PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING'S DAVID BRABHAM Q&A DANBURY, CT, FRIDAY, 19 JUNE, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing's David Brabham scored his first ever 24 Hours of Le Mans overall victory in France last weekend while on loan to the factory ...
PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING'S DAVID BRABHAM Q&A
DANBURY, CT, FRIDAY, 19 JUNE, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing's David Brabham scored his first ever 24 Hours of Le Mans overall victory in France last weekend while on loan to the factory Peugeot squad.
After an amazing week full of congratulations and well wishes, the Australian star looks back at the Le Mans achievement and looks forward to his next outing aboard the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a at Lime Rock Park on July 18.
Q: Would this victory at Le Mans rank as one of your highest career achievements?
A: "It was an amazing weekend. You work your whole life to win one of these big races and to finally stand on the top step of the podium as the overall winner was an incredible feeling. I'm still finding it hard to believe that it actually happened."
Q: For the French manufacturer, Peugeot, how much effort was placed on the Le Mans program?
A: "Since I first got involved in the program back in January the amount of testing that I have done is just incredible. I've personally done three 30-hour tests and I actually didn't do all of them that the team undertook. The amount of effort that Peugeot put in this year really was amazing.
"I knew when I did the deal this year I thought I would have a great shot at this race because it was the third year of the program and Audi were starting with a brand new car.
"Driving with Marc Gene and Alex Wurz was great. We worked so well together, stuck to our game plan, looked after the car and really weren't worried whether we were fast or not.
"We ended up with an absolutely perfect race. We had nothing go wrong at all throughout the 24 hours and we were in the right position at the end. It was a great job by everyone."
Q: Were there any moments during the race where you thought you might not be able to take the win?
A: "We were obviously in good shape after we took the lead after around six hours but the way things were going towards the end of the race it was looking more likely that we might not have been able to pull it off because the #8 Peugeot was running very fast and they could do 13 laps on a tank of fuel, but we could only do 12 which makes a big difference.
"We were going to have to do an extra stop towards the end of the race and if that had happened, we probably would have ended up in second place.
"With about an hour to go there was a safety car period and the #8 was caught behind the other safety car which was around the other end of the circuit. The track is so large you actually have two safety cars on track.
"That put a big enough gap between us and both of us were able to make a stop without loosing any ground.
"When the safety car came out, I then started to feel we could take the win - it was still way up in the air before then."
Q: Where does this victory fit in amongst your career achievements?
A: "I have certainly had a great run over the past few years at Le Mans and I would love that to continue. From 2005 to now I've had a 3rd, a 4th, two class wins then and an overall win at Le Mans which is an incredible run.
"It was really interesting in the previous two years with Aston Martin in the GT1 class racing against Corvette. We managed to win the race and head to the podium and I always wondered 'what is it like to win this thing overall'. I wondered whether I would ever experience that and what it would be like.
"Now when I won it overall this year, I got up on the podium and it was exactly the same - the experience, the emotion - it wasn't any extra feeling of success just because I had won overall.
"When you are racing in your class you are doing the best you can and racing as hard as you can against the opposition - previously it was Aston Martin vs Corvette, now it was Peugeot vs Audi.
"It was a really strange experience because it really didn't matter whether it was the class win or the overall win - that's something that I really found very interesting."
Q: What was the reaction like from your family, friends and colleagues?
A: "I've had a lot of support over the past few years with the Le Mans victories with Aston Martin but it wasn't until I got home from France that I realised what this overall win was all about.
"It really has been overwhelming. I came home to more than 300 emails and 100 text messages, it really was incredible.
"I've never seen anything like it. The overall victory is the one that really hits home for everyone else.
"Somebody asked me what it was like to take the win - it was a great experience - but what actually means more to me was the response I have got from everyone I know. That means more to me than actually winning the race."
Q: Your brother Geoff won for Peugeot at Le Mans 16 years ago and your Dad, Sir Jack is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first Formula 1 World Championship - does it feel like everything is just coming together for you in 2009?
A: "It looks like the stars and the moon are all in align for me this year. Celebrating Dad's 50th anniversary is incredible and I was also able to get the opportunity to drive his Formula 1 World Championship winning Cooper Climax car at the Twelve Hours of Sebring earlier this year.
"For our family it really is a very big year and to top that off with a win at Le Mans for the same manufacturer that Geoff had his win - you just think 'how can this get any better' - it really is unbelievable."
Q: Now with Le Mans completed, how much would an overall championship victory in the American Le Mans Series for Patron Highcroft Racing cap off the year?
A: "I have to say a very big thank you to Duncan Dayton, Patron Highcroft Racing, HPD and Acura - they had to give the blessing for me to be able to do Le Mans with another manufacturer.
"But Le Mans is history now - now I have to head back to the US and set my sights on maintaining our championship lead with my team mate Scott Sharp and the Patron Highcroft Racing guys.
"I'm already preparing for Lime Rock. The Peugeot overalls come off, the Patron Highcroft Racing overalls go back on and we will be out to defend our victory at Lime Rock from last year.
"We have a championship to win and Scott and I are definitely up for the job ahead."
Q: There is a lot of focus on young guys today in all forms of motorsport, how do you maintain your competitiveness at the age of 43?
A: "The fact that you have these 19 and 20 year olds snapping at your heels really makes you dig deep and you have to perform.
"Over the past five or six years I took a good look at myself and said 'you have to perform, you have to get better'. When you say something like that it leads you down the path to saying 'lets lift our game, let's take it to another level.'
"It is a very big part of the reason I have had this success because I have improved and I have got better and the results are starting to show that."
Q: How important a role does the team play in your success?
A: "That is absolutely paramount. You can't do it without great teams. I know I have been driving well in the past year or so but when you look at all the races in 2008, you couldn't have written the script better.
"Everyone at Patron Highcroft Racing performed at such a high level and you had to because we were racing against some of the best in Penske, Porsche and Audi. They are the best at what they do..
"For a young team like Patron Highcroft Racing it was unbelievable to challenge them and beat them."