Aston Martin Racing: Q & A with the Aston Martin Drivers at Le Mans

Friday, June 11, 2010

As the Aston Martin drivers make their final preparations before they run across the track to their iconic Gulf liveried cars ahead of the 78th running of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, drivers Adrian Fernández (MX), Stefan Mücke (D) Harold Primat (CH), Juan Barazi (DK), Sam Hancock (GB) and Darren Turner (GB) answer a few pre-race questions.


Adrian Fernández (MX)
Q: You’ve raced at Le Mans before, with an LMP2 car. What do you think the race will be like in an LMP1 challenger?
AF: “Physically it’s going to be a lot tougher, as the forces are going to be so much more extreme, and of course the competition is even stiffer as you are up against the huge factory teams with their diesel cars. The only thing that is a little bit easier than LMP2 is the fact that you are overtaking rather than being overtaken all the time, so you don’t have to be constantly on your mirrors.”

Q: You’ve got to know the car and your team-mates now how is the whole package gelling?
AF: “It’s been really good and we’ve all been able to help each other. There’s a bit of a role reversal going on for Le Mans: in America I was the most experienced driver but now in Le Mans it will be Stefan. Harold is another guy I get along extremely well with, so we’ve got a really nice line-up.”

Q: Driving at night is a key element to Le Mans. Is this something you enjoy?
AF: “Actually yes, especially in the Aston Martin because the lights on the car are really good. Driving at night is trickier in a closed cockpit car like the Aston than an open cockpit
car though, as it’s not as easy to see the small but important things, such as oil on the track.”

Q: What’s going to be the biggest surprise of Le Mans 2010?
AF: “I’d like to say that it’s going to be us, but realistically our job is tougher than ever this year. However, Le Mans is probably the toughest race in the world so there’s bound to
be some surprises of some sort. I wouldn’t want to make any predictions really!”

Stefan Mücke (D)
Q: Last year, you were the top petrol-powered car. Do you think that you can do this again?
SM: “I think it’s going to be more difficult, but still achievable. There are two things on our side: we know the package that we have very well and the car is extremely reliable – which is
crucial for Le Mans. On the other hand the competition has got tougher, but to answer the question I think we can do it again, yes.”

Q: You’ve raced in so many different places now: is Le Mans still special?
SM: “Yes, it’s still the highlight of the season. I’ve been really lucky to race on some fantastic tracks this year, such as Sebring, but Le Mans will always be Le Mans. You don’t find the same atmosphere anywhere else.”

Q: You’ve always been fantastically quick in qualifying. What’s your secret?
SM: “Actually I don’t know the answer. I suppose this is maybe because during my racing career – particularly in the DTM – I’ve always been used to having to get the best out of a set of tyres over one lap or so. But at Le Mans qualifying is also about strategy and luck, because you need a clean lap to do well.”

Q: What’s going to be the biggest surprise of Le Mans 2010?
SM: “I think it’s possible that some of the diesel drivers will make mistakes that have a big impact on the race. We’ve seen this already at Le Mans in the past and at other places like Spa. It’s going to be an even bigger fight between Peugeot and Audi this year, so my hope is that they will pressure each other into mistakes that we can profit from.”

Harold Primat (CH)
Q: You’ve got some good experience of the car and the track now: how much does that help?
HP: “I’d say that it helps enormously. I know my engineers and my team-mates well, so I am in a much stronger position now than I was at this time last year. This will be my sixth Le Mans: I’ve learned a few things over the years and we are definitely targeting a strong finish.”

Q: You took the start at Le Mans last year: was that an enjoyable experience?
HP: “It’s a lot of responsibility when you take the start as it’s easy to have some contact that will compromise your race. But I just concentrated on doing what I had to do, and this
year I also took the start from pole at Long Beach, which was a good race for us. It all helps to build up your confidence.”

Q: How tough is Le Mans mentally?
HP: “The physical and mental fatigue are linked really. Because you are physically tired sometimes you find yourself back in the car when you don’t really want to be there, and it’s at that point that you need the mental strength to focus on your job. Both physically and mentally, Le Mans is one of the toughest things that you can do.”

