Interview with LMP2 Le Mans Winner Matt Howson
For the Hong Kong based team KCMG the 24 Hours of Le Mans was a dream event. The Oreca 05-Nissan was the class of the LMP2 field, setting the fastest lap in free practice and then taking pole position for the world's great motorsport event.
Richard Bradley, Nico Lapierre and Matt Howson went on to take victory at the 83rd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and, along with Team Principal Paul Ip, celebrated a well earned win on the top step of the podium and also the debut victory for the Oreca 05 on the world stage.
KCMG now travel to the next round in Germany at the end of August as championship leaders and they will be rejoined by Nick Tandy, who took overall victory at Le Mans with Porsche, and will replace Nico Lapierre for the final five races of the 2015 season.
We spoke to Matt Howson to get his reaction to the events at Le Mans.
Q: What does it mean to you and KCMG to win the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
Matt Howson: "For the team it is just a dream come true especially to dominate in the way we did, winning is one thing, but keeping control and making almost no mistakes, having no reliability issues is just remarkable and everybody in the team with their individual roles played a part in that. They must all be so proud. For me it's both a huge personal achievement after 15 years in motorsport and my name is now in the history books, you can win lots of races but only Le Mans is such a mark of achievement in the sport. It's also significant because I won the first race for KCMG (then PTRS) back in Asian Formula 3 in 2008, was part of their debut WEC and Le Mans races in 2013, and first WEC win in Austin 2014. We've had a great journey together and I'm proud to be a part of it as we continue to make history."
Q: What did it feel like standing on the top step of the podium with the sea of faces below you?
MH: "You begin to understand what you've just done, you're pretty tired and emotional but that's the beginning of realising the scale of winning this race. It's iconic of Le Mans to have so many peope attend the podium, and to know they're there cheering and applauding you is just surreal! The whole thing feels a bit like an out of body experience!"
Q: The Oreca 05 chassis is new for 2015. Are you surprised that it has become the chassis to beat so early on or were you expecting that it would be capable of winning races from the start of the season?
MH: "We knew the 05 had potential, it was just short on mileage and development prior to Silverstone and Spa. We were hoping for better results but reliability issues were our undoing before Le Mans. Now that those have been conclusively ironed out, we need to capitalise on improvements made, as in the beginning the Ligier definitely had the edge. Now we've at least drawn level on shorter circuits, and we've still more to come. "
Q: How did Nicolas Lapierre help you to this famous victory?
MH: "Nico was phenomenal. His speed nobody doubts, but he also brought a level head and not only is he very experienced, but he knows how to employ it to the maximum. Be it pit-stops procedure, race strategy or even how the guys wash the windscreen, he had some valuable input. He helped bring the car speed along although our engineer Greg Wheeler has to take the most credit for this! But Nico get's the most out of it and wants to help Richard and I, so all in all he was totally invaluable. And he's a super nice guy too, I enjoyed his constant, anywhere, anytime, random karaoke outbursts a lot!"
Q: Nick Tandy will be rejoining the team for the rest of the 2015 season. Have you spoken to him about his overall victory with Porsche?
MH: "Yes Richard and I had a beer with him on Sunday after the race, we were all stood at the bar in Porsche hospitality and had a 'cheers' with our first drink, 'here's to winning Le Mans'!! That's pretty much when it began to sink in for me and I think for all of us. An otherwise normal situation but those five little words were pretty powerful. He was proud obviously and also not sure why they were so much quicker than the sister car's during the night, but generally we just chatted about this and that and enjoyed the feeling, and obviously said all that's left now is to win WEC too! And the fact that our car will have an outright Le Mans winner in it as well will be feared, and so it should be."
Q: The no47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan will be the car of the 24 Hours of Le Mans champions at the Nurburgring. Will this put any more pressure on you as a team in the battle for the 2015 WEC title?
MH: "Of course being both Le Mans champions and championship leaders is more pressure, but only in that we have to hope no bad luck finds us. We will treat every race exactly the same as any before, as a team KCMG has a very good atmosphere and the Le Mans win is a confidence boost for the guys preparing the car and performing the pit-stops. We won't mistake this for permission to relax, just consolidate. We've already had the taste for winning in 2014 with the 03R, now we've won Le Mans and have a very realistic chance of taking the 2015 LMP2 team's title we are very, very hungry for it. It will be business as usual, there's still a long way to go!"