An Interview with… Martin Plowman

Last month on the legendary Le Mans track, over 24 hours, the #35 Oak Racing entry of Bertrand Baguette, Ricardo Rodriguez and Martin Plowman won the LMP2 class of the famous event.  I am extremely grateful that Martin has taken some time out to answer some questions of mine!

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Paul Hensby: Le Mans 24 Hours 2013 LMP2 Winner, how does that feel?
 
Martin Plowman: It’s still very surreal. It’s hard to believe we actually pulled it off. It’s the one race we had put all of our effort and time into winning, so it hasn’t fully sunken in yet.
 
PH: Another race chalked off your bucket list, what’s left on the ‘to do’ list?
 
MP: There’s still plenty more on my list – Sebring 12, Daytona 24, Indy 500 and Petit Le Mans to name just a few. But I’m happy that I was able to tick off one of my top two, but now I want to go back and win it again. The emotions that you feel on the top step of the podium motivate you even more to come back and do it again.
 
PH: You’ve had a competitive start to the World Endurance Championship season, can you & your teammates keep it up? What’s it like working like Bertrand & Ricardo?
 
MP: It’s been great so far. Both of my co-drivers are very good guys off the track which helps. On-track we have similar driving styles too, which is important as it means we don’t have to make big compromises to the car’s setup to accommodate each other.
 
PH: Going back to Le Mans, you had a difficult start to your week, with red flags & rain affecting your running, what was it like trying to catch up?
 
MP: It was really tough for everyone, but especially for me as it was my very first time at the track, so I couldn’t rely on past experience to get me through the race. I felt like I was still learning the track deep into the race! Despite the amount of time we spent in Le Mans, the race was tough simply because I didn’t get a lot of track time during practice. I guess that’s why experience there is so important.
PH: You’ve raced in a number of series over the last few years, Indy Lights, briefly in Indycar, and then ALMS before WEC, how do you adapt to every different car you drive?
 
MP: It’s not too difficult in my opinion. The way I see it is that a ‘race car is race car.’ The principles are the same no matter what you drive. A good driver should be able to figure out quickly what the deficiencies of the new car is and adapt his driving style in order to manipulate the car to do what it needs to do. Of course you can never beat seat time either. Having seat time give you the experience needed to work with the team to iron out the setup to extract every last detail from the car and yourself. It’s that last 0.5 of a second that’s the difference between just being fast and being on pole.
 
PH: You came so close to the ALMS title last year, how disappointed were you to be pipped at the post?
 
MP: It was disappointing for sure, but our expectations grew rapidly as the season went on. We started the season with zero expectations and ended the season believing that we had thrown away too many chances to claim the title. Overall it was a fun year; nobody expected us to win the championship with a new team, two new to sportscar drivers, new tracks to learn, against one of the most highly-funded teams in the business. It would have been a major upset for sure.
 
PH: You raced with David Heinemeier Hansson last year & against him this year, is that a little rivalry within the Oak Racing team you want to win more than any other?
 
MP: Not really. David is a great guy and I want to see him do well. For an amateur-classified driver, he has very good skills. I would offer him advice if he ever asked for it with the hopes that it would benefit the team as a whole.
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PH: I imagine Le Mans is one of your highlights of your career to date, but are there other races you remember fondly & why?
 
MP: There have been a couple, but one that springs to mind is when I was 18 years old and I won the FIA CIK Formula A Karting Championship in Suzuka, Japan. That was one of the most prestigious races to win in Karts at the time. I got to receive my trophy at the FIA banquet in Paris at the FIA’s headquarters.
 
PH: What’s the best track you’ve raced on?
 
MP: That’s a tough one. I’ve been blessed to race on nearly all of the iconic tracks in the world. The obvious ones like Spa, Indianapolis, Le Mans come to mind, but I really enjoy the street circuits like Long Beach and Toronto. Some drivers get intimidated by how close the barriers are. I love the challenge and risk of finding the limit on those tracks. It feels like a bigger achievement when you lay down a mega lap at those places.
 
PH: In between races, how do you keep yourself fit & ready for racing? I know you have to be super-fit but is there any tips you can give up-and-coming racers on getting & staying fit?
 
MP: The only advice I could give is to be dedicated to your racing all of the time. When I was younger, I sacrificed nearly all of my ‘social life’ as it would have meant going out to bars on the weekend with my friends. If I want to take this seriously, I can’t drink. Even now, if I have a beer on the odd occasion, I can feel the effects in training even a day or two afterwards. Also, learn to take care of your body from the very start, don’t overdo things and try to stay on top of stretching and flexibility. I’m only 25 but I feel like I am turning 50 in the morning. Racing takes a massive toll on your body but especially on your back. So these days my training has taken on extra things like yoga and Pilates to try and reverse some of the damage done.
 
PH: You’ve got over 2 months between Le Mans & Sao Paulo, got anything planned for the break?
 
MP: I don’t have any major plans. I hopefully will get away from racing for a week or two, but then I know I’ll start to get bored. I’ve taken up golf, which is going ok so far. It’s a great way to meet potential new sponsors. Other than that I am working on my options for next year wherever they may be. Hopefully back in a racecar somewhere.
 
PH: Whenever I see a picture of you, you’re always smiling, when your not racing, what makes you happy? I’m sure Nicole will scrutinise this answer!
 
MP: Haha, I don’t know. I guess I’m just a simple guy who finds happiness in the small stuff. I won Le Mans something that I have dreamed of since I was 6 and you would think it would be a huge source of happiness, but it’s not what’s most important. Getting home and seeing your dog wagging its tail, going crazy because you came home makes me happier.
 
Thanks again for taking the time to read & answer my questions Martin! Hope all is well in the @Plowey household! Good luck in Sao Paulo & for the rest of the World Endurance Championship season!
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Martin Plowman is an ambassador for Snowball Express, an excellent charity set-up in 2006 to help the children of fallen war heroes.  To support the amazing charity, go to
www.snowballexpress.org/ and either volunteer or donate.  Many thanks again to Martin & his other half, Nicole Lynn Pollard, for taking the time to answer my questions!
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