2014 Le Mans 24: Krohn Racing Wasted No Time in Preparation for 24 Hours of Le Mans
Krohn Racing had no time to waste in their preparation for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 14-15, 2014. After receiving a late invitation just two weeks ago from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) to return to the historic Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France, the team has worked non-stop to prepare the car to be race ready and handle logistics for movement of the crew and racing inventory for the grueling twice-around-the-clock sports car endurance race.
Team owner/driver Tracy W. Krohn and his decade-long teammate Nic Jonsson, of Sweden and now living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, will be joined for the first time in the cockpit by Brit Ben Collins. Collins, a three-time Le Mans competitor, has been driving the Ferrari F458 in the ELMS this season. In addition to his racing career, Ben also gained fame as "The Stig" on the popular British TV show, "Top Gear".
Krohn Racing is the fifth American team in the 55-car 2014 Le Mans field. After managing a massive job to get the car to Michelotto in Italy for preparation of the Prancing Horse to 2014 Le Mans specs, the popular green-and-blue liveried Ferrari arrived in Le Mans on Sunday, June 8 and took part in the ACO official scrutineering on Monday, June 9.
TRACY W. KROHN, Krohn Racing Team Owner/Driver, No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 GTE-Am:
You received a surprise late invitation to Le Mans after an earlier attempt did not work out. How shocked were you when you got the call from the ACO that another team had dropped out and Krohn Racing was invited?
...and how hectic has it been to prepare in such a short time?
"I was in shock, but very pleased. We had just finished canceling all of our hotel reservations just a couple of days before the invite came, but we got it all done. Our team manager, Gary, was actually on his honeymoon, so while he was honeymooning, he was working out logistics from the Bahamas. Actually, it's made everybody focus and realize we have to do it right the first time. We had to take the car to Italy first and work with the Michelotto guys at their shops. I think it's working out quite nicely."
Due to the late invite you had to skip the Le Mans Test Day. Do you think in the end that will matter much for the team's preparedness?
"Everybody on the team has been here several times and we've all got experience with the Ferrari 458. It's always better to have more track time than less track time, but we will be okay."
You have a new co-driver with Ben Collins joining you and Nic at Le Mans. How did that come about?
"I think Nic made the initial recommendation to see if Ben [Collins] was available to race with us. We needed someone that had experience and someone that had experience at Le Mans. These guys have to carry the burden of co-driving with me, because I'm not going to be as quick as they are, so we needed somebody that had that kind of experience. We also needed someone that didn't have an ego, and didn't have anything to prove. Ben's name came up and it was our first choice and we're very fortunate to have him."
You have been competing in the GTE-Pro class in the U.S., however you will compete again in the GTE-Am class at Le Mans. How competitive are these classes, both in the U.S. and at Le Mans?
"These are extremely competitive classes. It's tough going up against the manufacturers. Factory drivers have the best and latest equipment and they have big budgets, so it's really hard to beat them. Just to be on the same track is an attractive proposition because it feels so good when you do it."
You have always said Le Mans is one of your favorite races and this will be yours and Nic's ninth time there competing together. What's your favorite part of the circuit and why?
"I think that when you come off the Mulsanne, the right right-hander of the Mulsanne is probably my favorite, because you're turning right at full speed, a hard right hand turn that you always seem to come up on traffic. It's really a precision turn that's a blast."
NIC JONSSON, driver, No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 GTE-Am:
How surprised were you when you received the last minute word that Krohn Racing was returning to Le Mans?
"I got very surprised when Tracy called me and said he has some good news. After all the efforts to try to get in to the race, trying to secure a deal with different teams that never came to fruition, I think we all thought and put that disappointment behind us and started to look forward and focus on the rest of the season!! So it was a great surprise to get the news that we going back to Le Mans for a ninth consecutive year!! "
Did you already know him and have you ever driven with or against Ben Collins?
"I just know Ben from the paddocks around the world but never raced with or against him since he has made a career and name for himself in Europe, and I've been in the States for the last 18 years racing to build my career and establishment. I'm sure we have raced against each other before, somewhere like in the European Le Mans Series, etc, but nothing I can remember. I know Ben is a very accomplished and fast driver and will be a great addition to Krohn Racing and our Le Mans effort with his knowledge, experience and professionalism he comes with. We very excited to have him onboard!"
