And then Nissan and Sony's GT Academy came along. When the Spaniard started to fight against the clock at the wheel of his console, he probably wasn't aware of how far he was going to go seven years later. Today he is no longer an unknown. In fact, I will say that he is one of the most campaigned international drivers. The flagship of the GT Academy program, he currently competes in Japanese Formula 3, SuperGT, takes part in some endurance races with the GT-R GT3, and to top it all off, he will be one of the nine official drivers that will race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, driving the GT-R LM Nismo LMP1.
This year Lucas is racing in the Japanese Formula 3, where he has already achieved a podium finish, in the Japanese SuperGT, in the GT500 premier class, and in endurance with Nissan at both Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
We were able to interview him while he was stealing time from his sleep on one of his plane journeys to Japan, where he told us a lot of interesting things. Let's go through them.
Guille: Well, first things first, how are you? you've been travelling more than Willy Fog for a couple of years now, and right now you spend more time in Japan than in Spain... how have you adapted to Japanese life and culture? are you hungry (I always come back skinnier when I travel in Asia because I don't like the food)? tired?
Lucas: Hi Guille, I'm very well thank you, as I always say living the dream! Non-stop as you say. My air bridge is Madrid-Japan so I can say that I'm fed up with airports (I'm writing from a plane right now) but I can't complain, it's all for work and I thank God for it! I've adapted very well to the Japanese culture, I love everything, I love Tokyo, I love the food and I keep meeting nice, respectful and friendly people.
G: How can you race endurance in Europe, as you did the other day in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, with jet lag to compensate in less than a week, and then return almost immediately to Japan?
L: I like that you ask me about how I can do the 24h Nürburgring coming from Japan and then leave the next day to continue racing, I can see that you look at everything! It's pretty tough but with the fatigue and eating well I can control the hours of rest and be 100% in the car, well maybe 98% physically. There is nothing that cures so much flying and jet lag. Last year I did something similar but I got sick and couldn't compete. I was in bed with a fever all night.
G: You managed a Top10 at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring the other day with the GT-R GT3, but watching the race it seems that you lack speed and the ability to make fewer pit stops, extend the stints, come on. Does the balance of performance imposed by the ADAC affect you negatively? Will Nissan be able to fight for an outright victory at the Nürburgring with the current GT-R ever?
L: Yes it is true, in N24h we lacked speed compared to the new Audi, BMW etc but what we missed the most was to have 3 or more GT-Rs to be able to have a more aggressive strategy and attack from V1 as others did. We had to have a more conservative strategy to arrive at dawn and be able to attack and that's what we did. Keep in mind that the Germans develop their GT3s for this race, they come in and don't make a single setup change, they run the whole VLN and they have a lot of cars. The Audi N1 retired because of a spectacular accident when Mamerow was attacking... we couldn't take those risks. So if we come here with more cars and test plans beforehand, of course we will fight back like we do in Japan and other events.
G: Now that SuperGT and DTM are going to join formats and have a "world" final in 2017, you really become part of one of the most important championships in the world of motorsport... How do you see this union? Can you imagine Nissan moving its GT500 to race in the German DTM once the regulations are shared? Tell us how you are looking forward to the GT500 season.
L: Hopefully I can continue to be part of the GT500 program and be able to fight against DTM. It will be a championship that will get on Bernie's nerves. It will be together with the WEC something spectacular.
GT500 is a TOP category. More than DTM it is the F1 of the GT's so I have to make a place for myself little by little and not make mistakes. For now my role has been very positive after that fifth in Q2 at Fuji. That result is a lot more than it seems. It's like a Mclaren of this year doing fifth in F1 because we are on Yokohama tyres which are less experienced than other brands. I still have the race in Thailand where a good result is possible as Yokohama is very well adapted to that track/temperature.
G: I change the subject to talk about Le Mans. If I am not wrong, you will be on the grid for the fifth time and first time in LMP1. Are you nervous?
L: Yes. Fifth time at Le Mans. More than nervous, I'm looking forward to race there again!
G: You arrive without having tested the car in competition against your rivals. Nobody is quite sure where you are, but from what we have heard, it seems that this year will be a year of "acclimatization and experience", and the expectations of doing something big, of fighting to win, will be left for 2016.
L: All the LMP1 teams have a lot of work to do and a lot to fight for in their first year at Le Mans, of course it will be a test of learning, organisation and improvement. Of course 2016 will be a different story and we will be with the front runners.
G: Do you really see fire coming out of the exhausts, or getting red hot when you race at night with this new car, where you have the exhausts in your line of sight?
L: Yes, not just at night, I see fire coming out of the exhausts and grazing the front glass, when I go into Mulsanne corner or Arnage. It's amazing! At night I don't know if it's too much!
G; Do you fit well in the car (we know you're not "the shortest in the team", and there were complaints about the size of the cabin)?
L: I fit, but it's not the best position, as I have the front engine, the pedals are very close and my position is not the best, we are still looking for tricks to accommodate me for the 24h. All the LMP1 cars are smaller than they look, look for a picture with the GT cars for those who don't know it... it's incredible the difference with respect to Antonio's Corvette for example.
G: We expect that in the straights you will run faster than anyone else, and that in the corners, especially in the Porsche corners, where you need a lot of downforce, you will lose ground on your rivals... Will this require a special strategy? Will this benefit you when it comes to overtaking slower cars from other categories in the straights?
L: Our concept is very focused on low drag and aerodynamic efficiency on the straights, in the official test we were the fastest on the straights, but we have a lot of work ahead of us to be competitive in cornering and attacking the kerbs and looking for the limit of the track. We are working to improve every lap we do.
We don't have any defined strategy, just detect, report and improve.
G: Those of us who have been following the new car project for a while and have some information have the feeling that the car is not going to last the whole race, and that you will probably lack race pace. Can you get this idea out of my head?
L: I am a sincere person, we have an incredible project, different, revolutionary. Call it what you want but it takes a lot of courage to turn everything upside down and create this concept. All manufacturers have suffered in their first year and we are no exception. LMP1 H is a category in which Audi has been investing more than 200 million Euros every year for more than 10 years. It is part of the project, nobody arrives and achieves success, we will have to be strong and learn from our mistakes.
G: I would tell you to bet on a winner at Le Mans, but you would tell me that you are betting on yourselves, so I will ask you... who do you think is going to be your biggest rival?
L: They are all great rivals, with a lot of experience and state-of-the-art technology. All the rivals have increased their aerodynamic efficiency by 3-4% in one winter. They have increased the amount of MJ they will use per lap like Porsche, who are really scary at every corner exit. I think this year Porsche is one step ahead to win Le Mans but Audi is one step ahead to win the WEC.
G: I'll leave you alone and I won't bother you anymore. We'll give you a live chat on the phone during the 24 Hours and we'll interview you again after the race. Best of luck, Lucas, and thank you very much for your time!
L: Thank you very much friends, we speak from Le Mans.The return of Alfa Romeo: from the 1900 to the Giulia