THE OFFICIAL SPEEDCAR SERIES MAGAZINE - #3 - 2008, 2 ndAPRIL
Alesi / Alzen: locked in battle! Interview with Johnny Herbert
Best of... Mathias Lauda
ALESI-ALZEN: LOCKED IN BATTLE!
With the Speedcar Series inaugural season at the halfway stage Jean Alesi and Uwe Alzen have pulled out a lead over their rivals. They have each scored two victories, so the Frenchman and the German look odds-on title favourites. With just a week to go to the final round on the Dubai circuit, will one of the two drivers pull out a decisive advantage in Bahrain? While Uwe Alzen does not enjoy Only 5 points separate Alesi and Alzen but their scorecard is not the same. Jean set 1 pole and scored his 2 victories in the opening races at Sentul and Sepang, while Uwe took advantage of the inverted grids to rack up his successes. In terms of sheer performance, pride of place goes to the French driver with 201 F1 grand prix under his belt. But he remains the same reputation as Alesi, he is a redoubtable competitor who has honed his skills in over 15 seasons in the most prestigious touring car championships: ITC, DTM, Porsche Supercup etc. The Phoenix Racing Team did not take long to find out circumspect. “What’s obvious is that I want to win the Series. With the inverted grid rule for the second race you have to be very careful and calculating, and not get involved in any scraps to avoid accidents. A retirement could be a disaster, as you don’t open up much of a gap by winning a race. Caution is the watchword where I’m concerned!” Just a few lengths behind, 2 drivers are still in with a chance of obtaining a good final result. Johnny Herbert and David Terrien both scored their first podium finishes at Sepang. Obviously, as they are 13 and 15 points respectively behind Alesi it will be difficult to close the gap in 4 races, but an upset can never be ruled out if the leaders trip up. Mathias Lauda is also how Speedcar Series works. Alzen bearing the ACI colours is as quick as he is reliable, but he now has to beat Alesi fair and square if he wants to pull out a decisive advantage. The other drivers will have different aims because of their positions in the overall classification. Ananda Mikola, who was very quick on home turf in Indonesia, confirmed his pace in Malaysia. Stefan Johansson and Gianni Morbidelli, part of the squabbling midfield pack, have not yet managed to bag a lot of points. A close eye should also be kept on Hasher al Maktoum’s progress. He is the least experienced driver in the championship, and has driven steady races so far, which indicate considerable potential. For the moment the First Centreville Team is The situation is a bit more complicated for drivers who arrived midseason. They will have to go pedal to the metal to try and close the gap to the Series’ top dogs! After the Malaysian weekend JJ Lehto, Alex Yoong and Marchy Lee were happy as they managed to find several seconds extra pace during the course of the meeting. They realise, though, that they still have a long, hard struggle ahead of them to score that elusive podium finish. well placed although his absence this weekend to contend in DTM will probably drop him out of the battle. the one that has met with the least success. Fabien Giroix and Nicolas Navarro have not yet managed to score convincing results despite their excellent performance level.
A WORLD CHAMPION ON THE GRID!
The arrival of Jacques Villeneuve in Speedcar Series is the red-letter event of the Bahrain weekend round of the championship. The 1997 F1 world champion has confirmed his participation in the last two meetings of the season. JV is among the most eclectic drivers in motor racing with a victory in the Indy 500 to his name. The 37-year-old Canadian has set himself a double challenge: victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Peugeot and a breakthrough in NASCAR. With Speedcar Series he is adding another string to his bow. “Speedcar Series looks like a great event and I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun. It’s a series still in its infancy and will build up, and I think it’s a great idea. On a personal level, Speedcar will give me more road racing experience with this kind of vehicle which will be useful in future NASCAR road course events. It’s also a great excuse to meet race fans!”
JOHNNy HERBERT: MORE THAN JuST AN OuTSIDER!