Q: What’s going to be the biggest surprise of Le Mans 2010?
HP: “It would be a surprise if an Aston Martin was on the podium, but I don’t think that is impossible. It wasn’t so far away from happening last year and the new rules have closed
the gap slightly to the diesel cars. It’s still going to be a very tough task, but so much can happen at Le Mans that you would never rule it out.”


Juan Barazi (DK)
Q: How do you feel about joining Aston Martin?
JB: “The great thing about a team like Aston Martin is that everything is in place, so you can just concentrate on the driving. Then there’s the whole fascination of the history and heritage of Aston Martin, which is wonderful. To be driving a Gulf-liveried car in the top class of Le Mans, just like Steve McQueen, is pretty cool too.”

Q: What’s going to be the biggest challenge for you at Le Mans this year?
JB: “I feel privileged as throughout my career I’ve driven for big teams, small teams, manufacturer teams and private teams so I have some idea what to expect. I’m going to take a measured approach to the race but at 42 years old I’d like to think that I’m old enough to be sensible while still being young enough to be fast.”

Q: How are you getting on with your new team-mates?
JB: “We all tested together in Spain and we’ve got a similar approach and mindset. Le Mans is not a race where you go crazy. I’ve actually driven with Sam before and he has a maturity that goes way beyond his age. Darren has a huge amount of experience of both the car and the team, so that will be really useful as well.”

Q: What will be the biggest surprise at Le Mans this year?
JB: “If you think about it, even a half-hour motor race normally contains a few surprises, so it’s true that in a 24-hour race absolutely anything can happen. I know the surprise that I would like to happen, but we’ll have to wait and see how things go!”

Sam Hancock (GB)
Q: You’ve competed at Le Mans four times now. What has been the major highlight?
SH: “Just being there and having the opportunity to take part with such a professional team is the big highlight. I’ve been a spectator, a runner for a TV company and done all sorts of odd jobs just to be a part of it. So being part of the Aston Martin Racing line-up is a very big deal.”

Q: How physically fit do you need to be to compete at Le Mans?
SH: “Pete Webster is Aston Martin Racing’s trainer and he’s put together a very detailed programme for us. He’ll also be looking after every morsel of food we eat, arranging massages, just generally ensuring we’re all in top working order throughout the race.”

Q: What additional lengths have you gone to in order to keep fit?
SH: “I actually ran the London Marathon at the end of April. It wasn’t with Le Mans in mind as such but it was great for the cardiovascular fitness you need. You’ve also got to focus on
your core strength and neck strength but you don’t want to overdo it at this stage.”

Q: What’s going to be the biggest surprise of Le Mans 2010?
SH: “I’m quite inward in my approach and don’t pay too much attention to what’s going on around me because it doesn’t affect the quality of the job I am able to do. I just need to think about my own performance and hope the make up some of the gap between the diesel and petrol cars.”

Darren Turner (GB)

Q: What is the hardest thing about competing at Le Mans?
DT: “Definitely the lack of sleep is the biggest problem. You’re there for a whole week and there’s a lot of down time, which as surprising as it sounds, can be quite draining even though it’s part of the excitement.

Q: How do you cope when you’re not getting enough sleep?
DT: “Every driver is different but from getting up on Saturday morning to going to bed on Sunday night you only get two hours sleep although the adrenalin keeps you going. It’s hard
to switch off because when you’re not in the car your teammates are and you’re anxious to know how they’re doing because they have a massive effect on your race. I’m fairly low maintenance – as long as I get some cereal and a cup of tea, plus all the energy drink supplements we take, I’m fine.”

Q: What’s the most challenging corner on the circuit?
DT: “It used to be Arnage because there was no grip. Now it’s been resurfaced it’s the last left in the Porsche Curves. It’s off camber and it’s really easy to make a mistake.”

Q: What’s going to be the biggest surprise of Le Mans 2010?
DT: “We haven’t got any tricks up our sleeves. Finishing as the top petrol car will be the aim. It took a sterling job to get fourth overall last year and a repeat of that would represent a
big surprise.”


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