New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Karun Chandhok is banking on his past experience at 24 Hours of Le Mans for a top five finish in the world's oldest sports car race, zooming off this weekend at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Chandhok will be competing in the LMP2 category for Murphy Prototypes, an emerging outfit which led its class for five hours before retiring following a technical snag.
"It is a new class and much bigger one than LMP1. It is going to be a much closer field, but it will pretty much be about having a reliable car more than anything else," Chandhok told IANS from Le Mans in France.
The former Formula 1 driver was part of the JRM LMP1 squad in his debut race last year, coming home sixth overall with 2009 winner David Brabham and Peter Dumbreck.
This time he is partnering former Red Bull reserve Brendon Hartley and Mark Patterson. Murphy Protypes' ORECA-Nissan 03 will be fighting with 22 LMP2 cars while the overall winner is likely to come from the more powerful eight LMP1 machines.
"The manufacturers always have an edge over privateers. Ours is fairly a new team but I would be disappointed if we don't finish in the top five in our class. If all goes well in the race, a podium is also a possibility," said the 29-year-old.
He says adjusting to a prototype will not be an issue amid driving in the GT1 series this season.
"In fact, it is a pleasure to drive these prototypes. It gives a single seater feel and has a lot more grip and downforce than the conventional sports cars. It might lack the speed of single seaters but the downforce makes driving a pleasure." The GT field at Le Mans comprise GTE Pro and GTE AM class.
Le Mans is the ultimate endurance test for drivers, who are required to be behind the wheel for the two to three hours at a stretch, including the night time, before handing over the duty to the other two teammates.
Recalling his time last year, Chandhok says adapting to track conditions and dealing with the mental pressure is the most challenging part of the historic race, attended by 250,000 spectators every year.
"Weather is always a key. You are required to drive in the night, in the rain. You don't know what is coming at you. So adaptability is crucial. And you need a car that works well in all conditions.
"A big part of the circuit consists of public roads so that is another challenge," he says of the 13.6 km track.
Does one need to prepare differently for 24 Hours of Le Mans?
"Training wise you do the usual things. It is just about sleeping well before the race. That is the advice I got last year from David (Brabham).
"Physically it is not much of an issue. The biggest challenge is dealing with the mental side while driving non-stop for three hours. It could be quite draining." Chandhok ended up driving for more than nine hours in the last edition.
What about the ideal diet during the 24 hours? "As far as the diet goes, I had a whole lot of energy bars. Should be the same this time around."
The practice and qualifying takes place Wednesday and Thursday. The testing was done June 9.