What will it be like competing in the GTE-Am class again at Le Mans after competing in the GTE-Pro class in the U.S. in the IMSA TUDOR series?
"It's going to be fun to be back racing in the GTE-AM category again with some of the same cars and teams we competed against for the past three years in the WEC and ILMC. I don't think we prepare any different from what we have done for the GTLM races in the states. The biggest thing is that we are going to have compatible equipment with our competitors in Le Mans that we have not had in GTLM since we have been running our 2012 GTE-AM car in the IMSA Tudor Series this year. So that's going to be a great addition to our already competitive and first-class Krohn Racing Team and our 'Mean Lean Krohn Ferrari Racing Machine'.
You normally have months of preparation for Le Mans with exercise, nutrition and sleep. How will you handle it with the limited time this year?
"I've been working out and looked after my nutrition really well this year without specifically thinking of Le Mans, so I still feel very well prepared and ready. The only thing I need to do is to make sure I get enough sleep the week before and week leading up to the race. I'm ready for this very exciting opportunity and challenge of going back to Le Mans!"
What is your favorite part of the circuit? And what is the most challenging part?
"My favorite part and the most challenging at the same time is the Porsche curves. It's fast, off camber at places, good flow and also blind entry to a couple of them. I love that complex because of the difficulty and challenge to go fast there."
BEN COLLINS, driver, No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 GTE-Am:
Krohn Racing got a late call to compete at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, so you obviously did too. How did it come together?
"I was very fortunate, or unfortunate, to suddenly find myself without a seat for Le Mans until I got the call from Gary (Holland, Krohn racing Team Manager). It was a fantastic opportunity to join a very successful team so we agreed it there and then."
You've raced a variety of different cars in many different series, how comfortable are you to jump in the Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 for the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
"I've been driving for Ram Racing so far this season and love driving the 458. It remains my favorite road car and the GT conversion takes that passion to another level. As far as I'm concerned the only change is the bright color, for which I have sunglasses, and focusing on a 24-hour race instead of a six-hour."
Were you previously familiar with the Krohn Racing Team and their racing history at Le Mans, WEC and in the U.S?
"It's hard to miss the Krohn Racing Team to be honest. I drove one of their Daytona Prototypes a few years ago and they instantly struck me as a very capable, highly professional outfit so I'm very excited to see what we can achieve together."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans has been called the ultimate test of man and machine. Talk about the ways the race tests both man and machine.
"Le Mans is dependent on every small detail being aligned because the grueling nature of the race puts such a strain on the car, the team and the drivers. Krohn have the depth of talent to pull those elements together, which is a major confidence boost as a driver, but you still come at this race with your eyes wide open. There's something on your shoulder waiting for a mistake every corner of every lap, day and night until you take the checkered flag. I love it."
What is your favorite part of the circuit? And what is the most challenging part?
"The Mulsanne straight is special because it reminds you that you're in a race that began nearly 100 years ago and I really enjoy attacking the chicanes. After you turn right out of Mulsanne things start to heat up and you turn on your high speed head for Indianapolis and Porsche Curves. There's never a dull moment in a 180 mph corner."
HAYDEN BURVILL, Krohn Racing Race Engineer:
You have not had much time to prepare for this year's Le Mans race so how have you managed to get the car ready?
"The Krohn Racing team was already preparing the car for the Watkins Glen 6 hour race, so many of the endurance racing systems on the car were being restored after the sprint race at Laguna. The timeframe is short, but the reactions of the team to maximize that short window are key to being on the grid on June 15th in a competitive condition. I am confident we will be ready. With assistance from Risi Competizione and Michelotto, the car will be in the latest specification and I am interested to see the additional speed available from the Le Mans bodywork configuration. The data accumulated by other teams on the June 1st test day will be filtered through to us in relevant form and this will help us to be ready for the first session on Wednesday. We can already benefit from the test by the public data we have seen and the exploits of drivers like Bergmeister, who dramatically illustrated the new kerbs at the Ford Chicane."
In addition to not being able to do the Le Mans Test you also have a brand new co-driver to the team. How do you get him ready and paired in well with the other two drivers?
"I have not worked with Ben before, but having worked with so many drivers over the years, I don't give it too much thought regarding first encounters. We know what Nic and Tracy need in the car, both packaging and set-up wise. Ben will have to see how he fits with that baseline. Comfort in the seat is one of the most critical aspects to avoiding fatigue in the endurance races, so it is important to push the driver to find fault in the seat and not be graciously and universally accepting of the package we offer him on the first fitting. Apart from the seat, I expect Ben to be immediately up to speed. He has been driving the RAM 458 this year and Mark Schomann (lead Engineer at RAM) and I know each other well enough to discuss how Ben works to give me a head start. Nic and Tracy have worked with numerous drivers in the eight previous starts at Le Mans, I expect this to be an easy adaptation for them too."
Anything can happen at Le Mans. How do you prepare for the unexpected?
"The unexpected opportunity can come in any race. The endurance races span such a long time periods that your fortune can swing back and forth multiple times. The GTE-Am field is large and in the early stages of the race any kind of mis-step will show a large drop in class position. I expect that we will see cars going up and down the leader board quite a bit initially. Once the race settles into a rhythm, the relative speed of the different cars will start to trend and the leader board and the contenders will be more apparent. So this discovery of the cars you really need to strategize against is a key step to finding competitive opportunities. We had a great, trouble free race in Sebring, where we moved into contention in the last quarter of the race. Ideally we will do the same at Le Mans. With the very short lead time in preparing for the race and the deep field, I have modest expectations for the first six hours. We have the full Krohn crew from the USA, plus I have Rick Mayer and Don Shaver from Risi Competizione helping me on the pit wall. Between us all, we will be tightly focused on finding opportunities as they develop."
GARY HOLLAND, Krohn Racing Team Manager:
You obviously had a big task to get a car and team ready with all the movements from the U.S. to Europe in less than a week's time. How did you go about this mega duty?
"We have some invaluable experience of long haul logistics from competing in the WEC for the last 2 seasons; so we were able to draw on that. We were also helped by the fact that the team was in final preparations for the Tudor Watkins Glen 6 hours at the end of the month so everything was in one place.
"Also, Michelotto, our chassis supplier on behalf of Ferrari, have been extremely accommodating regarding our needs and we would not be able to do this to the high standards that Le Mans demands without their support. We have some valuable relationships with companies that we have worked with in the past regarding freight forwarding whom have been superb in getting parts from one side of the Atlantic to the other without any problems. The teams' attitude and work ethic has been exemplary and I am confident that it will translate into a strong showing at Le Mans."
There is a lot of coordination that goes into any 24-hour race but one on a different continent requires all the more. How difficult is it to coordinate for a 24-hour race at Le Mans versus one at Daytona for a team based in the U.S.?
"It is a very different proposition from a team point of view, the car preparations is pretty much the same except for Le Mans specific aero set ups and things to help with such a long lap at Le Mans. The biggest difference is that in the USA we are working out of our bespoke race truck which, in effect, is an extension of our factory; everything has a place to live and it is second nature to know where parts and people are located. When we go overseas we are generally working from freight boxes which have carried our team across; the setup is similar aesthetically but it is a much bigger project logistically. For instance flights, hotels, hire cars, credentials all have to be sourced with the potential of language barriers, international licenses, etc. We try to be self-sufficient as much as possible but there are always things that are easier if they are sourced locally. The team is extremely experienced at this level of racing and has made the short period of preparation as seamless as possible."
Highlights from the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be broadcast live around the world, including full coverage via live streaming on radiolemans.com. Worldwide coverage varies. Check your local listing.
The U.S. broadcast schedule on FOX Sports is below: FOX SPORTS BROADCAST SCHEDULE (subject to change; all times ET):
* Saturday, June 14 - 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
* Saturday, June 14 - 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
* Saturday, June 14 - 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM (FOX Sports Go - mobile app)
* Saturday-Sunday, June 14-15 - 6:30 PM to 1:00 AM (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
* Sunday, June 15 - 1:00 AM to 7:30 AM (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
* Sunday, June 15 - 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
All 24 hours are available to view on the FOX Sports Go mobile app.