Chris Buncombe was this week announced as one of Aston Martin's works drivers for the 2010 season.
The 30-year-old raced the British constructor's LMP1 car twice last season and is now back for Sebring, Le Mans plus the ALMS round at Long Beach and the LMS eight-hour race at Paul Ricard.
He spoke exclusively to AUTOSPORT.com about his upcoming season, Le Mans and the petrol/diesel fight.
Q. How much of Aston's programme will you be involved in this year?
Chris Buncombe: So far the team has only confirmed Sebring, the Paul Ricard eight-hour race, Long Beach and Le Mans. The rest of the programme after that will be decided closer to Le Mans time I think.
Q. Do you know which drivers you'll be partnered with?
CB: That's mostly still to be decided. Adrian [Fernandez] will be in the car with me for Long Beach, I think. But beyond that we'll have to wait and see.
Q. Do you have any plans to race outside of LMP1 this year?
CB: I've got a works contract, so they could use me in any of their other programmes. It's been a while since I've driven a GT car, so any opportunities that come up to be doing that as well, I would like. But it is my priority to focus on LMP1 this year.
Q. You did two LMS races in the LMP1 car last year, did they give you the chance to get to grips with the car?
CB: The Nurburgring was a great weekend. We had a podium in a 1-2-3 for Aston Martin, so that was a great debut weekend for me. Silverstone was a bit of a disappointment. We had a problem with the air conditioning pump in the race and lost a lot of time. But it was a great opportunity to find my feet in the team and get working before this season.
We have the official Sebring test and the Paul Ricard test, so it will be nice to get some testing miles in before the first races. I went to the Nurburgring last year and the race weekend was the first time I'd jumped in the car, and it was 18 months since I'd last driven a prototype and that was an LMP2 car, so it was different. But the car is fantastic to drive and quite easy to adapt to.
Q. What are the aims for Aston Martin this season, best of the rest behind Peugeot and Audi?
CB: Yes, the challenge is always to be the best petrol-powered car. If there are any regulation changes that help to equalise the performance between petrol and diesel, it would be an aim to take the challenge to Peugeot and Audi.
But we're looking forward to the new regulations and new cars in 2011, and that's keeping everyone on top of things. It was suggested a couple of months back that there might not be a programme this year, but the fact that they've decided to do some races keeps everyone on top of their games.
Q. And your aim is to earn a place in the line-up for the new car next year?
CB: Yes, definitely. I want to be there to run the new car for 2011. I'm very excited to go back to Le Mans as well. I've not been there for the last two years, when I won the P2 class on my debut. I've been trying hard to get back there but it's never that easy, so to be going back with Aston Martin is a huge opportunity.