Stefan Mücke
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24 Hours of Le Mans: Stefan Mücke delivers upbeat verdict

• Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver finishes sixth in the GT class of the FIA World Endurance Championship classic • Still in contention for the title: Mücke is only eight points off second place • Stefan: "The 24 Hours of Le Mans was essentially a classic sprint race"

After securing a class victory in the opening fixture of the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in early May at Spa-Francorchamps, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver Stefan Mücke arrived at the Sarthe circuit for the 24 Hours of Le Mans feeling justifiably optimistic. The main objective for the Berliner and co-drivers Billy Johnson and Olivier Pla in the endurance classic was to score vital championship Points 
Qualifying went according to plan as the drivers placed the number 66 Ford GT in P3 on the grid behind the two Porsches which in any case proved to be unbeatable over the entire race weekend. The starting position in an endurance race is not ultimately decisive, but it is nonetheless indicative of car and crew performance. 
The race went well except for one crucial incident. Mücke started brilliantly and handed over the car in the lead group. But then team-mate Johnson lost time after a fault-free collision with another car. The tie rod broke, and Johnson had to drive a full lap to get back to the pits for repair. The end result was a P6 in the GT classification. However, because three guest entrants finished ahead of Mücke and his team-mates, the number 66 GT was third in the actual WEC rankings. This puts Mücke eight points behind the leaders in the championship. 
Five questions for Stefan Mücke 
The race did not go according to plan for you
Not quite. But when does it ever at Le Mans? You have to be exceptionally lucky for everything to go according to plan for the full 24-hour duration. The weekend started well for us. We qualified third on the grid as the best of the Ford GTs. We were therefore very satisfied with the build-up. The early stage of the race was also very good. We were involved in a lot of great wheel-to-wheel action. During our first double stint, though, our tyres started to lose grip, which cost us some places. When they picked up again, I was able to make up ground and positions. 
You and your teammates were almost consistently setting competitive lap times. How is that possible on such a long track?
This shows once again what a high calibre of drivers we have in the WEC line-up. There were also a lot of guest entrants coming in from GT racing. The GT elite turn up every year to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and last weekend was no exception. The battles for position are tough, but at the same time highly professional and fair. There was not a single minute where you could take a breather. It was essentially a classic sprint race.
You handed the car over in fourth place, but in the third stint, the car was involved in a collision. At the end of the day, that cost you a podium. Tell us what happened.
Billy took over the car as third driver and continued to build on our great performance up to that point. After just over an hour, we came into contact with a prototype, which sent Billy over a kerb and the tie rod of our Ford GT got broken. Unfortunately, this happened on the last corner, so Billy was obliged to carry the defect for one whole lap before he could come into the pits for a repair stop. That obviously cost us a lot of time. It put us at the back of the GT field, about three laps behind the class leaders.
Despite that setback, though, you still managed to finish sixth in the GT classification.
Yes, we really gave it everything we'd got. The guys in the pits did an excellent job, because the Ford GT ran like clockwork before and after the repair. We didn't allow ourselves to make any mistakes, and we fought our way back to sixth place. After the incident, though, it was also clear to us that we weren't in contention for a podium unless the front-runners made any errors. After a personal total of nine and a half hours in the car, I'm just happy that we at least managed to score some important championship points. Sure, it would have been great if could have made it onto the podium, but in terms of the championship, we are very satisfied with the weekend as a whole.
You've mentioned the championship. You are still right there in the GT title chase
After just two races, nothing is decided yet. However, we already have a quarter of the season behind us. Here at Le Mans, we benefited from the fact that three guest entrants finished in front of us. This meant that we were classified third for championship purposes, so Olivier, Billy and I are only eight points off second place. We obviously intend to continue on the same trajectory at Silverstone as well. However, the next item in my diary is the ADAC GT Masters weekend at the Nürburgring. After the disappointing weekend for the Audi teams at Spielberg, we now want to return to the excellent form that we showed at Most.

Copy: Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK