It would be fair to say Porsche ace Nick Tandy has had arguably one of his best seasons ever, a historic win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans crowned a season which saw him take wins across the globe in a variety of machinery, cementing his status as one of the world’s best sportscar drivers.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag at #ASI16 Tandy was gushing about his Le Mans experience which saw Porsche take its 17th win but admitted the feeling at the finish wasn’t what he was expecting.
“It was a bit of a different feeling because I was actually in the pits watching somebody else finish the race and honestly it’s one of the worst feelings in motorsport because you know what could happen but you’re fearing the worst,” Tandy added.
He admitted that he couldn’t actually watch the end of the race: “When you’re in the car you’re in control, when you’re out of the car you’re not and as drivers we have one job and that’s to end the race and that’s done by just driving the car. When you’re out of the car we don’t do anything so we can’t contribute to the race, we can’t contribute to the strategy your job is done it’s just up to the other people so it’s a little bit of a tough time – especially after 24 hours and when it means so much.”
Tandy, alongside team mates Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg, led a dominant Porsche 919 one-two across the line at La Sarthe and couldn’t put into words the feeling after he knew he won: “You can’t describe it, it is something I’ll never feel again because I’ll never win again for the first time so it was a very, very magical time.”
Fast forward a few months and Tandy’s next challenge came at a Petit Le Mans where a powerboat would have as much chance at clocking a fast lap at Road Atlanta as his Porsche 911 RSR. That said, the Porsche North America driver said he felt more relaxed going into the final TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race compared to the start of Le Mans.
“It was a little bit more relaxed going into that race because there we were going for a championship so we weren’t just there to try and win the race – of course we wanted to win the race but we just had to be in front of our competition in the championship. So it was a bit more relaxed and we could kind of feel ourselves into the race and we knew there would be lots of caution periods and the race would start and restart.”
The work put in by Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Leitz in the #911 saw them not only climb to the lead of GTLM but also start to pick off the Prototypes as well.
Nick explained further: “It got later on in the race when we realised it wasn’t going to stop raining and then thought okay we’ve got a really good chance to win the race in our class. At no point did we think about the overall position, we knew where we were but we just wanted to win our class because it’s the win, the victory.” He continued: “Of course we ended up passing all the prototypes on the last run not knowing that it would be red-flagged, but it just happened that the conditions got so bad at that point we just happened to be in the lead.”
Asking a driver who has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans what his favourite race of the year was might be something of a no-brainer but for Tandy, it was his Petit win that took the prize: “It’s like an end to a fairytale season and that race at Petit was definitely the most satisfying drive that I’ve had this year as a complete race. It was such bad conditions that the level of concentration around [Road] Atlanta is so high – at Le Mans you get some time off, you get a little bit of a break –in the rain is like 100% concentration 100% of the time, even on the straights. It was really, really tough mentally.”
Now, the Bedford born driver is looking ahead to the coming season and the new threat lurking on the horizon from the new Ford GT and he is looking forward to taking it on.
“I’m pleased that Ford have come in, I’m looking forward to the competition. It will be close because that’s how the regulations are, there won’t be one dominant car we just have to make sure that we execute perfectly as a team really which is what we did last year – without mistakes, without bad races. It’s about average score in a championship, not the number of race wins you get.
“We can accept the days when cars like the Ford, which are probably on some tracks – with the simple dimensions of it – quicker than our car, but the days we’re fastest we need to maximise those.”