars would always be very very expensive and it wasn’t really something I had the funds or partners or investors to do. So I restarted my career back in Denmark by doing Peugeot Spider Cup for a spell. I think there were like 2 races left of the season at that time. At that time I was thinking, I had around 4 months to recover. I did think about what path I should take knowing that the formula path is quite gruesome and at that time it was quite a substantial amount of money if you wanted to make a career out of it and I had some opportunities to pretty much race for free in Denmark. I thought that was sort of a better way in because you never know what’s going to happen and following the path of a formula career would be quite difficult and very on the limit of budget and when you compete with these drivers who are able to test a Formula 3 car every day of the week and me just rocking up to a race event it wasn’t sustainable for me.
Sasha: Now that you have experience in both single-seater and GT racing, what would you say are the main differences between them?
Dennis: It’s really hard to say because I think GT3 cars now have a lot of formula car technology and they’re getting closer together because in a sense the perfect race car drives the same way. Jumping into the GT3, I did the sort of revival series of A1 GP cars, Formula Acceleration, so I had a little bit more formula experience but was sort of on and off, but getting into a GT3 car was not too strange. You sit a little bit left of the middle but after 3 or 4 laps you forget all about that so to be honest there was not too much difference. The braking points obviously change a little bit and the way the car handles is not so direct. It feels a little bit slow in reaction but the power you get from these cars is immense so that sort of equals out what you were missing from the formula cars.
Sasha: You’ve competed in a lot of different championships and had success on the way, becoming British GT champion last year. You have the bug for a certain Italian brand [Lamborghini]. Is there a specific reason for this?
Dennis: No absolutely not. To be honest not at all. I always dreamed of being a Toyota works driver when I was little so I mostly grew up watching sports cars. Obviously, I was following Jan [Magnussen] with his endeavours at Panoz, and also at the time Tom Kristensen was battling in ELMS driving the Audi and Jan was driving the Panoz and I remember the Toyota and the Mercedes coming up and it was just cool racing. I never really thought of Italian brands, to begin with. Never really supported them in Formula 1 or anything but I just had an opportunity within Lamborghini at the time I just couldn’t turn down. At the time that was the best offer I could get and I went with them.
Tom: Speaking of British GT, obviously you won the championship last year but your first year was in 2019. You did pretty well that year, you finished with a pretty solid points tally and obviously, your previous GT experience will have helped with that. How helpful was that experience or does entering a new series completely reset your approach and mindset?
Dennis: I would say British GT is quite different because it’s mostly Pro-Am concentrated so the coaching role of British GT is very very important. If I drive 1 or 2 tenths quicker per lap, which is sometimes what I can extract from a lap, that isn’t going to make a difference in the big picture if my teammate loses a second a lap compared to the other Ams. So getting them up to speed is way more important than me focusing solely on my own performance. That’s another big difference between formula racing and endurance, you have to be a team player. You have to be able to help everyone within the team basically. I think in British GT especially that’s really crucial. For example this year with GT Endurance we have a full pro lineup so we’re expecting our teammates to be up to the task but of course, we also sit and look at data to see if we can maybe find half a tenth or a tenth in a corner whereas in British GT it might be that you’re looking for half a second to a second in one part of the circuit and that just makes a difference in the end.
Sasha: During the pandemic, mainly 2020, you participated in many esports events. Did you do them more to pass the time, or was it equally enjoyable to take them seriously?
Dennis: To be honest I made money off sim-racing before I started to become a pro racing driver. I started sim racing back in 2004 when I was 11 so back then I would have had a rig, not like today but a wheel clamped to a desk and driving quite competitively. But of course back then during the pandemic, there was not much else racing to do so I gave it more focus which I think is a good thing. I think sim racing in many ways is quite overlooked, so of course, when I had that experience with it, it would make sense to partake in those events.
Tom: So do you think these esports events could be a serious alternative for some talented drivers who don't have the budgets that others do?
Dennis: I would say so, yes obviously it depends a lot on the simulator that you choose. I would say there is quite a big difference, some promote very good racing like Gran Turismo which has an arcadey feel, then you have the complete polar opposite of R factor 2 which is a very complicated thing to get started and going with, but when you get going the feeling of the cars is quite realistic so it's kind of what you can expect when you jump in a real race car. It's just really the fear and getting your mind up to speed on what's happening around you more than the visuals.
