Le Mans, France (June 9, 2015)...The No. 40 Krohn Racing Ligier JSP2 Judd team set their priorities on preparedness for this week's 83rd Annual 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 13-14, 2015. After a worthwhile Le Mans Test day late last month, the Krohn Racing crew has spent the time in between the sessions to get their fan-favorite green-and-blue liveried Ligier-Judd race ready.
American team owner/driver Tracy W. Krohn and longtime teammate Nic Jonsson will make their tenth start in the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans, breaking a record held by Audi stalwarts Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capelli. The duo have been on the podium together at Le Mans three times including a single second-place finish (2007) and two third-place finishes (2009, 2012).
João Barbosa, who joins Krohn Racing for the first time, will be making his eighth start in the endurance classic. His best finish was third in LMP2 class in 2011 with Level 5 Motorsports in a Lola B08/80 Honda coupe. His best overall finish was fourth place in LMP1 with Rollcentre Racing in a Pescarolo 01 Judd.
TRACY W. KROHN, Krohn Racing Team Owner/Driver:
What are your thoughts on Joao Barbosa being the third driver for the race?
"I think we're very fortunate to have him. We've raced against him several times and he's always raced clean. He's a very mature, experienced and successful driver and doesn't have anything that he needs to prove. We look for guys that don't have big egos that need to be satisfied. We look for guys who have a lot of experience and we found that this is a better way to do our plan and we think that he fits the bill very well."
You always enjoy competing at Le Mans. This will be the 10th time you and Nic have been co-drivers at this amazing event. Why does the pairing work?
"Again, similar scenario, I get to drive with a very accomplished driver who doesn't have anything to prove. He's still very, very quick, and an excellent coach and mentor. I continue to learn from him and I'm surprised every race I learn something new or something that needs to be changed. This year will be no different. We get along very well. We think a lot alike and we feel the car a lot alike so why change something that works."
In those past 10 outings, and on your own as a small privateer team, you have seen the thrills of three podium finishes and experienced the heartbreak of failing to finish the Le Mans 24 Hours. What makes this race so challenging and so rewarding at the same time?
"I think anytime you come here, you have to adopt the mindset that finishing is really tremendous. Despite of the fact that equipment has gotten so good, you have that human error thing and you have the variable weather conditions and things you don't get to control, like someone else making a mistake or something like that, but fortunately we think for the most part if we eliminate the equipment failures we're going to finish well. That's proven to be the case here at Le Mans. Every time we've had minimal equipment problems and minimal mistakes, we've been on the podium. It's just that simple. I don't see this year as any different. I think in order to be prepared here that you have to think long-term. For example, you don't have to go into the corner and save one second that lap that could cost you the race or half an hour in the pits or the variables that you get to control. I think patience is a real virtue here and obviously perseverance. I think that when it comes down to race day that you need to be physically fit and well rested and you need to be prepared for what you can't prepare for and understand there are some things that you haven't thought about ahead of time and you'll have to deal with it."
You are always trying to improve your driving, your team, anything that can be done to make it better. Early this week you and your co-drivers went to work on a Le Mans race simulator. How did that go?
"I believe anytime you can work with a new tool to gather improvement, you should at least examine it. I think the simulator we went to is a good simulator. I think it will be better once they get the data loaded in for our exact car. We didn't get to drive it with our exact set up so it was a little bit different and probably not adequate for what we need to do at this point. However, the idea is to get to the point where we can spend more time in the simulator, and hence save some effort, perhaps even with set up. That would be really good if we could go to the simulator and work on, not only the track and the car, but the set up for that particular car for that race."
NIC JONSSON, Krohn Racing Driver:
This is the 10th year for you and Tracy as teammates at Le Mans. You are about to break the record held by Dindo Capello and Alan McNish as the most years as co-drivers at Le Mans. How special is that for you?
"First of all, to be back at Le Mans for the tenth consecutive year is obviously fantastic and to have done it with Tracy every year here makes it very special obviously. We started out here ten years ago in a Porsche in GT Pro series and did that for a few years and have had some success here with three podiums - second and third. The goal is obviously to reach that top step of the podium here this week. To have the opportunity and come back and see this spectacle and be a part of this big spectacle every year is a blessing and doing it with Krohn Racing makes it even that much more exceptional. We know exactly what the deal is when we come here. It's a full week, but you pace yourself much better now. The first few years it's was all hyper and stuff because you really didn't know what to do because it's such a big thing, but now you know what to do and I think you can prepare yourself much better now. Again, to have the same co-driver, at least one every year, makes that process much easier. Hopefully, we can reach that top step of the podium here as the ten year anniversary and if not, I guess we'll have to keep coming back here until we do that."
