Born on April 5, 1972, within a strongly linked to motorsport family, began his career in 1990 in the Citroen AX trophy. His career has evolved and went through various categories, from the German F3 to the Japanese Formula 3, Formula Nippon, Japanese GT championship, passing through Le Mans, ELMS, ALMS, ETCC, BTCC and the Dakar.
Won the Marlboro Master F3 in 1997, the championship Formula Nippon in 1999 and the championship WTCC private in 2006 and 2009. A driver known worldwide, very versatile and that gave us the honor to answer a few questions.
My grandfather, father and brothers who were racers and I was their mechanic, so when I was young I was always on racing tracks and I got addicted with it. As I am from a racing family I had no other chance!
What is the competition that most helped you to improve as a driver?
Formula Ford helped me with mechanical grip level and feeling good with it and F3 for turn in speed.
Which race touched you the most and gave you more pleasure to accomplish? Any special race that you remember the most?
Masters of F3 in 1997 when I won. Also Monaco in F3 and Macau in F3
Formula Nippon was so unreal fast and it had more downforce than F1 these days. In Japan I won the Formula Nippon championship in 1999.
You participated in the toughest race in the world, the Dakar. Is it as difficult as it seems?
No, it is MORE difficult than you think. When you drive alone 10.000 km, without sleep, without anybody to talk or help to repair ….. was tough, VERY tough.
What are the biggest challenges in the Dakar?
Navigation and so much time alone, really alone.
How do you rate the participation in the Dakar 2015?
A 10+, now I look back it’s a great achievement and the best goal I have ever done alone.
7,5. It´s not easy to fight with factory teams but I had my moments of fame, so I’ m happy with 3 podiums and the best Chevrolet driver.
Do you think the rules changes improved the competition? Do you like the new cars?
No. Any front wheel drive cars are no race cars and I miss the touching like real touring cars should do.
What was for you the highest moment of last year? And the lowest?
Highest: P3 Spa Francorchamps.
Lowest: Marocco, a big start crash without my mistake.
Being the car broken, we can’t do anything about it.I know he didn’t do it on purpose, he is my friend but sometimes he is just a bit clumsy.
How is your relationship with “our” Portuguese Tiago Monteiro? Is there a good vibe in the WTCC paddock?
He is a good and honest close friend for sure, ask him also hahaha! For me he is real. He is also very handy in his way of doing business. He is clever making money in racing, I can’t do it.
The Vila Real circuit, which will be for the first time in the WTCC calendar, has a lot of history … What’s your opinion on the city track? Do you know it? Do you think your Chevrolet will adapt well to the track?
I know it. I like street circuits. I will also do well on these new types of tracks, so I’m excited.
What is your point of view on going to Nordshleife? Will it be the greatest challenge of the year?
Of course I like the track. I drove a lot with Zakspeed Racing in 2007. I was P2 in the 24h(race) and I had the lap record for a long time, I believe for 4 years so ….yes, I’ m ready J
Macau has a special atmosphere which nobody can beat so yes, I will miss it. But Vila Real is also unique so I expect a lot of nice time there. I will bring my family.
And Norschliefe I just LOVE ! It is the best racing driver challenge ever…..it doesn’t exist better on planet Earth.
What are your expectations for the 2015 season? What are your goals?
A few podiums would be nice J and enjoy life!
Are everything ready for Argentina? Can you beat the Honda´s and stay close to the Citroen´s than seem to be again the strongest car?
We have a lot of work to do. As a private team it has not the budget like the factory cars…..
My brother Tim who never give up.
What is your dream car?
Aston Martin Vanquish V12.
As one of the most popular drivers in the WTCC and one of the favourites, do you have a message for the Portuguese fans?
I have a lot of Portuguese fans on my Facebook and Twitter, because they love motorsports. I hope to see them in Portugal and I´ll give them time with me, no problem.
Fábio Mendes and Pedro Mendes
Interview in Portuguese, here.