American motor racing driver and equestrian rider Liz Halliday talks about her feelings in the run-up to her second time at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans.
What do you remember most about your debut at Le Mans last year?
It was amazing -- really the most spectacular event I have ever been a part of. I remember the feeling when I took to the track for the first time and thinking, 'Wow, I'm actually here!' Also, the fans were incredible -- it was totally unbelievable to be around the hundreds of thousands of people who come to watch the race. I really can't wait to take part again!
You led the LMP2 class for quite some time before a mechanical failure caused the car's retirement. How do you think this year be different, for you and the team?
I think that we were a strong team last year, but since then we've had more time to get to know the car. AER has also done more work on the engine reliability as well, so in theory, we should be even better prepared this time. Last year's Le Mans was also my first race in this car. Since then, I have had lots more races and success with the team and the car. We have a great driver line-up and team, and hopefully we will be on the podium at the end.
You and Intersport go to Le Mans off the back of three straight American Le Mans Series podium finishes. How important is that momentum?
It's great to go into a big race like Le Mans knowing that you have had a strong start to the year. The win at Sebring is especially important because the car ran almost flawlessly for the twelve hours -- that's a big boost for the team.
What's the most difficult thing for a driver preparing for Le Mans?
I think the mental and physical preparation is difficult. Because you are sometimes doing three or four-hour stints at Le Mans, you need to have a lot of endurance fitness, as well as neck and upper body strength. The other big factor at Le Mans is mental fitness. It's the biggest endurance race in the world and there is a lot of pressure on the drivers to perform well and get to the finish. If you're well rested and prepared, you can put everything into the race.
What will you be doing when you arrive in France?
When I arrive, there is a day of scrutineering, which is always busy, but around that you want to have as much time as possible to relax and settle in before the driving starts on Wednesday evening.
If you are to win Le Mans, what factors come into play?
Most importantly, you need reliability from the car and the drivers. We need to be quick and consistent without taking too many risks. Also, a good race strategy from the team must be in place, to keep the car running in the best condition. It's a team effort, and the main goal has to be to finish.
What LMP2 cars will be your main competitors?
I think our main competitors will be the RML car, which won last year and the Belmondo cars, as they tend to be very reliable. There are many more competitors this year that we need to be wary of, such as Synergy, Rollcentre and Binnie Motorsports.