Timo Bernhard and his regular teammate Romain Dumas have spent the last few years racing against Audi in the American Le Mans Series. But for this weekend, the works Porsche drivers have been loaned out to Audi to join Alexandre Premat in the No. 3 R15 TDi for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Bernhard talked to AUTOSPORT about settling in to his new team, getting up to speed in the diesel-powered LMP1 car and his expectations for the race tomorrow.Q. It must be quite an experience coming here with Audi and having the opportunity to win Le Mans?Timo Bernhard:
When I found out that there was a possibility for me to drive for Audi at Le Mans I was quite thrilled, it's a great opportunity. Also because they respect what I have achieved in the past, it's a very good feeling.Q. Both you and Romain [Dumas] come with a big reputation from the ALMS. Do you wish you'd had more time to get used to the car or do you feel ready to go for the win?TB:
The others have a lot more experience with the diesel and we all know who is the benchmark with the car from the last years. We all know Allan, Tom and Dindo are the guys to beat if we want to be the best Audi and if we want to win.
For me, it's not so much the goal to beat everybody here, it's more that I really want to do the best job that I can do for this race, to do the best job for Audi, and maybe at the end we have a chance or can be on the podium.
I haven't been to Le Mans in four years, I've won in the GT class, it's my fourth Le Mans but I haven't been here for four years and it's quite a new challenge. I have some of the least amount of experience at Le Mans in an LMP car of the guys in the LMP1 class, so it's quite a big challenge for me but I already have felt very close and very connected so I'm quite happy.Q. What are your observations of the car, being used to a lightweight LMP2 car?TB:
Here the impression is just, I was in the rain when I went out. The first lap I was on slicks but it was already starting to rain and it was so quick on the straights. The first time I said 'wow, what are you doing here?' but then in the second and third laps I started to feel really at home and good with the car.
Although it's very quick on the straights and in the corners, it doesn't give you the impression that you will shortly leave the track or spin or something. You feel quite ok. At the end I rather felt the speed difference when you close the gap to the GT cars, you really feel how quick you are. But it is a very nice feeling. By the end of a stint in the wet conditions I felt very good.Q. Is it a very different driving style from the LMP2 petrol-powered Porsche?TB:
For sure. For me really it's not the transfer so much from LMP2 to LMP1, it's the transfer from a petrol car to a diesel car. The petrol car I drove a lot on sound as well as from the feeling. Now you only have what you feel from the car, you can't go from the sound any more. Above a certain speed you don't hear the engine any more. On one side it's a nice thing because it's more calm in the car, but after a while you get used to it.Q. How much did it hurt you to have such little dry running in practice?TB:
We needed to compress everything since there is no pre-test any more. It's just a pity because it could have helped me but I drove already under the worst conditions what-so-ever, going out on the slicks in the wet and then running on full wets in the night. So I already feel quite practised so I'm happy, but it was important to get running in the dry as well to get a feel for the slicks.
On the intermediate tyre it was raining and stopping and I said 'ok, get me out' because these are the situations that you might happen to have on Sunday morning with the circuit changing, so I would like to see how it is when one part of the circuit is dry and another part is completely wet.Q. What were your impressions from running closely with a Peugeot during practice?TB:
When a Peugeot was behind me, some places he came close and other places I went away. I felt he was very aggressive under braking but all the time on acceleration I went away so at the end it was nearly the same. But already I have had a taste for what happens.