The press conference took place shortly after the end of the final part of qualifying early on Friday morning and pole position winner Johnny Herbert answered a series of questions from the media about the qualifying session and Le Mans in ...
The press conference took place shortly after the end of the final part of qualifying early on Friday morning and pole position winner Johnny Herbert answered a series of questions from the media about the qualifying session and Le Mans in general.
Johnny Herbert: We mainly wanted to do qualifying in the first session, which we did achieve. Unfortunately Allan [McNish] had a problem and he had to change his engine, but we knew normally it is the quickest time to do a lap.
I did see that Tom Kristensen was first in line so I knew that Tom would be trying to go for a quick lap and I knew I could go quicker, so we just decided it's one lap and when that lap is finished is it yes, no, quicker or slower and then we'd get on with the race programme that we have to do.
I did one lap and it was fastest so it was good because it made that gap a little bit bigger for everyone else. I was happy with the lap I did.
Q: Is there any comparison between the Bentley and the Audi?
JH: It's not such a big difference. If I actually say the Bentley or the Audi which one I prefer, I would say the Bentley because the balance of the Bentley was very very good.
The rear end of the Audi is always very very stable and where the Audi always gains a lot of time is 1) under braking and 2) it's very very fast in the Porsche Curves and today, with the Michelin qualifying tyres and the balance we had in the car, it was fantastic to drive and it was very exhilarating to be able to drive a car through the fast, especially the Porsche, curves which are my favourite part of the track.
JH: I don't think so because, especially the past two years, there hasn't been a need to change the gearbox at all so I think, with the experience that Audi have got and the reliability that everybody knows that the Audi has, I don't really see it will be a problem.
If it does happen then it will be the same for us and it will be the same for the rest of the teams, so I think that the reliability we have is not going to cause us to change the gearbox anyway.
Q: Will there be any team orders for the race?
JH: Yes, the #88 to win! No there are no team orders. Since we started in Sebring in Florida, and obviously doing the European race in Monza and the qualifying, it has been open for both cars to go as quick as they possibly can.
For the race it is going to be a big battle with Allan, Pierre [Kaffer] and Frank [Biela], but while I think we have the other Audis we have to see how competitive and how long the Zytek car lasts, the Pescarolo car has gone very well as well, so we have some cars that could make it very difficult for us, so it's going to be a long 24 hours, probably a longer 24 hours than normal, but I'm going to enjoy it.
JH: Yes, especially yesterday. Yesterday the circuit seemed to be very dirty and the grip level was very low. The car had a lot of understeer and also it had a very nervous rear end. Today it was much much better. You can see by the lap times they are much quicker.
On race trim there is more understeer and the rear end is a little bit loose but it's not too bad. With qualifying tyres it normally masks all those problems and, fortunately for me, I've been using the qualifying tyre for most of the running here, but when I have gone into the race tyre there is a balance change for sure, but it's not really that much different to what I have experienced before with an Audi probably back in 2002.
I think one thing you normally notice if you have a big problem is that the lap times deteriorate through the run and from what we've seen this evening that doesn't seem to be a problem. So with the balance of the car and the way the circuit has improved, and will keep on improving obviously during the race, it is not going to cause problems for the tyres.
JH: I'll do as I'm told! It will be three of four but again we're going to have to see in the first stint how the tyres react. That's what Michelin do . they do the safety to check the tyre is okay and then they decide what you're allowed to do anyway. But I do see there will possibly be some long stints.
Q: It is your first pole in Le Mans. Does it mean anything special for you?
JH: No. (laughter). It is very special. It has taken me fourteen years to get here to the press office because unfortunately back in 1991 I never made it so it's great to be here, that's for one thing. It is very very special. Le Mans has been so special for so long now and to be one of the drivers that has been able to get pole position is very special to me.
In the past I probably haven't really focussed on the pole position, I've always focussed on the race . it has been the most important part and the best thing is to win the race . but I have focussed very much on trying to get the pole position this year and I'm glad I've been able to achieve that and it's been a very nice battle with Allan as well which has been nice added to that.
Now the qualifying is over. That is for the boys. Now you have to go for the 24 hours and that is for the men. Now we can get on with the race.