Stefan Mücke
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Stefan Mücke out of luck in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2019

• Safety car ruins race for Stefan Mücke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson in the number 66 Ford GT • Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK trio finish sixth in the LM GTE Pro class • Stefan: "It was a flawless race from our perspective, so we can feel satisfied"

Last weekend, in front of 252,500 spectators, Stefan Mücke lined up for the 13th time in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Together with his team-mates Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson, he drove a Ford GT fielded by Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK in the LM GTE Pro class. The number 66 car was decked out in a special livery reminiscent of the GT40 in which Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon claimed the first ever overall Le Mans victory for Ford in 1966.
Starting from ninth place, differences in top speed made it difficult for the team to stay in contact with the front-runners. The trio sustained two punctures requiring additional pit stops, which further set back their chances. Bad luck with two safety car deployments and a collision with an opponent dashed any prospect of a top result. So it was that Mücke, Pla and Johnson were initially ranked seventh in the LM GTE Pro class. The trio subsequently moved up one place to sixth following the disqualification of an opponent.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans 2019 brought the first Superseason of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) to a conclusion. At the end of eight races in the fiercely competitive LM GTE Pro drivers' championship, Mücke and Pla were fifth.
Six questions for Stefan Mücke
What were the key factors that determined the outcome of your race?
You need a combination of speed and luck to get a top result - that was our problem. We noticed right at the beginning of the race that we were lacking straight-line speed. The opposition had more power, especially in the lower rpm range. That's why we decided to switch to a more aerodynamically optimal rear wing. It improved our top speed and helped us to battle our way up the field again. This was necessary, not least because we had two slow punctures in relatively quick succession in the initial phase. As a result, we had to make two additional pit stops, and the safety cars threw a real spanner in the works.
Tell us more about the safety cars.
At Le Mans, you have this peculiar situation that there are three safety cars equally spaced around the circuit. It's immensely important to get back on track behind the safety car for your particular class. Unfortunately, this was impossible for us both times, which meant we got separated from the rest of our class. That put us almost a lap behind. Just before, we had been told that there would be more Full Course Yellows and that everyone should slow down to 80 km/h and maintain position. That was OK at first, but then there were some quite serious crashes and so the safety cars were brought out. Unfortunately, this has often been a decisive factor at Le Mans in recent years, and it considerably affected our result this year.
What impressions will you be taking away from Le Mans?
Obviously, we would have liked to finish on the podium. But all things considered, P6 is a respectable outcome. The LM GTE Pro class is extremely tight and, despite all the problems we encountered, we still managed to come home behind our sister car. It was a flawless race from our perspective, so we can feel satisfied.
How many stints did you drive?
I was second in the cockpit and drove a triple stint, from around 17:00 to 20:00. During the night, I was in the car from about 00:30 to 04:30. It was a pretty long triple stint, as there were yet more safety car deployments. Then I was back in action from 09:00 to 11:00. Altogether, it amounted to a good nine hours of driving time.
During the early hours, your team-mate was involved in a collision. What was your view of the situation?
It was an overtaking manoeuvre in which nobody was prepared to give way, so it resulted in a collision and a spin. But I see it as a racing incident. Our car was slightly damaged, so we changed the front end during the pit stop. The incident did not cost us all that much much time, because we were already adrift of the leaders but we also had a good cushion to our nearest pursuers. It was the only incident we had.
How would you sum up at the end of the first WEC Superseason?
It was a pretty mixed campaign which we finished in fifth position overall. The early part was especially good with the victory at Spa and two pole positions. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side in some races. Nevertheless, we are quite satisfied with the season and with our performance in the final fixture at Le Mans.

Copy: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing