by Russell Atkins

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

Heinz-Harald Frentzen - a man who began more than 150 grands prix in the top flight and triumphed in three of them - is returning to his sportscar roots in 2008, having signed up to compete for Aston Martin Racing in the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours, his first appearance in the legendary round-the-clock French classic since 1992.

Not only that, but the highly-experienced German will have the honour of racing the British marque's GT1 class-winning DBR9 decked out in the original Gulf livery, celebrating the oil company's 40th debut at La Sarthe. The 40-year-old spoke exclusively to Crash.net Radio about how he is feeling about taking on 'the greatest race in the world' for a second time 16 years on...

Q:
Heinz-Harald, you're racing with Aston Martin in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, but it's been a while since your sportscar days, hasn't it?

Heinz-Harald Frentzen:
Yeah, actually my last experience in sportscars was in 1993 in Japan, and then I had a similar experience to this kind of car in the DTM, where I drove from 2004 to 2006.

Q:
Do you think it may take you a while to get back to grips with sportscars again, or not?

H-HF:
Well actually, the Aston Martin is similar in terms of speed to the DTM car, so that's not too different.

Q:
You left the DTM at the end of 2006, since when you've had a year away from racing. Are you feeling refreshed now, ready to go again and eager to get back on-track?

H-HF:
Yes, I had a good, relaxing year after 2006, and slowly since the beginning of this year I've been getting ready to get back into motorsport. I won't be competing that often - just a few long races. I will also take part in the 24-hour race at the N?rburgring, as well as the Le Mans 24 Hours, which is obviously a very competitive event.

Q:
The car in its Gulf livery looks fantastic; how much are you looking forward to driving it?

H-HF:
When I saw the car I found it really special. It has a fantastic paint scheme and a very traditional design. It's a really cool-looking car.

Q:
Have you had much time to work alongside your team-mates yet? Obviously you know Karl Wendlinger from your Formula 1 and sportscar days together at Sauber, and there's also Andrea Piccini...

H-HF:
I know Karl from my early days in Formula 3 and I drove with him in sportscars too in 1989 and 1990, so I know him quite well. Andrea Piccini is for me a new guy, but we have quite a few opportunities to get to know each other before the race.

Q:
The race is about a month-and-a-half away now. How much time are you likely to have in the car between now and then?

H-HF:
There will be a few opportunities, but I can't say yet exactly when we will be able to test.

Q:
People refer to Le Mans as the hardest race in the world. What in your opinion makes it so special?

H-HF:
First of all it's a very crucial race in terms of reliability - to extend a racing car's life to 24 hours is quite a big technical achievement. Also for the drivers and mechanics, it's quite challenging in terms of concentration. It's a big challenge.

Q:
How competitive do you expect the GT1 class to be this year?

H-HF:
This is my first race in this category at Le Mans after 16 years, and I think it will be very competitive - that's what I have been told! From what I understand it's just about going flat-out each lap. It's going to be a very tough pace this year, because we have very close contenders in the class. That means it's important that we get the maximum out of the car whilst also being reliable - that's the big challenge and we are very concentrated on that.

Q:
Aston Martin obviously won the GT1 class in Le Mans last year and finished fifth overall. Do you think a similar result is possible again this year?

H-HF:
Of course we are aiming to win our class again, but we know that in the Corvette we have very tough competition, like the team had last year and also in the past. I've been told the pace was very, very high last year, so the pressure is pretty full-on.

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

 

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