Le Mans countdown: Johnny Herbert

Johnny Herbert has made only three appearances at Le Mans, and all were in Mazdas shared with Bertrand Gachot and Volker Weidler. The trio scored a superb win on the second of their outings in 1991, and finished fourth the following year. Johnny, who also raced Porsches in Japan, has never been a fan of sportscars. But with his F1 career now over, he's back at the Sarthe, and determined to get a good result with the highly fancied Champion Audi. He is also hoping to have a run in a Champ Car in the next few months. Adam Cooper asked him for his thoughts on the upcoming race and life after F1

Le Mans countdown: Johnny Herbert



"The result was good, but I went a bit too far. I remember I did three stints at the end. It was damn hot. Everything was OK, but I think I got out of the car a little bit too quickly, and enough was enough. I was very white, I do remember that! But the reason I want to go back is to actually stand on the podium this time That will be the plan."



"At the time I thought it was going to be the American thing, and it wasn't really until December that that seemed to not be going anywhere. Le Mans came a little bit later. It's still prestigious; it's still something that you want to do."



"I spoke with Bentley, but that was always a bit difficult to know which way they were going. I spoke a little bit with Stefan [Johansson], and then this thing came up with the Champion team. It had to be an Audi or an Audi type, otherwise it wasn't worth doing it."



"That was OK. It took a bit of time to get used to, because you don't get that much running, even though it was a long session. The lap is three and a half minutes, so you don't get that much time in the car. So there's still going to be a little bit of adjustment. But you've got 24 hours to do that, and as long as you're consistent, it doesn't really matter too much."



"I think Stefan keeps proving that it's possible to beat them, because he's actually been in front when something's happened. Qualifying doesn't matter, and I don't think we'll beat them, but in the race I think we've got a chance of doing it."



"Not really, at least no one who is reliable. The Bentley will be good for qualifying, but with the tyres it's got and everything else, it won't be in contention. It will slowly drop back."



"It is enjoyable, because everybody's working as a team. It's the thing that's always different about F1. That's also a team thing, but the politics is always the part that's not as nice."



"Audi have been very good. They've really gone into the whole accident, and the issues that are there, they've ironed out. They've worked very, very hard to collect a lot of data, and they've been very, very sensible about it. Everybody is happy with the outcome of what they've done. What happened to Michele was a slow puncture. They did have some tyre sensors on it, but they didn't work, they were not 100%. A slow puncture is very, very hard to detect, even as a driver. Although effectively the air goes out, the temperature keeps it up, and then eventually it goes bang. It was a bit of a freaky accident. He went and then he hit the grass, and it was the grass that caused the problem."



"Well it is, it's just testing. Tom phoned me up after everything that didn't happen for this year, and I thought why not. It still gives me an opportunity to drive a car. If I can help the team out, then great."



"Yes, but it's still fun. You still want to do well for yourself anyway. You keep getting mileage and you keep in it, so from that point of view it's still great to do."



"It was very late, but everything I kept getting was positive. I was basically told by Forsythe that everything was happening. The sponsors agreed, everything was agreed, within 10 days the whole thing was going to be done and dusted. But that was really the last conversation I had. It was just not nice, because I was so convinced it was going to happen."



"Sure. The 500 is one of the three things I've always wanted to do. It's a question of looking at it this year and seeing where it's at, and who you're going to talk to and what's available. It's a different form of racing that I haven't done before, and it's exciting to do that. It doesn't scare me in any way."



"It hasn't been that bad. It's been nice spending time at home with the girls, which I haven't done since they were born, so that side of it has been nice. But obviously one year's enough!"



"No, because I made the decision myself, it's been easier. If I was still hoping to do it and then it didn't happen, I think then I'd feel a bit more resentful towards it. But I don't feel that way, because I said enough is enough, I don't want to do it any more. So that makes it much easier. I got a stir in the stomach at Monaco, because it was the first time I've actually watched from the outside. The last time was in '87 when I was in the F3 race! This time I was on a boat going into Tabac, and it was lovely, the noise and everything else. So I do appreciate how lucky I have been to be able to drive one, because it's a big thing. When you're in it, you don't see it! And I'd been doing it for 10 or 12 years, and I'd always been there."

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