Corvette Racing and Audi Sport factory driver Mike Rockenfeller is back at Le Mans for the first time since 2012, where he finished third on the podium. The former overall and class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans gave Racing24-7.net a bit of time to talk about the upcoming race and how the last few years has been.
Does it feel good to be back at Le Mans?
“Yes yes yes! Haha. Yes, it feels good to be back, it’s great to be in a Corvette. In a way it was also nice to have a kind of a break, because you appreciate it even more, when you come back. You know, when you come every year, you take a it a bit too much for granted, perhaps. So for me it’s a great experience to be here.”
Your focus switched more towards DTM, after winning the title. So we suppose that Audi demanded a bit more focus on that?
“Yeah, I had to make a decision a few times. There was a chance for me to switch to one or the other. Obviously as a driver you want to compete in both, but Audi at a certain point said, do one or the other. And I decided at the time to stay in DTM, where I was quite successful. But of course there were times later on, where I was saying – oh I made a mistake, maybe I should have stayed on the sportscars, and maybe enjoy it even more. Now unfortunately, there is no decision to be made, because we are not in LMP1 any more with Audi, so we are not at Le Mans. So DTM is the thing, and I focus on that. On top of that, I have the chance, which is great from Audi, also to race with Corvette in the long races, so I have again both, and I’m really happy. To be honest, I think the GT class is super nice, super tough, and it’s cool to be here in this class.”
And I guess that, well it’s not the same car as a DTM car, but it’s more like to like?
“No, I wouldn’t say. I would say DTM is more like LMP.”
A few years ago you also had some running in DP in America.
“Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed running in different cars, in different categories, and I think it’s great in your career, if you have that possibility to have sprint race, endurance race. Top class, GT class – whatever. I don’t think about it. I’m here, I’m in a Corvette, I know we have one of the toughest races ahead. So I enjoy it. I try first of all to fit in, because I didn’t do the pre-test, so I have zero experience of the car here on the track. And I tell you, it’s not easy to drive a GT around Le Mans. It’s probably more difficult than an LMP, and therefore I need every lap, every minute in the car.”
It’s your third race with Corvette this year, after doing Daytona and Sebring earlier in the season.
“Yeah, so I know the car, but it’s way different here with low drag, low downforce. Different tires, different track, so everytime I jump into the Corvette it’s a challenge, because those guys really know what they are doing, and how the car is inside out, and I don’t obviously. So I’m trying hard to be on the same level.”
Is it a strange feeling to be overtaken rather than doing the overtaking?
“Oh, I started my career in GT in Le Mans, and then of course I went up to LMP1, which was great, But for me, it’s part of the whole race in both ends, with you overtaking or being overtaken. I like both, and you know, it’s always a challenge at both ends.”
Mike Rockenfeller starts the race from 9th in GTE Pro, sharing the car # 63 with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.