Norman Nato (Hertz Team JOTA): “The big subject at Imola is traffic during the race”

If he expects a more complicated race for the Porsches in Italy than in Qatar, the Cannes resident wants to play the card of caution at Imola, where the nature of the circuit and the weather conditions could reshuffle the cards.

Published on 19/04/2024 à 12:51

Dorian Grangier

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Norman Nato (Hertz Team JOTA): “The big subject at Imola is traffic during the race”

© Javier Jimenez / DPPI

Norman, the WEC arrives here in Imola for the first time. You were able to meet the fans in the city center yesterday, tell us about the atmosphere around this circuit.

It's going to be a very nice weekend. We know that in Italy, they are real motorsport fans. Imola is a legendary circuit. For my part, the last time I came here was when I was in Formula Renault 2.0 (in 2012, Editor's note), I won both races. It was the start of my career in car, so I have rather good memories of it. The atmosphere will be very nice.

Could your single-seater experience help you understand the circuit with the Hypercar?

I don't think so, it's from too long ago and it doesn't behave the same at all. The Hypercar is much heavier, the vibrators have changed. And then… there’s the traffic. Here, the big subject, honestly, is going to be the traffic in the race. It's going to be very complicated to manage.

What memory do you have of this circuit?

This is the kind of circuit that I love, 'old school'. Afterwards, for a raceEndurance, I am less convinced. If you have to overtake a Hypercar, I don't see too many opportunities. It's just going to be strategy. We will have to be opportunistic in traffic. Unfortunately, there may be a lot of Safety Cars, VSCs and Full Course Yellows. So you're going to have to be smart, potentially save a lot more fuel than usual, precisely, to try to open up opportunities. We will have to adapt.

You have carried out tests here with Porsche and JOTA a few weeks ago. What are your first feelings with the car?

Dented! This is no surprise at Imola. The new vibrators are quite violent. We will have to adapt the settings of the car to be comfortable on the corners. The pull-up areas are also not easy. Heating the tires will also be a problem, we see that there are no big temperatures. On cold tires, it will be very complicated. There will be time to gain or lose, while avoiding mistakes too. In these conditions, it is very easy to make a mistake.

Are you going to prepare more for qualifying to try to have the position advantage in the first round, or are you just focusing on the race?

Yes, track position is going to be important. Afterwards, in qualifying, we always try to do the maximum. As in Qatar, it is not planned for me to qualify, it will be the lightest driver (Callum Illot, Editor's note). My role will be, for example, to prepare the settings of the car for the race during Free Practice and to do long stints, to get feedback on the tires. Everyone is focusing on a different part of the weekend, between the race and qualifying which will be important here. Afterwards, as I said, the strategies will be so different from the other races that it will have possibilities. This is why it is also up to us to try to understand or try to anticipate as much as possible what is going to happen.

In addition, rain is forecast for Sunday in Imola…

I did a few laps last time (in the rain, during testing with JOTA). In terms of grip, it's 'old school', you have to be careful of the vibrators. But with aquaplanning, it’s complicated. Honestly, if we have heavy rain, I'm afraid there will still be quite a few laps under Safety Car... Once again, we'll have to be open-minded, be ready for all conditions.

On such an atypical circuit, do you think there will be a real gap between LMH and LMDh, particularly on the use of the hybrid system?

I don't look at what other people do at all. It’s a bit of our strength that we had in Qatar too. Even the BoP, I watch it from afar... Crying and complaining about the BoP is not my style and it's not the style of the house. The goal is to optimize what we have in our hands. Afterwards, it’s a circuit that will suit us less, that’s for sure. I think it will be more complicated here for the Porsches. We managed to get the tires working well in Qatar. Here it's a lot bumpier. This is something our car likes less. I think that Ferrari will be very fast, the Toyota also.

This is your last WEC race before Le Mans (Norman Nato will be hired in Formula E the same weekend as the 6 hours of Spa, Editor's note). For you, Imola is a preparation race for the 24 Hours?

Le Mans is coming quickly, but there is still a little time to prepare for it. For now, it’s already Imola. On paper, we knew that we had to optimize Qatar, that it could be a circuit where we could score points. Imola, we expect it to be complicated. But despite that, so much is going to happen. If we're honest with ourselves, if we manage to make a top 5, honestly, it would be a very good result. In Qatar, we made zero mistakes. Here, we will have to do the same. This weekend, we already know that we will not be the fastest. But on the other hand, so many things will happen that at any moment, there could be breakage, drive-through and gain one, two, three positions…

ALSO READ > The program for the 6 Hours of Imola 2024

Dorian Grangier

A young journalist nostalgic for the motorsport of yesteryear. Raised on the exploits of Sébastien Loeb and Fernando Alonso.

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