Briton Nick Yelloly has been a BMW works driver since 2019 and already has a victory with BMW in one of the most challenging races in the world–the Nürburgring 24 Hour–which he won in 2020 with Nicky Catsburg and Alexander Sims. Yelloly is competing in a full season of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with ROWE Racing, but also drove for BMW Team RLL at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring this year, as well the Dubai 24 Hour with Schubert Motorsport and the Nürburgring 24 Hour with ROWE. He’s also a sim development driver for the Aston Martin Formula One team. BMW has yet to announce drivers for the new LMDh prototype coming in 2023, but don’t be surprised to see Yelloly in one of the seats given his experience in formula cars.
BimmerLife: How did you first get involved in racing?
Nick Yelloly: My interest in cars came from my dad. He didn’t race, but he was fortunate to have some nice cars when I was younger, so I always liked the speed. I didn’t start racing until I was fifteen–after I went to a go-karting party of a friend and was fast straight away. The owner said I should try proper go-karting and it kind of snow-balled from there. I did go-karting for two or three years, then got into formula car racing and F1 testing. I think it all came to a head around 2015 when we didn’t have the money to keep going with GP2. An old engineer of mine had moved to Project 1 in (Porsche) Carrera Cup and they took my onboard and I didn’t have to pay anything. It saved my racing career.
BL: How did you transition from being in Carrera Cup with Porsche to racing for BMW?
NY: I was racing with Porsche from 2016 to 2018. I first contacted BMW in 2011 or 2012 and I asked for a DTM test, but they were full at the time. I kept in touch with them since 2012 and when I made the trip to GT cars, I kept asking for opportunities. When the results started to come in Carrera Cup [Yelloly was vice champion in Carrera Cup Germany in 2017 and vice champion in Supercup in 2018] and I started to win with a roof over my head I got a call from BMW and did a test in 2017 with the M6 GT3 at the Lausitzring. It was my first time driving a GT3 car and it went well. Nothing was supposed to happen in 2018, but they needed a driver to race in GT World Challenge and I did a few races.
BL: Was it difficult to make the transition from formula cars into the rear-engined Porsche and then the front-engine BMW?
NY: The most difficult was going from high-powered GP2 cars to the Porsche Carrera Cup car. You go from a very high-downforce car to something with no downforce and no ABS or traction control. After about a half-year, it kicked in and I got it and we were successful from there on out.
BL: What are the biggest differences between driving the M6 GT3 and the new M4 GT3?
NY: I would say the differences are mostly in the medium and slow speed corners. The M4 GT3 is more predictable and rotates better–and the traction control is much nicer. The tire wear is also better in the M4 GT3 and as a driver you can more easily manipulate things with the car.
BL: How would you describe your driving style?
NY: I would say it’s relatively aggressive. I like to go out and get on with it.
BL: What’s your process for learning a new track?
NY: Usually, I would go about it by doing a bit of simulator work and then a track walk. I’m usually on top of it within a couple of laps.
BL: Tell me about your role as a simulator development driver in Formula One with Aston Martin.
NY: I started in 2014 when the team was Force India. I was there through Racing Point and now Aston Martin. BMW kindly let me continue that work because I had been there for a long time and there’s no direct competition. Usually, we’re developing the car in the simulator around 50-60 days a year and I was fortunate to test the real car in 2015, 2019, and 2021. When I left single-seaters I never thought I would drive a Formula One car and I’ve managed to do six days, so that made me pretty happy.
BL: What’s it like going from the simulator to the actual Formula One car? Is it a big jump?
NY: The simulators are so advanced nowadays that the driving between the two is very similar. The thing you have to appreciate is getting used to the g-forces and how fast things are when you are in the real car. You need to have the fear factor in the real car.
BL: What races are on your bucket list that you’d really like to win?
NY: I’ve won the Nürburgring 24 Hour in 2020, but I’d like to win it every year! It’s one of my favorite races. I’d also like to win Le Mans, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the Petit Le Mans–the big endurance races.
BL: Do you like racing in the US?
NY: I love it and I’d like to do a lot more. Obviously, there’s a new program coming out (LMDh) so we’ll see how it all fits in.
You can follow Nick Yelloly on Instagram at @nickyelloly
[Photos by BMW]