How did Test Day go and how do you feel about the level of competition in LMP2 class for the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
"I think the test day was ok. We came to get some data points and to get an understanding for like fuel consumption and gear ratios and stuff like that. Unfortunately, most of the test was wet so we really didn't get a lot of set-up work done, but as it turns out it may be wet again for race weekend so maybe it's not too bad after all. The competition is going to be tough. It's the single biggest class this year, LMP2 and it's very stiff competition. Now that they have combined ELMS and WEC cars obviously here for this weekend, you know it's the best of the best in LMP2 in the world today and it's great to be a part of that and hopefully the Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 car with the Judd engine in it and Michelin tires can be a contender and be running up front all weekend."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans has been called the ultimate test of man and machine. Talk about the ways the race tests both man and machine.
"I think the race has turned more and more into a 24-hour sprint race because the equipment now these days has become so good and reliable. Knock on wood, it will be the same this year for us. But, I think it comes down to preparation, as well, for both machine and driver. Our Krohn Racing crew has always done a phenomenal job preparing cars for us. We have had just a stellar reliability here over the years on the things we can control, as a team, both with pit stops and preparation for staying out of the pits. As a driver, it's definitely the real test. It's not about just being in good shape. You also have to stay mentally very sharp and how you do that is to obviously have good people around, , know what to eat, have a physiotherapist that knows exactly what to do to prepare you in between your stints and get good sleep a week or weeks before to be ready for that task when the time comes because it's pretty grueling to be woken up at three o'clock in the morning to go out there and drive 200 mph for a couple of hours, and especially with the weather conditions constantly changing so abruptly. One part of the track can be wet and rainy and another part of the track can be completely dry, you never know. Every lap is different in those conditions so it's a very big test and it comes down to preparation for both team and driver and I think we have both good, prepared drivers and a phenomenal crew in Krohn Racing and I can't wait to get going and prove that out there."
JOÃO BARBOSA, Krohn Racing Driver:
You normally drive a Corvette Daytona Prototype with Action Express in IMSA. You’re driving a Ligier JS P2 Judd with Krohn Racing for the first time with no testing. How do you get quickly acclimated to a new car? 24 Hours of Le Mans and currently. What are the obstacles you will have to overcome and what are you going to like about this race car?
"It's definitely going to be quite a challenge. The cars are different concepts. Obviously, the Ligier has a lot more down force and it's a very different car. I've been talking with the engineers, with Nic and Hayden, and they've been giving me helpful tips. I've been here at Le Mans a few times already and all the times with Prototypes. So, even if it's a little different, it's not much of a change from what I'm use to driving here. I pretty confident I can feel comfortable pretty quickly and the main thing is going to be the weather and how it's going to be. It's seems pretty unpredictable, which doesn't help me at all, but we'll have plenty of time. Krohn Racing is a great team and everybody's been nice and welcoming here and I'm really looking forward to starting the race and driving the car for the first time. I think we'll have a great time."
As an athlete, how do you prepare for a grueling event like a 24-hour race?
"I get asked that a lot of times and I don't prepare specifically for one race because I think as a race car driver you have to continue with preparation all year. You cannot take a few months off then prepare for a specific race. I do train the whole year, as if I'm going to race every weekend. I do a lot of biking, running, I like swimming. My off weekends, I like to do triathlons in Florida, mainly. It's just an on-going process. You always have to be fit to drive these types of cars because they are very demanding, especially in a 24-hour race. I don't do specific training for a 24-hour race because I think, as a driver, you always have to be prepared. I have a full season going on in America with TUDOR Championship so I stay race ready with my training."
At Le Mans you have the challenge of night driving but also you often face driving in the rain. How do you keep focused and mentally alert at all times?
"I love driving at night at Le Mans. It's an amazing feeling and probably one of the best experiences as a race car driver. Driving here at night, because it's such a long track, sometimes it feels like you are by yourself on the race track and it's just for you. It's a great feeling. The rain, I've had some experience driving here in the rain, and it's probably not the best place to be driving in the rain because of the high speeds here and also because it's a street course, and on some of the parts so it's pretty slippery and very unpredictable. It's a very long track so it might be raining in one part and might not be so bad in another. So, you always have to keep your concentration at 100 percent and try to get the best read off the track so you don't get caught off guard"
HAYDEN BURVILL, Krohn Racing Engineer:
The LMP2 class this year has 19 cars entered and Krohn Racing is one of seven Ligiers. Talk about the impressive level of competition in this class.
