Le Mans countdown: Mark Blundell

Having lost his PacWest CART drive, Mark Blundell has just one race on his programme this year, and that's Le Mans. He's reuniting with Lola to head MG's unproven, but very promising effort in the LMP675 class. A past winner with Peugeot, and a former lap record holder, Blundell has always been a big fan of the Vingt Quatre Heures. He's keeping himself busy with his new role as a Formula 1 pundit for ITV, but he's still hoping to return to a full-time drive next year. Adam Cooper spoke to the Englishman

Le Mans countdown: Mark Blundell



"I've wanted to do Le Mans for the last several years, but I've been in America and haven't had the opportunity to do it. This came up, and I'm very happy to be there with MG. It's a good programme, and I'm very proud to be there with a British manufacturer, which is an added incentive. But it's young as well - it's only six months since they gave the green light. We're all aware of that, we're all being realistic, but we still hope that potentially there's a good future for the programme. And definitely this year we're going to surprise a few people with our pace."



"It was a little bit troublesome, but in some ways that was to be expected. We've tested since then several times, and the thing was very, very fast and reliable. They're making good progress. As I say it is still short term, but in terms of what's been achieved so far, they've done a tremendous job."



"The car is very good, and chassis-wise it's very, very good indeed. Lola have done a great job, and they've got plenty of years of sportscar experience. And mated with the engine that Rover and MG have commissioned, it's a good package all round. I think that class of car, the 675, is going to be the future of sportscars. It's big enough to look the part and small enough to chuck around a bit. And definitely a lot of fun to drive."



"I think if it's reliable the number one aim is to finish the race, but again realistically we've got longer-term objectives, and we might not be able to meet those straight away in race one in year one, after only a few months of putting the programme together."



"It's not impossible to go back to, by any means. Circumstances beyond my control, in terms of timing, meant that I couldn't retain anything for this year. The basis of that was that I came to an amicable settlement with PacWest that took several months to get done, and in the mean time I was a little bit restrained in terms of doing anything else. There are a lot of things going on, there are a number of people talking to me about various different things. There are people talking to me from the CART side of things, the IRL, sportscars. The TV deal is still around. And there's even someone in the F1 pitlane talking to me about being involved in the team infrastructure at quite a big level. That's probably a little bit premature for me, because I still think I've got some more work to do on the race track."



"I think actually the IRL side of things is appealing more and more to people. They seem to have more of a stable package to work with. The difference between CART and IRL is getting smaller and smaller every year, and the jewel in the crown, the Indianapolis 500, is starting to get its credibility back. The grid is starting to fill up with people who have the weight behind them to make it the big race it used to be."



"I'm enjoying it. A few years back everyone asked me the question what would you like to do after driving, and TV was definitely something that interested me. It's being on the other side of the fence, but not outside the garden, so to speak. You're still in the scene, it's still part of your life, and it's very enjoyable. ITV do a great job, and they've got a great group of people."



"Ten is the general number that we put together. It was a good number for me to kick off with, also Le Mans was in there, so you need to focus on that at a given point, It gives me a little bit of time to keep track of what else is going on."



"I really don't know. Primarily it just depends what's on the racing front. One thing that won't appeal is just going racing for the sake of going racing. I just don't want to do that."



"Yes, otherwise, what's the point. There comes a time where you get to a certain situation and you have to say that if it's potentially good enough to go and get the results, then it's exciting, it's a challenge. But if it's not, why make the numbers up?"

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