24h Le Mans
22/09/2019 - 12:01

Michael Andretti: "I would love to have a sports car programme and come to Le Mans"

A former driver and successful team owner for almost two decades, Michael Andretti hopes to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Michael Andretti: "I would love to have a sports car programme and come to Le Mans"

Michael Andretti has taken the start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times, claiming the third step on the podium for his rookie participation in 1983 at the wheel of a Porsche 956 shared with his father Mario and French driver Philippe Alliot. "For me it was intimidating at the time because I had never done something like that before. Everything was new to me and I was very young (20 years old at the time, Ed.). I really enjoyed the track and was very lucky to drive it before they put in the chicanes. I remember this big straight looked like it would never end, going through a 3.5-mile straight was amazing. It is a grueling race and one of those you want to say you were able to do."

Andretti returned to Le Mans in 1988 (finishing sixth with Porsche after spending a good deal of the race as a contender for victory) and in 1997 (retirement with Courage), Now he is a major star in IndyCar, the top American single-seaters championship, and the Indianapolis 500. High speeds are entirely different between the oval in Indiana and the 24 Hours circuit he admits: "You really feel the speed there because of the narrowness and catching up to other cars so fast. The Indy 500 definitely is our longest single-seater race. It generally is a three-hour race, which is about the amount of time you can stand behind the wheel at Le Mans for multiple stints. But physically the Indy 500 is not the hardest race, it is more a mental race because of the very high speed. For me, Le Mans was not that hard physically because of the long straights where you have a lot of time to relax and rest, but mentally it was tough because of other cars that would go 40 mph slower than mine. You really need to pay attention on the straights, no mistake is allowed. That is the biggest thing I remember about driving at Le Mans."

"I remember this big straight looked like it would never end, going through a 3.5-mile straight was amazing."
Michael Andretti

Two other members of the Andretti clan have participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans: John (teammate of his uncle Mario and his cousin Michael with a Porsche 962 C in 1988) and in 2010 Michael's eldest son Marco along with Neel Jani (future winner with Porsche in 2016) and Jean-Christophe Boullion with Rebellion Racing. "Marco was really on pace there but he and his team suffered bad luck." One other of the four current drivers with Andretti Autosport in IndyCar has competed at the 24 Hours: Alexander Rossi, Greaves Motorsport driver in LMP2 in 2013 and a contender for the title in IndyCar this weekend at the grand finale of the season at Laguna Seca, up against Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden.

"My opinion is that if you come to Le Mans, you have to do it as a factory team. If I come to Le Mans, it will be to win."
Michael Andretti

With more than 200 wins, all disciplines considered (including five at the Indianapolis 500), Andretti is at the top of his game as a team owner. In that role, he has already tried his hand at endurance racing in the latter half of the 2000s (under the name Andretti Green Racing at the time) in the former American Le Mans Series with Acura, the American branch of Honda, with a win clinched by Franck Montagny and James Rossiter. Andretti, who has 42 victories in CART and IndyCar, has given considerable thought to a possible future participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans: "In the future I would love to have a sports car programme and come to Le Mans. My opinion is that if you come to Le Mans, you have to do it as a factory team. The cars are very technical and take money to run and you need that kind of support. If I come to Le Mans, it will be to win."

 

PHOTO (Copyright - SPACESUIT MEDIA, ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT): Unlike Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske, the other two major team owners in IndyCar (and Andretti Autosport rivals for the 2019 title), Michael Andretti is the only one of the three to have finished the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a driver, even reaching the third step on the podium in 1983.

BREAKING NEWS: THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS POSTPONED TO 19–20 SEPTEMBER 2020