Marc Gene is one of the lynchpins of Peugeot's Le Mans program and has been heavily involved in the test program with the latest 908, which was launched in Paris yesterday. Gene spoke to him both about the new car and the massive accident he had in it last winter.
Q. What were your initial feelings on driving the second-generation 908 HDi for the first time last year?
Marc Gene: A bit more noise and a bit more vibration, which is natural with a V8. Then you feel you have less power and less drag. Now I realize that the V12 was such a beautiful engine. You feel the lack of power, and that's a shame because drivers always want more. The car is slower, but I was expecting worse given the amount of power we have lost.
Q. How much testing have you done so far?
MG: I was first to drive the new car on a proper track after the shakedown in July. I drove at Barcelona in August and did three tests in 2010.
Q. Are you happy with progress so far?
MG: We are happy with what we are doing, especially in terms of reliability. Of course, we don't know what our rivals are doing. We don't know how quick they are going to be, so we can't say if we are ahead or behind the others.
Q. The others? Are you including Aston Martin as well as Audi in that?
MG: The Automobile Club de l'Quest seems very firm on the equivalence; they want to make sure there is no performance difference between the turbodiesels and the gasoline cars. Aston should, in theory, be a contender. Reliability-wise we don't known about them. They are doing a new car and we know they don't test as much as Audi and ourselves.
Q. Can you talk about your crash in the new 908 at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain last year?
MG: I'm not sure how much I am allowed to say, but I can tell you I am lucky to be here! It was the biggest accident I have ever had in my career. There was a failure, the car went sideways and the car went up in the air. I spent a couple of nights in the hospital and I wasn't right for a month. It took me a while to get back to fitness.
Q. Did you feel the effect of the new shark fin that's been designed to keep these cars on the road?
MG: This was a really high-speed accident at more than 300kph [nearly 200mph]. The fin helped. It seemed the car went up slower than in the accident I had at Le Mans three years ago, and then came down much faster, so it did work. But there is more to be done, I believe.