Tom: Once racing resumed in 2021 you did some of the 50th anniversary of the formula ford festival. Was that refreshing going back to how your car racing career started?
Dennis: It was such a cool experience. I did it with my uncle Jan [Magnussen] . We were teammates for the event and it was big smiles all around, it was so much fun. It was a good way to appreciate racing a little bit, when it becomes a job you sort of forget to take all of the experiences in like all the inputs you get and all the feelings you get like the pure emotion of racing. You kind of forget that because it becomes a job there is lots of pressure you can't just doodle around and do your own thing. But rocked up there as a pay driver so I took it out of my own paycheck to pay the team to run the car it was just amazing, it was so cool to get back to sort of the grassroots and you can learn to respect I would say also the young drivers up and coming but also a bit yourself because the way you drive in those cars it's quite hard racing its super fair racing for sure but there is so much technique to it when the cars are travelling at a relatively low pace or low speed the smallest thing matters a tenth could put you either first or p10. So it was super important for me to slow everything down but then speed it up again to get the mechanical grip from a formula car that's so light it's 490kg or something like that but it's a ton lighter than GT racing, but it was a really cool experience I'll be looking to do it again, but maybe not this year.
Tom: Later that year you competed in British GT and you won the championship, one of your biggest achievements to date. Was there one specific thing that you, your teammates, or your team did well that season, or did everything just come together to have a great year?
Dennis: Well obviously I have to give credit to my teammate Leo Machitski, we became very good friends over the whole season. I knew him from past events we won like the Barcelona 24-hour race before British GT also with Barwell so I knew the team worked well. But we had a hiccup in Brands Hatch at the pitstop and we had a DNF in the first meeting at Donnington Park but other than that it was quite seamless there were no hiccups it was very consistent results, we only got one win but we had a lot of good positions where other people struggled. I think the team did a very good job at keeping the car running and Leo and I did a good job with keeping the car on the track. So I think it was just a really big team effort.
Tom: Do you think consistency is one of the most important factors if you're in GT racing?
Dennis: Yeah definitely when it comes to endurance and GT racing, you cannot have technical difficulties. It's one of the things that costs a lot of time. If you have a brush on track it's one thing but if the car is not able to produce you a position where you can get that brush you don’t have much point in competing, so having a team to back you up and make sure the car runs every time you get on the racetrack, it's super important.
Sasha: On the topic of GT racing have you ever had an interest in DTM?
Dennis: Yeah definitely. Growing up watching DTM with Jan [Magnussen] back then was awesome to watch. Obviously the formula has changed since then in terms of what cars they are running, but DTM is still DTM, it's hard racing it’s proper, it’s driver and car and that's something obviously as a driver you want to do. You want to prove yourself against other drivers and cars so for sure DTM is very interesting.
Sasha: Moving on from last year where you were doing British GT, now you're doing the Fanatec GT World Challenge. You already competed in one round where you got a P5 finish, what would you say the aim is for the rest of the season?
Dennis: JP motorsports is a relatively new team. We’re working quite closely with McLaren so for sure we want to stay in the sort of area we are now. It's a very competitive field so it's hard to sort of expect us to stay there. But you know if we can stay consistently in the top 10 it would be mega. I think hoping for a win in the first year is a bit ambitious but for sure it would be a welcome result. It's going to be difficult, really difficult. The team is running really well. It's not that but the teams we run against have five to ten years of experience so it's a tough crowd to compete against.
Tom: Would you say working with McLaren is one of the biggest advantages for the team?
Dennis: Yeah, absolutely I think McLaren is a manufacturer with a great racing pedigree so they know what it's about to win races. They haven't really had a good spell with GT3s yet but they are very adamant to change that. It's a customer program so at the end if your car doesn't win races you're not selling cars, so we have to win races, we have to perform, we have to mix it up with the more accomplished brands within GT racing.
Thank you very much to Dennis for taking the time to sit down with us, and we wish him the best for his upcoming season!