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Photo: Stefan Warter

I have had the privilege of driving some of the most fantastic racing cars on the planet in my years so far; I’ve also been fortunate enough to drive cars that have led me to win the Le Mans 24 Hours for a record eight times. Looking back, the first time I took the flag to win at Le Mans will always remain the sweetest of all those victories. It is proof, not only to yourself, but to those around you that you have the ability to race and win at the very highest level. It gives a certain recognition that a driver has reached a particular point of excellence in his career in terms of what he wants to achieve and what he is capable of delivering. On that first time, I was only signed to the Joest team a very few days before the practice, literally just three days before. I was teamed with Stefan Johansson and Michele Alboreto to drive the TWR Porsche WSC 95. It was an amazing experience, not just to take the win on my Le Mans debut, but also to get the lap record—if you check out the records it was around 6:30 in the morning on lap 210, my lap time was 3 min 45.068 seconds, just over 217 km/h (135mph).

The Audi R8 has given me by far the most Le Mans victories, five in all, three times with the works team in 2000, 2001, and 2002 and two private teams—2004 Team Goh with Seiji Ara and “Dindo” Capello, and 2005 ADT Champion Team with JJ Lehto and Marco Werner. I won with the car first time out at Sebring in 2000, which was the springboard to so many successes with the car, including the American Le Mans series crown in 2002. The strength of the R8 was the ability to adapt the car to many different types of circuit, especially in the ALMS series comprised of ten races at ten very different race tracks—very smooth surfaces to very bumpy surfaces. Yes, we had to set the car up in many different ways to deal with the track type and surface, but not every car has that ability to be so versatile. So, I would say that Audi R8 is for me one of the greatest racecars; the R8 is also a big, big picture of me, in a sense.

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