Team Goh looking to repeat success

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Team Goh looking to repeat success

Team Goh has been to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, seen it and conquered it, with an overall victory in 2001 with an Audi R8. This time the team will be aiming for a class victory in a Porsche RS Spyder rather than an overall one, but again they look...

Team Goh has been to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, seen it and conquered it, with an overall victory in 2001 with an Audi R8. This time the team will be aiming for a class victory in a Porsche RS Spyder rather than an overall one, but again they look to be well-positioned for a fight to the top.

Keisuke Kunimoto, Seiji Ara and Sascha Maassen.
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt.

Seiji Ara, who partnered Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello in that 2004 victory, is joined this time by rising star Keisuke Kunimoto and experienced Porsche works driver Sascha Maassen. While Team Goh has signed up for the Asian Le Mans series, the events are in the second half of the year, making this the first race for the team.

"It's my first time in the RS Spyder, but we have tested three times, and we have a good feel for the car," said Ara. "We learned many things and tried many settings, Now I want to drive! I worry about this (rainy) weather, though!"

The team did a test day in Japan before packing for the trip to Le Mans, and then a further two days of testing at Paul Ricard, to give Ara and Kunimoto a feel for the car.

Kunimoto has primarily raced open-wheel cars to date, finishing second in last year's Japanese F3 championship, and winning the Macau F3 classic. He did race in the Japanese Super GT championship in 2008, though, winning the GT300 class in the Fuji round of the championship.

"This is my first experience in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and it's very exciting to be racing here," he said. "I'm not nervous, though, because things have been working well, and my teammates, Ara-san and Sascha, are experienced and have taught me many things."

Seiji Ara and team principal Kazumichi Goh after the 2004 victory.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.

Ara has a much stronger background of sportscar racing, including extensive experience in Japanese GT and that famous 2004 Le Mans victory, where the team hung on against heavy pressure from Johnny Herbert in the Audi UK R8.

"It's my first time racing the RS Spyder, but we have tested three times, and we have a good feel for the car," Ara related his thoughts. "The RS Spyder is much stiffer and needs more aggressive driving style, it feels like driving a sprint race. The Audi is a more comfortable drive. The cars look similar but they feel very different!"

With a new car and young rookie driver, then, the key to the team's success must be held by Sascha Maassen. A Porsche factory driver since 2000, he has four Le Mans 24H races under his belt, including class victories in 2003 and 2004. And a Macau F3 victory, fourteen years before Kunimoto!

Equally important, Maassen has extensive experience with the RS Spyder: he was one of the original development drivers in 2005, and then raced the car for the next three years for Penske Racing, winning the 2006 American Le Mans Series P2 championship with Lucas Luhr.

"Kunimoto is a very, very quick driver, but he's lacking the experience, and we need to work with him because he doesn't know the track," Maassen explained. "And of course we want him to learn the most without making the same mistakes we made. There is no time for mistakes, so we really have to try to give him all the information that's necessary and important. "

"The car setup is not an issue," he continued. "It's just that you have to learn how to do a race. I would have liked to do one race prior to Le Mans. We don't need any more testing, but a test race would have been good. It just didn't fit into our schedule.

"Now, I don't want to go testing, I want to go racing!"

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