Crash.net:
David, you appear to have caught quite a few people on the hop this week after being named as part of Peugeot's squad for Le Mans 2009....

David Brabham:
Yeah, fancy that.... [laughs] We tried to keep it as quiet as possible, but I'm obviously delighted to be a part of the Peugeot programme for Le Mans. The last two years, I had a fantastic time with Aston Martin, winning the GT1 class, and this [deal] gives me a great shot at winning in the P1 class, being part of a great team. I feel extremely fortunate to be in the position I am, driving for two manufacturers in the same year, and that's quite unique, but now I'm just focusing on getting the job done.

Crash.net:
How did the deal come about and how long has it been in the pipeline?

DB:
It all kind of started at the Autosport Show in Birmingham. I was interviewed on stage and they asked me about my plans for Le Mans. I said that I didn't have any plans, although I was free to do [the race]. Then I bumped into [Peugeot driver] Nicolas Minassian at our charity kart race and had a chat with him. When he asked me about Le Mans, in passing really, I said I'd like to do it - but I was never even thinking about being in the Peugeot car. We were just chatting.

Then I flew, on the Sunday, to America for testing in the Acura and, on the Monday, I had two emails about opportunities to do Le Mans, and one was with Peugeot - which threw me a huge surprise when I saw it. When I looked at it, my first thought was 'how the hell am I going to pull this one off....'

I was very lucky in the sense that, when I was at the test, obviously [Patron Highcroft Racing boss ] Duncan Dayton was there, but so too was Erik Berkman from HPD, so I forwarded the emails on to them and said 'look, here's two offers and I'd be keen to do them'. They have to give me the permission to do that, and Duncan said 'yes, absolutely, well done' - he was so pleased for me - while Erik said that he did not see an issue with it but had to talk to Acura and John Mendel. A couple of days later, they gave me the thumbs up to start negotiating, so it happened fairly quickly after that email to be honest. I flew to Paris, had a meeting with [Peugeot team boss] Serge [Saulnier], did the deal straight away and tested last week.

Crash.net:
How much of an advantage was it not have Acura going to Le Mans?

DB:
They understand, certainly from my point of view, how much I love doing Le Mans, and they don't want to get in the way of that, so I've got to say a huge, huge thank-you to all of them for allowing me to do this. Obviously, I'm in a fairly sensitive situation in terms of being able to get to know both programmes pretty well, so in terms of comparisons, talking to team members, the media, whatever, that's just for me to know any anyone else to find out. I'm in a situation where it could all fall on my face if I start talking about each other's programmes, so its very much lips sealed and get on with the job and do it the best that I can.

Crash.net:
How will it feel going up against Aston Martin Racing after the long and successful relationship you have had?

DB:
It's like [racing against] any other team really. Obviously, I'm really close to them and have a huge amount of respect for them. They know how to go to Le Mans and win, although the prototype is new to them in comparison with the GT. But I'm very much looking forward to the battle because I'm sure they're going to be very strong, as well as Audi. I'm sure it's going to a very tough, challenging race, but one that's going to be extremely enjoyable.

Crash.net:
It must have been a strong draw to be returning to Le Mans in P1 class?

DB:
Absolutely! After last year, I really thought I didn't want to do GT again, and really wanted to get in a prototype - even if it was a P2. I would have done that just to get back into a prototype. We don't know what Acura's plans are with regard to Le Mans, although we know it's on their wishlist, but it's important for me to be at Le Mans and, if I could be there in a prototype, that's good. So I'm obviously chuffed to be driving a car like the Peugeot, with the turbo-diesel engine which is extremely strong at Le Mans and gives me a great shot [of winning]. Of course, Peugeot is in the third year with this car, and that's always a good time to get involved with a programme, because they're absolutely ready to do the job.

Crash.net:
You're obviously very experienced, but do you expect to be able to learn anything from being back at Le Mans in P1 which you can then take back to Acura to help them get there?

DB:
Every time you go to Le Mans, you always learn something, whether you're in a GT car or a prototype, so that sort of thing is not going to change. The more experience I have, the better I get, the more I have to give. From all my years in sportscar racing, Peugeot is now benefiting and vice versa.

Crash.net:
You tested the Peugeot recently in Barcelona, but what was the main purpose of that - to get you acquainted with the car, or to work on development for Le Mans?

DB:
Obviously, it's a new car, a new team, but there were a lot of people there, and two cars. I drove the car which they did set-up work on to begin with, to get a feel for it and then, the following day, I joined what was the endurance car, which was pounding around. I got into that, and started doing double stints. It is a different type of car to drive than what I am used to, and then there's understanding the dynamics of the team and how they operate and getting to know my team-mates. Although I know most of them, the guys I am going to race with - Alex Wurz and Marc Gene - are the two I know the least, but we're starting to form a relationship now. They're two very strong drivers, good technically, so I think, with the three of us together, we're going to have a very fast car at Le Mans.

Crash.net:
How much of a difference was there between the diesel-powered Peugeot, which of course is a coupe, and the open-cockpit Acura you drive in the ALMS?

DB:
It is different, but I suppose it's very much like the Bentley and, after a few laps, you start to get used to it. When you first get into the car, it's interesting because you start to lose touch a little bit with what's happening outside because you're not in the elements, you're sheltered - a bit like a GT car. So that took a little getting used to, as well as the power delivery, how that comes in, how the tyres work, how to use them best over a stint, the downshifting, the upshifting - there's so much for me to learn that I just tried to absorb as much as I could. It didn't take me long to get on the pace, so that was good, and I felt pretty comfortable straight away, so it was a pretty good start really.

Crash.net:
Peugeot has build up a bit of a rivalry with Audi over the last two years, but not always come out on top. Does that add a bit of edge to the season - and how are you looking forward to taking on your old rival Allan McNish?

DB:
Obviously, as I've said, this is the third year of the programme and Peugeot have looked at the last two years and the areas they need to work on. Audi are always tough and, for me personally, always a great challenge to beat. Racing against Allan is always superb - we've been racing against each other since our Vauxhall Lotus days in 1988, and we're great friends, but great rivals on the track. But I'm not just thinking about beating Allan, as there are a whole load of great cars and great drivers to beat. We've got to work as a team - obviously, the goal is for Peugeot to win - but, personally, you'd like to be on the top step as well.

Crash.net:
There's a degree of family history at Le Mans - and with Peugeot....

DB:
Yeah. I'm playing a similar role to [brother] Geoff when he was winning [with Peugeot] in 1993, because he was older, wiser and had more experience of sportscar racing, and racing in general. When I look at the drivers I'm with, I have done twice as many Le Mans as most of them, so I suppose I'm the old man of the group - although I don't intend to be driving like an old man.

Crash.net:
Your dad also had some success at Le Mans, but how special would it be to win the 24 Hours outright on the 50th anniversary of his first F1 world title?

DB:
It's a big year for us as a family, with dad winning his world championship 50 years ago. It's a big year in terms of the Acura programme going to P1, the chance to win a few races and Le Mans. To win Le Mans, for me personally, would mean so much, as I love the event. Winning with Aston Martin was really special and it would feel just as special winning overall.

 

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