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September 21, 2019

Way Back When: Richard Westbrook teamed up with Timo Scheider at Le Mans

Way Back When: Richard Westbrook teamed up with Timo Scheider at Le Mans
Photo Credit To Gary Parravani/www.Xynamic.com

Having been a fixture in the DTM since 2000, it’s easy to forget that the newly-retired Timo Scheider also tasted plenty of success in his irregular forays into GT racing. The two-time DTM champ has a Spa 24 Hours victory on his CV from 2011 and finished third in a highly competitive GT2 field on his sole attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours with BMS Scuderia Italia in 2010. Following Scheider’s announcement last weekend at Hockenheim, we asked his Le Mans team-mate Richard Westbrook – then a Porsche factory driver making his first appearance at the great race – to recall a memorable weekend for all concerned.  

It was the year we went as three rookies to Le Mans, that’s what I will always remember. Everyone wants to do Le Mans, but it’s very difficult to get your first crack at it and especially if you’re not bringing any budget, which obviously I wasn’t. The first thing team managers ask is ‘have you been there before?’ The answer to that question for myself, Marco Holzer and Timo was ‘no’, but BMS were a really cool team and they were willing to take a punt on the three of us.

The drive actually didn’t come through Porsche – they helped to facilitate it, but the first contact came from Didi Cazzago, who used to be team-manager at AF Corse, who we were fighting for the FIA GT championship in 2009. In the end we beat them, hopefully Didi had a good impression of me and that’s why I got a call. BMS were running a Porsche, he was looking for drivers and it didn’t take long to do the deal!

That year there was no Test Day, so we went straight into the race week and in first practice and qualifying we had to do our mandatory laps because none of us had been there before. I was quite surprised by how quickly all three of us learned the track. People can spook you out about Le Mans by saying ‘it’s different than anywhere else’ and of course there is a different kind of pressure. But I think we all went into it not really under any pressure, because there wasn’t any expectation of getting a result. We went there fully focused on learning the track and enjoying ourselves and that’s what we did – we all got the job done with very limited running before the race.

Timo came along as an Audi factory driver and I think they were parked next door to us, so he was probably thinking ‘if I do a good job then maybe I’ve got a shot at driving an LMP1’. Maybe he had a little bit more pressure on his shoulders, but he certainly didn’t show it – he was  an absolute delight to work with.

Timo had very little GT experience at that time, so his attitude was ‘you and Marco drive this car all year, so you set it up and I’ll drive it however you tell me to’. Especially when drivers come from single-seaters or from a series when you’re in a car on your own, they probably learn to be a little bit more selfish and forget that in sportscar racing you’ve got to share the car, but Timo’s attitude was of someone that had done sportscar racing all their life. He was really laid back and absolutely superb in the car, his pace, traffic management was just great.

None of us put a foot wrong – we ran the perfect race until with four hours to go we lost a cylinder. Without that, potentially we could have come second. I don’t think we were ever going to beat the factory Porsche in first place, but with the competition we were facing that year, to come away with a podium was an absolute dream result.

It ended up being the most fun race week I’ve ever had because the atmosphere was just superb. With all of us being rookies, we just went into it to enjoy our first experience at Le Mans and that was exactly what we did. We had our problems during the week but no-one ever got annoyed, no-one ever got down – it was such an enjoyable week. I can’t speak highly enough of it. I think about that race weekend a lot, it was one of the best times I’ve had in motorsport. I wish it was always that relaxed now!

See More: Steven Kane reflects on his victory in the madcap Baltimore street race in 2011.

About The Author

James Newbold

James Newbold is Racing.GT's Editor. He graduated from a politics degree at the University of East Anglia in 2015, which should help him navigate through the political minefield that is GT racing. He likes Marmite on toast and Oreo cookies. Speaks Spanish, but only when no one is looking.