24 Hours of Le MansFIA WECInterviews

Billy Johnson: “I think it’s a lot tighter than Qualifying looks like”

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Billy Johnson, Olivier Pla & Stefan Mücke - Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Credit: Craig Robertson

Billy Johnson says the GTE Pro class is harder to predict that many assume in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, and even the form in Qualifying cannot be used to assume one team is faster than another.

The American is sharing the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing machine with Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla this weekend and started the race from third in the GTE Pro class behind two Porsche GT Team entries, but with seventeen entries in the class from six manufacturers, he feels it will be a close run thing.

It’s still a little hard to tell on who Qualifying went, because there are some teams that went much slower than their pace is,” said Johnson to The Checkered Flag, “and then there are other teams that, when you put the sectors together, they have a lot more pace than their outright lap times. 

“I think it’s a lot tighter than Qualifying looks like, and you never know the strategy of different teams, but this race can be so unforgiving where you’ve got the fastest car and a ton of bad luck, or a slow car and everything just goes your way, it’s a real long 24 hours and it’s not over until the chequered flag drops,

“So, right now no real hurdles or big issues, we’re going into the race and see what we can do.”

Johnson says the GTE Pro class is probably the most difficult class of the four racing at Le Mans, with the drivers competing against other professional drivers while looking out for the faster Prototype cars coming from behind and the slower GTE Am cars they are likely to lap.

“It’s always a very gruelling race,” said Johnson. “The track is very narrow, very unforgiving, and then the closing speeds between the prototypes and GT cars [means] it’s very mentally draining to not only drive the car but to watch out for the faster prototypes, pass the slower GT AM cars.

“In some ways the GTE Pro class is one of the more difficult classes just to negotiate the track, let alone now we have seventeen really competitive cars, more manufacturers, very good drivers, very good teams, so you’re gonna be in a battle for position almost the entire race. 

“With so many competitors in our class, we’re going to be fighting for position all race long, knowing that, going into the race, it’s definitely even more competitive, more tiring, more gruelling, more intense.”

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