Jose Maria Lopez was last in the European motorsport headlines when he was signed as a driver for the ill-fated US F1 project, but after that collapsed, he returned to racing in Argentina's TC2000 series.
This weekend Lopez has reminded the wider world of his ability by joining the Young Driver Aston Martin team for a one-off in the GT1 World Championship finale at San Luis and taking pole position on his debut in the car. AUTOSPORT talked to him about this weekend's achievements and his hopes for the future.
Q. How did the seat with the Young Driver AMR Aston Martin team come up?
Jose Maria Lopez: When I knew we had this race, I said I wanted to do it, so I am very pleased this opportunity came up. A group of people made it happen, including Stephane [Ratel, the boss of the championship] and the Automobile Club of Argentina [the national sporting authority].
I've know Stephane since I was winning in Formula Renault V6 when we were racing together with FIA GTs and he's always been very helpful. After some talks, I was told I was going to drive an Aston Martin. That was only last weekend.
Q. Was it hard to jump in Aston without any testing and be quick out of the box?
JML: I found the car to be good straight away and it is an easy car to drive. I enjoy driving this kind of car and I have the experience of some races in the Ferrari [550 Maranello] from 2008, so I was immediately comfortable.
Q. Were there any difficulties jumping from a front-wheel drive TC2000 touring car, which you are also racing here at San Luis?
JML: Actually the hardest thing is jumping back into the TC2000 car from the Aston, because of the huge speed differential.
Q. Could a good result here help relaunch your career in Europe after the debacle of US F1?
JML: The whole F1 thing was difficult for me and my family. I'd love to go back to Europe, but I'm 27 and motor racing is how I earn my living; I don't do anything else. Every time an opportunity comes up in Europe, it requires a budget and it is difficult to find money here in Argentina. It is good to do something like this, because people in Europe don't really know what I am doing over here in Argentina.
Q. What's the future for you next year?
JML: I will be racing in TC2000 again, but I'm changing manufacturer. This year I am with Honda, but next year I am moving to Fiat. There is nothing on the table for Europe, but I'd love to do the Le Mans 24 Hours one day.