Going behind the scenes at Silverstone to see practice make perfect for Cullen
PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 September 2019
It's race weekend at Silverstone, the home of British Motor Sport and Ryan Cullen is set to compete for United Autosports in the European Le Mans in their fourth race of the season.
During lunch in the British Racing Driving Club, Cullen sits back looking relaxed as he drinks his coffee while watching the television.
On the big screen, the Formula 2 practice session is on at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Little over 24 hours later the news comes through that 22-year-old Anthoine Hubert has sadly been killed in an accident, the first death on a FIA-sanctioned F1 support race since Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.
But on Friday, it had been all smiles, as I arrived at the circuit around 9.30am to be picked up by Cullen's manager Ant Shaw.
As we made our way over to the paddock, we drove over a bridge and Shaw slowed down to let me feel the vibrations beneath the car.
Shortly afterwards we parked up and walked through the entrance of a garage divided into four working zones - data, engineering, spares and the main area, where the cars are prepared and worked on which leads to the pit road.
A team of 30 people are there to greet me as I make my way over to the data screen to check the latest updates.
There is a timer counting down how long is left and three different colours - blue shows the personal best time for that session, white is for regular time and purple for the fastest on the track in that sector.
This is the first of two practice sessions, which usually last one hour and a half hours and are divided by one of the following of Cullen, Alex Brundle and Will Owen.
"Practice days are really important," he said. "Because the the race is four hours and they're almost twice to three times as long as a Formula One race.
"The style of endurance racing is you have to get the car perfect for every type of condition that can happen and also suitable for all three drivers.
"Having practice sessions is not always about the lap time but also thinking about what the car will be like towards the end of a four-hour race."
Cullen says he was delighted to sign for United Autosports after racing for the APR-Rebellion Racing team in last year's European Le Mans Series.
"The team's great," said Cullen. "It's my first year and the team is so professional from the top down. You've got great people leading from the top, the mechanics are great, the engineers are great.
"They always have great drivers as well you can bond with and it really is a team sport, even though there is only three drivers in the car.
"It is a team sport where in endurance racing at the end of a 24-hour race it is a moral victory, rather than just the drivers, I'm really happy to be with United Autosports this year."
After the first practice session comes to an early end because of a red flag, fans young and old meet up with the drivers during the break, stopping them for autographs and posing for pictures and Cullen says being a sportsman from Weston is special.
"It's always nice when I'm racing all over the world and you have to put your hometown and where you are from I always put down Weston," he added.
"I have never seen anyone else put down Weston, it's a nice feeling writing down where you are born.
"Sometimes you forget about it because you are travelling all over the world and you always say you are from England. But then you always remember where you are from, it's a nice feeling."
Cullen, who has been racing at Silverstone since 2012 at the age of 21, sees his team start the second session well before taking over from Brundle with 45 minutes to go.
As he makes his way round the track, 28-year-Old Cullen looks calm and composed before Owen finishes the practice session off leaving United Autosports in seventh place ahead of the race on Saturday.
"It's really great to be in the UK racing because I do so many flights a year it was actually nice to get in my own car and drive up two and a half hours from my home," he said.
"It was nice I didn't have to go through an airport, get to the race track and not be stressed and have all my bags all packed into one. It was nice to have a home race, because it just feels more relaxed, no more added pressure."
*After an eighth-place finish at Silverstone, following third at Monza earlier in the series, Ryan Cullen heads to Spa for the next round, before the final race in Portugal.