Ten years ago Jan Lammers scored a stirring victory for Jaguar at Le Sarthe. A Decade later he’s looking for glory with Nissan but, as he explains, the oppositions is as tough as it has ever been
Does it feel like 10 years since that win for Jaguar? No, it feels much longer because so much has happened in that time! What you don’t realise is that you win the race, and so quickly it’s just a memory. You really have to enjoy the moment, or you end up just talking about it in the pub.
It’s going to be a great Le Mans this year. There’s been a bit of a dip for the last few years, a bit of an identity crisis I guess, but it’s coming alive again. The depth is much greater, and it’s going to be very, very tough.
This year I’m driving for Nissan, which means I’m back with TWR for the first time since the Jaguar days. It’s an even better organisation than it was, but there are still lots of familiar faces, which is very nice. The first mechanic on my car in ’88 is now team manager.
This must be Nissan’s most serious attempt to date. I’m very, very pleased with the progress we’ve made. Whether there are going to be cars out there which are quicker over a lap, or even in the early stages of the race, that we still need to see. We are not going to be slow, for sure, and I think our main potential should be in the last half of the race, or even the last quarter of the race.
The car is really a delight to drive, and in testing we’ve been running round and round without any problems. But while you can be confident of the team doing the best they can, there are also so many little things that can go wrong, and they can be from outside causes or whatever. You just have to give it all you’ve got from both a team point of view and a personal point of view, and not really expect anything. What I have learned over the years at Le Mans is that luck is such an incredible factor. You have to believe in luck, and I do.
I’m sure if you look at it from our competitors’ point of view they must be taking us very seriously, because we will be fairly strong. But there is some very tough opposition out there. A lot has been said about Toyota’s new GT. If you slip the terminology of ‘road car’ in there, that really wouldn’t have much to do with it! But it’s not my job to argue the rules; if they let them in they let them in, and we have to compete with them. It’s not something I’m focussed on at all.
The whole set-up at Toyota, with Martin Brundle being heavily involved, is something you should never underestimate. But another thing I don’t underestimate is the difficulty of producing a reliable car. It is very difficult in the timescale they have been working to. TWR knows what it takes, and yet you saw last year with the Nissan thing when all the cars retired how hard it was to get it all done in such a short time.
For Porsche it’s also an enormous task to get reliability in a short time with their new GT1. Porsche are almost the inventors of the concept of 24-hour racing and reliability, and they are always a major factor. But they haven’t had a lot of time with that new car. And the same goes for Mercedes, and also for the new BMW prototype built by Williams.
As a consequence I hope that we are a little bit further on with reliability; we’ve had more time and done more work, as much as you can reasonably expect. Of course, one car which should also be strong in that area is the Porsche prototype which has won for the past two years.
From experience I know that you can’t really judge anyone’s competitiveness until 10 o’clock on Sunday morning, because only then do you have a good idea as to who is running well. Then all the brake disc changes would have taken place and so on. Those are the little things that can go wrong.