Peugeot may have had the fastest car in 2008, but it came away with no major silverware for its efforts. Nic Minassian explains why the team will not let the same thing happen in 2009...

To be honest I'm a little bit disappointed about 2008, especially for Le Mans. You cannot say you're happy with that. Lots of people have said 'you finished second at Le Mans, that's great', but when you have a car like we did... It's so rare to be in a position to win it, and when you are and you miss by so little, it is so frustrating. There are three cars in the team, and last year I was in the car that was fighting to win - that may not happen again this year or the next.

It was still a great race, though, with a big battle and a massive improvement from the year before. Our reliability was very good; it was just that the opposition was perfect, which doesn't happen very often. I don't know if that's ever happened before, actually, to be so perfect in the race and have no problems. We had a few little problems which you normally get away with at Le Mans, but now the race has become such a 24-hour sprint that you cannot even afford to have the slightest of problems. We lost enough time just in cleaning the radiator and changing the rear bonnet - all those little things that you don't want at Le Mans.

We've got to give credit to the opposition, who know the race so well and did everything to perfection. It's just about learning all those things, and our team is learning quick. Since the 908 HDi was born it has always been the fastest - it has got pole position in every single race it has entered without fail - but it hasn't won a championship. That has made it very tough, but the first year when we arrived already wasn't bad, last year we were probably the team to beat and this year I think we'll be even stronger again.

From the Peugeot view, the Sebring 12 Hours was never a race we were going into to win; we knew we were going to have a few issues there, even if the drivers always want to win. The main focus has always been Le Mans, so to not win Sebring or the Le Mans Series wasn't that disappointing to them I don't think. For sure you want to win the championship, of course, but the LMS is more of a race-by-race kind of championship than anything else. I was a little bit disappointed with the outcome of that, but at least we won four out of five of the races, which I think proved a lot. To have won a few well-known, 1,000km races is already good, so I'm looking at it like that, rather than at the disappointment of not winning the championship.

The funny thing about the final round at Silverstone is there was no special pressure; it was the same kind of thing we'd done all year long. The only thing is when I had the crash with the Porsche I thought I was the one to blame 100 per cent, but when I looked at the video I could see the Porsche trying to get a drafting back towards the other car while I was in the middle, so I would say it was 50-50 - he didn't look in his mirrors, and I didn't judge it well enough.

On the other hand, I do that manoeuvre I don't know how many times per race, and I cannot even count how many times I've done it in my career. Shit happens sometimes. It didn't happen at the right time or in the right place, but I'm not going to beat myself up too much about it because it's gone, it's finished. I just want to take the experience from it and try to not do it again.

Looking to 2009, I'm not going to make any predictions - I just want to win Le Mans! The prime thing with Peugeot is to win Le Mans, and I can see us being much better than last year because in 2008 we managed to erase all the problems we had encountered in 2007, and the problems we had in 2008 I don't think we will have in 2009.

We're testing very intensively. Most of it is because we have new regulations regarding the rear wing, so we need to balance the front and rear. We've lost quite a large percentage of the aerodynamics, so it's got to be re-done in the right way, and engine-wise it's all about refining a bit more power because we've lost ten per cent there. That's quite a bit. The racing is going to be very close between everybody, I think, this year.

For Peugeot, the aim for Sebring is always to prepare for Le Mans; for us as drivers, we want to go to Sebring and win it! I'm not going to hide it; I want to go there and win that race. It's a big race - if you win that race you've already had a good year, but then after you want to go and carry on.

I think it lifts the spirit inside the team when you go to races like that; it puts everyone in the right mood, it's good for the drivers and for testing the reliability of the car, and it teaches you a lot strategy-wise too, because the competition is very strong. It's the complete package in terms of preparation. It's good for everybody, and it's a great race that I want to win.

I don't like to say we are the best now, because we have lots of respect for our competitors, but we've been working really hard. They're going to have a new car, and good for them, but for us the main focus is to have a race like we had at Le Mans last year - only this time with no problems whatsoever.

We will be pretty good, I think. The car is very good and we will make some improvements to interpret the new regulations better, and we're going to go for it like we did before - but hopefully it's going to come good this time.

We've put a lot of pressure onto Audi, definitely, but they have handled it really well. It was probably good pressure for them. On the other hand, I don't think they feel as superior as they used to anymore, and that's a good thing for us. I think the team has become very confident now in what they're doing; it's just a case of experience. It's only the third year now that Peugeot has been back at Le Mans, and I think this is the year we're going to do it.

? plus,

Nicolas

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

To keep up-to-date with Nicolas and Peugeot's progress in 2009, please see: http://www.nicolasminassian.com

 

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