Unfinished business for a racing legend

Say the words 'Le Mans' to any motorsport fan and the ears will definitely prick up. Add to that phrase the name 'Mario Andretti' and the pricking up of ears will turn into shivers down the spine

Unfinished business for a racing legend

This racing legend needs no introduction for he is exactly that, a legend, and this elevated status has been achieved on both sides of the Atlantic. The former Formula 1 and Indycar Champion has only competed in three races since quitting Champ Cars in 1994: all three have been at Le Mans. However, Andretti has been away from the Circuit de La Sarthe for the last two years, so why the sabbatical and what tempted him back again?

"I was presented with a better opportunity than I had the last two years," he explains. "The team was very appealing to me. After '97 I decided I was going to assess the situation every time and if on paper there was a chance of doing well and winning and I felt proper physically and mentally, then I would do it."

Clearly, being presented with a competitive package was of importance when making the decision to race this year - Mario is certainly not here to make up the numbers. The history, the atmosphere and the sheer length of the race all play a part in attracting drivers to Le Mans.

"It's a great, classic event," he enthuses. "Le Mans is Le Mans. It's the greatest sportscar race in the world and I love to be part of it."

The race is so great and difficult to conquer, in fact, that it is the only major event on the world motorsport calendar that is missing from the Andretti Sr CV. The hallowed triple crown of winning the Formula 1 World Championship, the Indy 500 and Le Mans has only been achieved by the late Graham Hill. Mario is only a Le Mans victory away from emulating this, the importance of which cannot be overlooked. So important in fact, that were he to achieve it, Mario would be celebrating until Christmas.

"To win all three would be absolutely wonderful," he smiles. "It would be a great Christmas present."

Whether the early Christmas present arrives or not, all will be revealed come 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon.

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