Stefan Mücke
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Stefan Mücke travels to season highlight in Le Mans as championship leader

• Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver Stefan Mücke to contest his twelfth 24 Hours of Le Mans • Highly competitive field of 30 GT cars vying for class victory on the Sarthe circuit • Stefan: "We intend to leave France as we arrived, namely as championship leaders"

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is fast approaching. The much-anticipated classic in the valley of the Sarthe, which is a component event of the FIA World Endurance Championship, always attracts the world's top sports car drivers. Prominent among them is Stefan Mücke, who is about to contest his twelfth 24 Hours of Le Mans. The trio of Mücke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson, who function as a well-oiled machine, travel to the Sarthe as leaders in the LM GTE Pro class. There will be no fewer than 30 GT cars in the line-up, including strong competition from Ferrari and Porsche, who must be considered Ford Chip Ganassi Racing's most dangerous rivals for the class win.
Mücke has acquired a reputation as a Le Mans expert. He made his debut on the 13.63km circuit back in 2007. Until 2011, the Ford factory driver was a competitor in the LMP1 class. In the 2009 season, he narrowly missed out on a podium with a P4 finish. In 2012, Mücke switched to the GTE Pro class and made podium appearances in two successive years. Last year did not go according to plan for the Berliner. The ambitions of the number 66 Ford GT crew were thwarted by damage to the rear wheel suspension shortly after midnight, requiring a lengthy pit stop. Due to the time lost on repair, they were unable to finish any higher in the LM GTE Pro class than tenth.
They are determined not to have a repeat of that situation in 2018. Endurance races are notoriously unpredictable, but the conditions for a top finish this season are more auspicious than ever before. Mücke and his team-mates won the opening fixture of the season at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Buoyed by this early success and by promising data from the test in Le Mans, Mücke and his Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team-mates are ready for the legend of Le Mans. Qualifying for the 24-hour race takes place on Wednesday and Thursday. The race itself starts on Saturday at 15:00 CEST. Eurosport will be showing the entire race live on TV. Alternatively, it can be watched as a livestream on the FIA World Endurance Championship website or smartphone app.
Three questions for Stefan Mücke
Stefan, 2018 will be the twelfth year that you have competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans...
Yes, and each time it's such an incredible feeling. Even arriving there is a unique experience. As you approach the track, you feel the magic that radiates from it. It's incredible, and it feels the same every year. Apart from that, though, I benefit from the experience that I've accumulated over the past eleven years. Furthermore, Olivier, Billy and I are a close-knit team, and in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing engineers and mechanics, we have top people backing us up.
You go to the Sarthe circuit as championship leaders. Is that a curse or a blessing?
Without doubt, it is a blessing rather than a curse, because we showed in the season opener at Spa-Francorchamps that we are capable of winning just as long as we have a hitch-free weekend. That's reassuring, like balm for the soul. So we'll be going into this highlight of the racing calendar fully motivated. As championship leaders, you're obviously under constant pressure, and I sense the pursuing pack breathing down our necks. The victory in Spa was also a reward for the entire team who do an excellent job every season and every race. We are in a good position, and I see no reason why we should not be in contention for the class win.
You tested on the track a few days ago. Where do you stand in direct comparison to the competition?
After the test, it's difficult to say precisely where we stand. There are several factors to consider, such as adjustments in the BoP (balance of performance). Essentially, the Ford GT feels very good on this challenging track. We will probably not be able to weigh up the situation properly until after the quali. For us, victory is clearly the objective. But in terms of the championship, we have to first make sure that we get through the full 24 hours OK. After all, we intend to leave France as we arrived, namely as championship leaders.

Photos: Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK