Aston Martin Racing: Q&A with Christian Klien before Le Mans

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

After running successfully in 2008 and 2009, Christian Klien will have his third start at Le Mans this weekend. The Austrian shares his Aston Martin AMR-One seat with Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke in the LMP1 class of the world’s biggest endurance race.

Christian, on your debut in 2008 you were on the podium right away. In 2009 you were pretty unlucky with a pit incident of your team mate and could still set fastest lap of the race. What can be expected from your third start at La Sarthé?

Christian Klien:
The situation is quite different this year. We were running for victory the first two times. Now, we are only at the beginning of a three-year-program. Many things can happen in 24 hours. But realistically we want to finish the race, stay out of trouble and learn as much as we can.

That does not sound too enthusiastic…

Christian Klien:
I am realistic. The current Peugeot engine started on the dyno in January 2010. Aston Martin only launched the whole project in September of last year. Anyone who has a bit of a clue of motor racing will understand that there is little reason to dream about podiums. But I like that kind of challenge.

Why did you not re-sign for Peugeot like Alex Wurz? It would have made thing easier, wouldn’t it?

Christian Klien:
You might guess so, when you look at Le Mans only. Many ask themselves: `has he totally lost it to let go of such a ride?’. But the bigger picture looks a little different. Peugeot’s policy is 100% commitment to endurance racing. And rightly so. In my case, however, Formula One was and is still an option. When the Le Mans contracts were on the table last November I was still racing in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The rest of the winter it looked very promising for me to get a permanent ride in F1. So I gladly thanked Peugeot for their interest and turned the offer down.

How did you come to Aston Martin then?

Christian Klien:
This March things looked a little different in Formula One as we now know. But I had promised myself one thing: I would go racing in 2011. And an ambitious project like the AMR-One was just what I was after. I felt very comfortable from the beginning. I am surrounded by real racers who face many challenges and always come up with answers.

How far is the AMR-One now?

Christian Klien:
As you may know we skipped the Spa race which would have been our last preparation event. The 6-cylinder-engine was still having issues, so we decided to use the time for more development. Last week we did a two-day-test in Monza. The chassis feels very good. And the engine has improved a lot in terms of driveability. Unfortunately we lost half a day due to torrential rain. The final answer to your question we will only know Sunday afternoon.

Have petrol cars like the Aston Martin still got a disadvantage compared with the diesels of Audi and Peugeot?

Christian Klien:
In the past few years the diesels always had an advantage. For the stewards and rule makers it is extremely difficult to achieve parity. Normally they restrict the airbox. But hardly ever do the big teams show their true potential in the races before Le Mans. So we will need to wait until qualifying before we have an idea where everybody stands. Top performance is not our goal this year anyway, we want to learn as much as we can about the new car.

Christian Klien
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