"By having nineteen cars, this is by far the most competitive class to be racing in at Le Mans and it's always great to have the opportunity to have a depth of competition in any kind of race. The Ligier was proven last year to be very effective and the teams with the Ligiers have had the opportunity to do the most running with them. There are newer cars that seem to have a lot of potential, but not the running time, so they are an unknown quantity to race against at the moment. So, if the Ligier does have a disadvantage, I think we compensate that by running experience with the car that the newer teams don't have and with seven (Ligier)cars in the race, you'd expect some of them to end up with a decent result and hopefully we're one of the teams that ends with a decent result."
Talk about the driver pairing and adding Joao to the long-term partnership of Tracy and Nic and how you integrate a new driver.
"The beauty of the driver selection process at Krohn is that we're always looking at the best drivers that we can get our hands on to pair up with Nic and Tracy and Joao is no exception I've worked with him before at Brumos and Rick (Mayer) worked with him before in a P2 car at Level 5 so we have first-hand experience working with him as a driver and that helps us integrate him because we know his personality and know the language he's used and his level or sort of intensity in the car. We're all familiar with that. I think that makes it a lot easier to put a driver in. Last year, we had a driver in the 458 that I'd never met before and it's not that it was uncomfortable, but you felt like you were spending a lot of time establishing your relationship with the driver and that makes it tricky when you come to a race meeting and some of the decisions you have to make in the race are very much based on the personality of the driver and your experience with the driver and the relationship you have with the driver. We have that with Nic and Tracy by working with them so long and with Joao, we have that from previous experience and in practice we'll tune that up a bit and make sure that we all use the same language when we run this car, but in terms of integrating him, I expect that to be as short as it possibly could be because of his experience in P2 and because of our previous experience with him."
GARY HOLLAND, Krohn Racing Team Manager:
What has the team been doing for additional preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans between the Test and race week?
"Given the weather forecast to have potential rain for the race, it was invaluable that we were out and running for the whole duration of the test, although a lot of teams decided not to. We feel very comfortable in the wet and believe it does factor into our plans and have good confidence if it does, in fact, turn out to be wet. It's good for the drivers to get some P2 experience having only been here in GT cars before, so it's good to have the guys learn new braking zones and speed differences between all the cars, not only from GT to P2 cars, but from P2 to P1s. It's good for the guys to come and just enjoy to atmosphere that is Le Mans, you know and the test day is part of all that and it's good for the guys. From a team perspective, we did fly some guys home, to not give everyone cabin fever. We stayed in Le Mans and re-prepped the car to get ready for race week, which is a full overhaul, and we've managed to look into our spares and try to make everything as race ready as possible. I think we're much more prepared than last year, given our late notice in 2014, and we're raring to go"
How does the crew stay awake and on their toes for the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans race?
"I think endurance racing in general is very difficult. It's not like F1 where you've got short bursts of concentration. I think it's important for the guys to stay relaxed. It's an incredibly long day so it's important for them to stay hydrated, relaxed, and as well rested up until the start of the race because at a moment's notice we could be called in. If all goes well, we'll come in every 45 minutes or so and the guys will have to bump out pit stops for the 24. But, there's times when we're in the garage and everyone's got to stay tuned in, switched on, alert and awake for that and it's a difficult skill. Fortunately, we've got a lot of experience in endurance races here. I don't think it's anyone's first Le Man race. Everyone prepares in their own way, but I think the most important thing is to keep everyone as calm as possible in the build up and get rested in the week ahead."
Follow the race live on www.radiolemans.com. In the U.S., the FOX Sports broadcast schedule of the 24 Hours of Le Mans starts Saturday, June 13, from 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. (all times EDT) on FOX Sports 2, then from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 and 11:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on FOX Sports 2. Sunday, June 14 coverage continues from 3:30 a.m.-7:30 a.m. on FOX Sports 1, then from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on FOX Sports 2 and 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on FOX Sports 1. Coverage is also available on FOX Sports GO app, Saturday, June 13 at 8:30 a.m. to Sunday, June 14 at 9:30 a.m.
FOR FOLLOWING THE RACE VIA TWITTER -
To keep up to date with the overall classification of the race receive info on Twitter through Live Score. Followers tweet @24heuresdumans + #24LMlive, and in reply receive the general classification automatically. To find the position of a particular car all you have to do is give @24heuresdumans + #24LMlive its number. For example to follow the classification of the Krohn Racing team, with Krohn, Jonsson and Barbosa in the no. 40 Ligier-Judd: @24heuresdumans + #24LMlive40!
Follow the official French and English Twitter accounts @24heuresdumans and @24hoursoflemans for practice and the race live action.