At the end of the 80s Johnny Herbert was THE great British hope. He dominated F3000, and already had an F1 contract with Benetton in his pocket when he shattered his ankles in a huge accident on the Brands Hatch circuit. Had this not happened his results would certainly have been much better. But that’s how it goes. In 161 grand prix Johnny scored three victories; he also won the le Mans 24 Hours in 1991 and his love of driving has never left him. At present he is trailing Jean Alesi and Uwe Alzen in the Speedcar Series overall classification, and his driving aim is to win in Bahrain. Rather than an outsider Johnny wants to become the Series’ yardstick.
Are you pleased with your first podium finish in Sepang? “No, because I lost! (laughs). In the early laps I was as quick as Jean Alesi. Then I was a bit better under braking as the car was perfectly balanced. I managed to take the lead the first time I went for it. I concentrated on driving very cleanly and I was able to open up a small gap. Jean came back at me in the last three laps and he retook the lead. We had a very clean battle. I tried to get back in front in the final corner but I grazed his car. I could have forced my way past but I didn’t want to win like that. If my overtaking manoeuvre had come off it would have needed a photo to decide the winner on the finishing line!” Speedcar Series will be held in the context of an F1 grand prix for the second time. Are you still interested in the top formula? “Yes, like everybody. For a while it wasn’t quite so interesting as Ferrari
and Michael Schumacher dominated. It’s more open now. We had an incredibly exciting championship in 2007 with Lewis, Kimi and Fernando all battling for the title. A lot of people thought that Lewis would win, but finally it went to Kimi. It’s good because he deserved it. And now there’s not only McLaren and Ferrari, BMW is becoming a serious threat and Williams is still as competitive as ever. I really like seeing new guys like Sebastian Vettel coming in and making a big splash!” Would you like to drive one of today’s F1 cars? “Yeah. I’d like to drive a 2008 F1. It’s good that driver aids have been banned. F1 will always be a technologically-driven sport but the electronic side was becoming too dominant. Thanks to traction control human error had been almost completely eliminated. The new rules place the emphasis on driving skills and you can’t say it’s a bad thing.”
So the Speedcar concept suits you down to the ground... “Yes, it’s got everything I love. It’s like going back to basics. On our cars the only electronic device is the engine management system. All the rest is mechanical. The car’s not easy to drive and that makes the races all the more interesting. Even if you’re 100% concentrated it’s almost impossible to do a race without making a mistake.” What was your favourite racing car? “I loved my 1992 Lotus-Ford. In that era we had a lot of aerodynamic grip with huge wings and flat bottoms. With the wide slicks and an engine putting out 800 bhp you could drive very aggressively - even in tight corners.” You won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1991. Are you planning to drive in this legendary race again? “Unfortunately not in 2008. Last year, I had a great time with Aston Martin but I want to win the race outright
again. For that you have to be in a diesel-engined car, and that cuts down your choices to either Audi or Peugeot. All the seats were taken so I’m waiting for the right opportunity to turn up.” Speedcar Series favours contact between drivers and spectators. What do you think of this? “It’s great! I’ve never had a problem about being close to my fans. Quite the opposite! In Bahrain like Dubai we’ll be racing on a circuit for the second time as we already did demonstration events here last November. I hope that the spectators who attended will be back with their family and friends. Today, every sport has to be a show and the effors the organisers are making for the spectators and the TV viewers is going in the right direction. As we saw in Sentul, they do everything to attract people to the circuit – and it works!”
What made you choose your particular race number?
“That’s an easy one to answer! When my dad bought me my first kart it had the number 69. I didn’t change it and I’ve always kept it. As you get older this number can have other meanings, but its origin goes back to my childhood.”
Your best racing car... The DTM Mercedes-Benz.
Best race you took part in... “Monza in my first year in Formula Nissan. I started from eighth place and fought my way onto the third step of the podium!
Your most spectacular race tracks... I love Laguna Seca, Sepang and Jerez.
Race Control’s strangest decision... I had to pay a $2000 fine in A1GP because I had a coming-together with a driver who was trying to pass me on the outside! I’ve never understood that decision.
