First time at Le Mans: "It was in 1981. I was with Lancia Martini Racing. I had great teammates in Michele Alboreto and Riccardo Patrese. It was my first long-distance race. It was very exciting to be at Le Mans, but I was very unhappy because I didn’t have a fast car. But it was magical just to be there. Really, there are three races in the world: the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianopolis 500. And maybe the Daytona 500."
Two seasons with Jaguar in the XJR-6 and XJR-8: "It was a phenomenal car to drive. The first year, 1986, we had a problem. Jean-Louis Schlesser got a puncture on the Mulsanne Straight. The next year, we came back and the race was in our pockets. Then, with one hour to go, a little thing in the gearbox broke. Losing that race bothers me more than anything else in my whole career.”
Favourite teammate at Le Mans: "Warwick, Derek Warwick [Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1992, Peugeot 905]. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he would do three hours, I would do three hours and so on. If I did four hours, then he would do four hours. It gives me a headache just thinking about it. He was also my teammate in Formula One and we often liked the same things. It was lucky that I liked blondes and he preferred girls with brown hair, so that solved the biggest problem." [laughs]
Fascination with Le Mans: "When I did Le Mans, Mulsanne was straight, there was no chicane. It seemed every year I went there, a driver died. So I have a lot of respect for Le Mans and I take my hat off to drivers who do it often. I follow the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans and I’m very happy that endurance racing is becoming relevant on a worldwide scale. I’m still passionate about drivers and teams. I have immense respect for technical prowess, but when it comes down to having to be in an Audi or a Porsche to have a chance of winning, then it’s not good. There’s also a question of mathematics. Money. When you have to spend 200 million dollars to win one race, it defeats the purpose, it’s like a dragon eating its own tail."
Motor racing in the USA compared to Europe: "It’s very different. In the eighties, a European would never have dreamed of racing in the States. When I came to the States from Formula One I thought, ‘this is crazy, why do people do this?’ You have to live it to understand it. This [the USA] is the church of speed. It’s only about speed. Drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, who comes from Formula One, adapt very quickly. If you make a mistake on a circuit like Indianapolis, you are in serious trouble. There is a human element that is not in Formula One as much."
Cheever is now an ABC commentator for the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 with Scot Goodyear, also a former Le Mans driver (second in 1996 with the Porsche 911 GT1).
Eddie Cheever’s record at the 24 Hours of Le Mans:
1981: Lancia Beta Monte Carlo Martini Racing, with Michele Alboreto and Carlo Facetti, 8th
1986: Jaguar XJR-6 Silk Cut Jaguar TWR, with Jean-Louis Schlesser and Derek Warwick, retired (flat tyre, then suspension issue)
1987: Jaguar XJR-8 Silk Cut Jaguar TWR, with Raul Boesel and Jan Lammers, 5th