A legendary name returns to Le Mans this year as the son of Michael Andretti and grandson of Mario makes his debut in the 24 Hours. Marco spoke about the challenge od sports car racing and the significance of one of the few major trophies missing from the family shelf.
Q. Obviously, this is a very important race to your family. What are your feelings about it?
Marco Andretti: I'm excited. I've never enjoyed myself so much in a racecar. You have the traffic, you're always busy, and the track is phenomenal. The fans who come here really make this event what it is.
I really want my father and grandfather to drive a modern prototype. We were testing at Paul Ricard and on the lunch break I saw my grandfather walking by with his race suit on. I thought, 'Where are you going?' I know they'd enjoy the power and grip of a prototype. It's like a Formula 1 car in most aspects except the power, but the grip is there. You can carry so much speed into the corners because you have the downforce. It's an awesome event.
Q. What have been the main challenges in moving between an IndyCar and a closed-cockpit car?
MA: The vantage point is very different in a coupe. Other than that, a racecar is still a racecar at the end of the day. It's got more downforce than an IndyCar and carbon brakes, so the cornering and braking is much better, but it's got less power. Top speed in an IndyCar is 240mph, so some way quicker than these but, like I said, a racecar is a racecar. It's still fun.
Q. The discipline of sports car racing is very different, in that instead of working as an individual you have to co-operate with two other drivers. How is that working for you?
MA: So far it's like we're one driver -- we all have a similar mentality and we all keep up with one another so that makes it very easy to work together. I think we're in for a very good race if we're trouble-free, we'll just push the whole time. It's been enjoyable so far - they're two great shoes and I'm honored to work with them.
Q. How much running in the wet have you had in the Lola-Rebellion?
MA: Not in this car, but I've driven an LMP2 car in the wet. The good thing is the downforce, so you have the grip. You just learn the track and find out where the puddles are, basically. That'll take a couple of laps, but I think if you give up a second or two just to learn it, that's better than putting it in the fence. In the wet, it's more about the track than the car.
Q. In practice and qualifying you've had a few problems with the car. How close are they to being resolved?
MA: I'd love to say they're resolved, but you know how that goes. I'm hoping that we got it all out of the way in practice. We had some trouble with the gearbox and the suspension. Lola did a great job fixing it so we have to keep our fingers crossed, be as easy as we can on the equipment and go from there.
Q. There's been some speculation that the suspension damage may have been carried over from a previous event. Was that the case, or was it a manufacturing issue?
MA: I don't think it was damaged. A certain piece broke, and then when they refabricated it, making the area that had broken stronger, it broke in a different place. That seems to be what happened.
Q. What are your tactics for the race? Are you going to press hard or hang back and see what happens ahead?
MA: It's better to give up a second or two rather than get in a wreck. You have to look at it as risk versus reward -- that comes into play big time at a race like this.