Interview with Henri Pescarolo

In the latest of Autosport-Atlas's exclusive Le Mans interviews, Pescarolo Sport team owner Henri Pescarolo reveals his thoughts on WRC champion Sebastien Loeb's credentials as a sportscar driver, whether he reckons his team has the fastest car and whether he is going to use team orders to win the race

Interview with Henri Pescarolo

Q. Henri, how are you feeling after dominating practice? You were five seconds faster than your nearest rival Courage.

Pescarolo: "We don't officially know how fast we are yet, that was an unofficial test day. But if we are faster then I hope it will allow us to run slower, either by slowing on the track to nurse the car or allowing us to spend time in the pits to fix minor problems. But we don't know how this car is going to perform against good cars such as the Audi, Courage and the Dome.

"We are quite confident with the pace of the car and really excited about the race. It is the first time we have completely finished the car before the test day and we're better prepared than ever this year. We've been working hard this winter to make this happen and I'm sure we can be reliable over 24 hours."

Q. Do you think you will be walking off into the distance, as some pundits are predicting?

Pescarolo: "Nobody will be flat out during the race because you have to get the car through 24 hours. Audi might have to spend a couple of laps less in the pits than we do if we have a small problem. I'll never ask my driver to go flat out because we want to finish."

Q. Your team has received much of the pre-race media attention not just because you were quickest in test-day, but because you managed sign World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb. What did you think of his performance during the Test Day, bearing in mind he flew to the circuit just hours after crossing the finish line at the Rally of Turkey?

Pescarolo: "Honestly, I have been so impressed with him. He came to Le Mans from a difficult day on the Rally of Turkey and just got in the car. He completed two laps on rain tyres before I brought him in again for dry tyres.

"He was then able to run with laps of 3m 47s and 3m 45s, which was staggering for someone who had never been to the place before. He had never even been round it on a bicycle.

"I'm sure that given a few laps in qualifying he will be just as fast as any other driver in my team and be at their level. He has the ability to win this race and be part of the winning team."

Q. If you do prove to have your Test Day pace in the race itself, will you impose team orders?

Pescarolo: "I'll decide after qualifying if I want to dictate a different pace of the two cars. We'll have to see how fast they both go. I want to be sure of the positions of our rivals before I decide how fast we go."

Q. You have won Le Mans four times as a driver with Matra (1972, 1973, 1974) and Porsche (1984). Is this your best chance to win Le Mans as a team owner?

Pescarolo: "I don't know if it will get better than this but it is certainly my best chance so far. Since I started the team in 2000 I always just wanted to be first behind the Audis or first behind the Bentley. I have not been fighting for the overall lead until this year. We have a car that is fast enough to be ahead of everybody, but nobody knows if we will win yet.

"This doesn't bring any extra pressure on the team technically, but there will be pressure from those just waiting for us to win the race. We know our set up and what we are doing.

"Since I created the team in 2000 I have taken so many financial risks and others in the same position would have disappeared. But I have made reasonable and clever decisions and I just hope we can win this year."

Q. The Audis are slower than they used to be with restrictions on the air intake and extra weight. Won't people say that the Audis should have been quicker? Are these regulations fair?

Pescarolo: "Yes, of course they are fair. I don't understand anybody who thinks otherwise. No one has suddenly changed the regulations. We're not talking about regulations brought in ten days ago whatever, these were announced 18 months ago."

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