Best reason to keep on racing... I’m very competitive; I always want to be first!
Best reason to stop racing... Honestly, I don’t see any. Motor racing’s part of my life.
Your greatest weakness... All drivers have a weak point. It’s a waste of time blaming the car or the team. You’ve got to know how to be honest.
tles before retiring and then came back and won two more. You are not talented in... I wasn’t great at school. I woke up every morning with a pain in my stomach!
Your toughest season... The 2005 GP2 Series. I didn’t have much experience and the overall level was very high. Best team-mate... Jean Alesi. We were in the same team in the DTM in 2006, and he was always ready to help me progress.
Your toughest rival... Nobody really. It’s not like in tennis where you battle with just one person.”
Best after-race party... There’ve been so many! Whatever the outcome I like to go out after a race to celebrate the result if it’s a good one, or to forget in the opposite case! I’ve got good memories of Barcelona where my friend Franck Montagny acted as guide.
Your most spectacular overtaking manoeuvre... I don’t remember any one in particular, but there was a Euro F3000 race in Jerez where I passed six cars and finished second.
The funniest/strangest character in motorsport... I’ve come across so many! I like Franck Montagny and Jean Alesi very much as they’re both very amusing blokes. I also get on well with Ananda Mikola whom I’ve known for years.
Best race format... I like long races with pit stops. I’ve never done a 24-hour event but I’d love to.
Best qualifying format... I like the present system in F1 where it’s back to square one on three occasions. This being said, the long session we have in Speedcar suits me better.
Your favourite pastime between races... Surfing. It’s my greatest passion after motor racing. I spent a week in Bali recently and it was fantastic to go surfing every day.
Best trick played on a team-mate... I’ll pass on that one. They’re a bit too recent to talk about!
Your favourite series... The DTM and the Speedcar Series even if they’re very different.
The most exciting turn on a racetrack... On the Istanbul circuit there’s a series of downhill corners that are very exciting.
Strangest question ever asked... I’m often asked questions about my father, which I can’t answer. If you want to know what he thinks, the best thing is to go directly to him!
Strangest autograph ever given... Sometimes young girls ask me to sign on their breast! It’s funny, and believe me, I don’t have any problems!
Favourite race weather... I’m generally quicker on wet tracks, but I like both.
Worst sport without horsepower... Women’s football. I think it’s horrible! I’m not being macho; it’s just that football is the opposite of femininity.
Favourite sport without horsepower... Surfing, obviously! The best athlete ever... Kelly Slater. He won six surfing world ti-
Tell us about your first weekend...
JJ Lehto: “I’d never driven a car like that before! I spent all my time trying to tame the understeer; it’s something I really dislike. I tried different driving styles and we also tried to change the set-up. I’ve still got to find an extra second per lap to be able to battle with the front-runners. The ambience is really great. You see a lot of well-know faces and everybody seems to love being there.” Alex Yoong: “I had a technical problem on Friday and I qualified at the back of the grid. We weren’t able to work on the setup and that penalised me in the races. I did my best for what was Marchy Lee: “I had a very busy weekend as I was also racing in the Porsche Car1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
a learning weekend. In any case, the car favours the spectacle on the track as well as overtaking. It’s great fun to drive.”
POSITIONS AFTER SEPANG
DRIVER Jean Alesi Uwe Alzen Johnny Herbert David Terrien Mathias Lauda Ananda Mikola Nicolas Navarro Stefan Johannson Klaus Ludwig Gianni Morbidelli
rera Cup Asia. The Speedcar’s completely new for me and I feel like I have to start learning from scratch! There are so many good drivers at the start, and that it makes things all the more difficult. I feel confident that I can progress in the coming races.”
POINTS 34 = 29 = 21 19 = 18 11 = 7 6 5 4
The SPEEDCAR NEWSLETTER is published by SpeedCar Series International, P.O Box 114852 Dubai, UAE. Director: Benoît Lamonerie Editor-in-Chief: Anila Ratnam Journalists: J. Roussel, D. Waldron