TOYOTA, 19.11.2007

Alain Prost: "The whole team is out to conquer a second title"

The winner of the last Andros Trophy, now in his fifth season with Toyota and his second at the wheel of the Toyota Auris, is motivated by a strong sense of team spirit.

When we talk about last season, is it your seven victories and your title that immediately come to mind?
What stands out is the fact that we had a successful season with three additional reasons for satisfaction. The Toyota team was an extraordinarily closely-knit one; we were quick everywhere and the team showed total mastery when it had to cope with the different conditions on ice. We were never at the mercy of unexpected incidents, and we always knew where we were going. Sometimes we sacrificed a bit here and a bit there to gain a lot at the right moment. The peak tyre efficiency often required a very finely-tuned strategy. Weíll have to be able to reproduce this performance if we want to win the title for the second time. Weíll have to master extreme situations even better when the track conditions deteriorate and bumps appear and ruts deepen without compromising the carís handling.

Whatís your best memory of 2006-2007?
Iíd answer best memories as they concern three of my seven 2007 victories: the second race at Isola 2000, the first at Serre-Chevalier the following weekend and the first at Super Besse with sixty kilos of ballast on board!

And your aim now is to defend your title?
Yes, thatís the aim, but Iím not going to think too much about it as I prefer tackling the Andros Trophy race by race. Of course, Iíll fight to be champion again but if Olivier Panis is in front then Iíll put the interest of the team first. Yes, Iím going for the title, yes Iíll do my best to be competitive but for sure Iíll be racing against Olivier, Jean-Philippe Dayraut and the others.

Does the fact that youíve won it change your approach to the Andros Trophy?
Iím not going to tackle it in a different manner. It all depends on what your philosophy is. Is your ultimate aim to win the title, or are you there to be competitive on ice, which has always been my main motivation. But this branch of the sport is very complicated - mind-boggling even! A driver may dominate at one moment and find himself way back a run later. What motivates me is to be quick in all conditions and to continue to progress.

Youíre now in your fifth season with Toyota...
It gives me great satisfaction to have been part of the launch of the Toyota Auris thanks to my title. Itís an honour to enjoy the trust of the nį1 car manufacturer in the world, and Iíd like to thank Toyota France for its faith in me. Weíre partners and weíre also friends, and itís a pleasure to defend their colours. I feel really good in the team and you wonít be surprised to hear that Richard Tur, the technical director of Toyota Team Tork Engineering, and I get on like a house on fire. Iíve always got on very well with my engineers and even better with Richard. Together we go forward; itís always positive and even when things donít work out, thereís never any bitterness. Heís got that little touch of psychological insight which settles everything whatever the circumstances.

Youíre with the same team-mates...
Working with Olivier makes me really happy. I know thereíll never be any problems with a guy like him. Heís a friend. Bertrand provides the glue to cement our team together. Heís an addtional asset as his experience on ice is of great benefit to the whole squad. Olivier has a great team-mate in him. Thereís real complicity in the Toyota team.

So you donít change a winning team?
Even when youíve done a good job you have to try and see how you can do better in keeping with the principle of continuous improvement -"kaizen"- so dear to Toyota. Weíve won once with the Toyota Auris and now we have to have even more aces up our sleeve to win for the second time. As Richard Tur explains elsewhere weíve tried to optimise all the details of both the Lexus engine and the chassis. Weíve done it by fine-tuning everything, which is the way to go in a competition like the Andros Trophy.

When did you start thinking for this yearís Andros Trophy?
I began really thinking about it in September. When the first cold spell occurs youíre back in the mood. Toyota France decided to defend the title almost immediately, so Richard and I were able to think about the new season early on. At the end of the last one we started to talk about further development on the Toyota Auris. Things followed their normal course and since September the preparation has been concentrated around fine-tuning the details.

Howís your left foot since your operation on 24th September?
At the start I couldnít walk for very long but that was all. I didnít have to have any re-education, as the joint was not the problem. It was just a question of removing the fragments of bone that handicapped me a little. It was the sequel of my accident on 23rd May 1982 in the Monaco Grand Prix in which my big toes were broken. The surgeon who operated on me in Cochin is one of the best and Iíll be in fighting form for the Andros.

In 2008, The Trophy will be back in the Stade de France. Will we see Alain and Nicolas Prost there at the wheel of a Toyota Auris?
Why not! It depends on Nicolasís schedule; he did some testing in the Toyota at Val Thorens last March and made a pretty good job of it. Of course, thereís a big step between that and suddenly finding himself on an oval. Racing on an ice oval is a very special challenge. Iíve done it three times and Iíve never managed to win. Iíd love to win the Super Final in the Stade de France. Itís not really a sporting challenge in the true sense of the term, but it would be the ideal finish should we win the Trophy again.

Communiqué de presse Toyota

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Alain Prost-Infopage © by Oskar Schuler, Switzerland