|Pre Le Mans|
|Butch And Max|
|In The Bentley And Cadillac|
|In the build up to the 24 Hours, Mark Howson and Gary Horrocks caught up with two busy men - Butch Leitzinger and Max Angelelli.|
How did the Bentley drive come about, Butch?
"James was doing the test driving for the team and he put in a word for me. I had met Richard Lloyd a few times in the states, so I called him and told him that I was very interested in the Bentley program, and good things happened from there!
Is it just for this year, or is it likely to be longer?
"I'm just on a one year contract, so we'll just have to see how it goes before we talk about next year.
Will it involve other races for the team if they decide on a race program beyond Le Mans?
"As of yet the team hasn't made a decision on any races after Le Mans. I would certainly like to do some more, as I think that the car has a lot of potential. I would really like to see them come over for Laguna Seca, because Bentley is the featured marque for this year's historic weekend there. But I'm not privy to any of those discussions, so I'll probably find out on TotalMotorSport if they will bring the car over here.
How have you managed to juggle a test program with your other racing commitments?
"There's been a lot of flying back and forth. However, I've only been to a few tests, one each in March, April, and May. Since I'm so far from the team base, they only bring me to the longer tests where we actually do a lot of running. Luckily, the tests have meshed well with my schedule for Dyson Racing. At the Phoenix race, I had to dash to the airport (as some people saw on tv) to make a test in Germany, and I missed the first day of practice at Watkins Glen because of a test in France.
Is there a 'lead car' in the team, or do both cars have equal support?
"Both cars are receiving equal support. However, I don't know if that means that both cars will use the same strategy.
Do the team feel they can challenge for the win this year?
"Our goal this year is to finish with the least possible problems. Everyone on the team knows how difficult Le Mans is, and no one has any false expectations of going over there and dominating. Even with the positive tests that we have had, Le Mans is so unlike any other place that new challenges are always popping up.
Bearing in mind the support the team will receive from the fans this year, have you applied for British citizenship yet?
"I am really excited to see all of the Union Jacks waving in the air! I hope that they cheer Bentley on as much as they did Jaguar ten years ago. Perhaps if we win the Queen will give me some kind of honorary
What was the reason for the 'unusual' timing of your wedding (ie Le Mans test weekend)?
"When we set the date last year I was still driving for Cadillac, and missing the test day at Le Mans didn't seem like such a bad thing. When I started talking to Richard about driving the Bentley, probably the biggest obstacle was that I wouldn't be able to do the test day. But I've had enough time in the car, and I've raced at Le Mans three times before and know the track very well, so I don't think that there will be any trouble getting down to a quick time on the race weekend.
Will your new wife be accompanying you to France in June?
"My wife will be getting in on the Friday before the race. I've tried to tell her what to expect, but I'm sure that she'll be shocked at the magnitude of the event. It will also be the first time that she has been able to use her high-school level French."
Thanks Butch. And lest you think he will be getting some R&R before the big race, there is the small matter of the Grand Am race at Mid Ohio on June 10th being in his diary! We wish him all the best for both races.
It has been awhile since you last actually raced, Max. Are you getting anxious?
"Yes very much, of course. I have a countdown in my sleeping room on the wall and I cut a day each morning after waking up.
What are you doing to prepare for Le Mans this year?
"A lot of testing in the States, every week a lot of Km, too many!!! Iím just back from V.I.R.(Virginia International Raceway) we just finish our last 24 hour test and now Iím going back to Europe for a full four days of rest.
How different do you treat this race than any other?
"This is not a single race is like a championship in one day. All are working a full year to prepare this raceÖso it is really a different thing. For my stand point of view, all my racing life is around this race.
How long does it take you to recover from the race and all of the events surrounding it?
"If the results are good, in a minute Iím fine. If bad, never!!
What are your expectations going into the race this year?
"We have to finish in the top five and this is my expectation.
How did the test weekend go, and did you get a better feel for the car and the unique requirements for Le Mans?
"It wasnít good for us. That test didnít show the real potential of the car.
There appears to be a more ďseriousĒ outlook to the team this season, as it is keeping a lower profile, and appears to be more focused on racing and less on marketing. Have more testing and development backed up that appearance?
"This is the second year for GM so I believe that is quite normal that they put less resources to the marketing compared to coming back after 50 years of not racing at LM. All is in place and next year will be even better.
In comparison to last seasonís car, how much of the car for this year is new, and what has actually been changed?
"All is new except the carbon fiber chassis and 80% of the bodywork. All in less then three months.
What is the car doing better than last season, and how much development is left in it?
"We are just faster every where we go. I think Cadillac decided to concentrate to the 2001 car right after LM last year.
What is the schedule for racing after Le Mans?
"Sears Point, Laguna, Petit, Charlotte and Mosport.
Will we be seeing the new design from Nigel Stroud racing this season, and how far along is the new car?
"I have no idea; all is so secret even for me that Iím one of the drivers. I think is a good sign, may be means they have an extremely good car on their hands!!!"
To keep up on the action with Max, check out www.maxangelelli.com. Good luck old friend.
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