Neel Jani continues his series of exclusive diaries for lola-group.com with a review of a dramatic Spa 1000kms last weekend.

There was some disappointment coming away from Spa with no points but I always like to look positively and the pace that we showed in the early stages of the race was encouraging. With Le Mans so close now, I suppose that we are fortunate to get any bad luck out of the way before the big one next month at the 24 hours.

The start of the Spa 1000kms was actually very challenging, one of the most challenging things I have done in recent years because it is definitely not easy when it’s wet and you are on slicks. It was super tricky entering Eau Rouge but it was even worse in the middle of the corner and hard to keep the car straight. On my first lap I was actually off the road in Eau Rouge, somehow I saved the car and then thought, ‘I’ll take it a little bit easier now’. We had a safety car because of a shunt at the top of Eau Rouge and on the re-start I actually had better pace than the Audis and caught them up. It was a nice feeling to fight with them and really attack, overtaking Allan McNish, which was a nice moment. In the middle sector we were really quick because we had a good car, good grip and even though it was a bit damp, the Lola-Rebellion went really well in those conditions.

From then on I just tried to get through traffic and tried to stay together with Jean-Christophe. It was all good and then obviously the red flag came out (due to the power failure). I didn’t know exactly what was happening, so I stopped on the starting grid as everybody else did. My engineer (Lola’s Adam Airey) told me what the problem was and I thought, ‘well that’s rather different, even for Spa!’ We then decided as soon as the race would restart that we would just come into the pits and do a change under safety car.

So, Nico went out and a few laps later he was out of the race with a gearbox problem. I didn’t feel anything in the car, for me the gearbox was going well, so it must have happened really just as soon as he got in and it was a shame because I think we had good pace and we could have finished around 5th or 6th.

Earlier in the race I was right behind Jean Christophe when there was the incident with Panis in the ORECA car. It looked to me as if Jean-Christophe couldn’t do a lot to avoid Panis. Basically it was a race incident because it was a little bit damp and every movement you do with the steering wheel at that speed on top of Eau Rouge on slick tyres means you can go off very easily. He couldn’t just move the car over, as he will have a huge shunt himself. For sure he didn’t do it on purpose as I know him and he wouldn’t jeopardise himself or another driver like that.’

Before Le Mans I will fly next week to Indianapolis for the Indy 500 because I had a few talks this year with some Indy car teams and I am going to meet them again to talk about future possibilities. After Indy, I am flying directly to Austria where I have a training week before Le Mans. Nico (Prost) and I will train in Austria with my personal trainer, Helmut Fink, who used to be Nick Heidfeld’s trainer and dietician.

Nico and I will be joined by Marco Andretti for Le Mans and I am really looking forward to racing with him again. I think Marco will do okay and I guess the night driving will be pretty special for him as it is his first time at the track. He raced the Acura a few times and did the Ricard test so will at least have some knowledge of the Lola-Rebellion.

I look forward to telling you all about our Le Mans adventure where I hope we can build on the good pace that the Rebellion Lola has shown so far this season. For sure, Le Mans is going to be an epic and I believe that we can fight for a very good result in the world’s greatest motor race.

Bye for now

All pictures Lola Heritage