Pechito López, the one who knows there is life after Formula 1: ‘I never imagined having four world titles’

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After becoming champion of the World Endurance, the Argentine tells his pride, talks about the jokes with Fernando Alonso

There is life after Formula 1. That’s what they told Jose Maria Lopez when in 2010 the project of the American team USF1 he fell due to lack of budget, and left him with no chance of realizing his dream of reaching the premier category. “There is life after Formula 1”, the Cordovan reaffirms in a videoconference with Clarín and other Argentine media, shortly after being crowned champion of the World Endurance (WEC) by winning the 8 Hours of Bahrain, the last date of the season, to add his fourth world title and write another golden page in the history of national motorsports.

Little breast cried champion next to the English Englishman Mike Conway and to japanese Kamui Kobayashi, with whom he shared the driving of the Toyota # 7 in a world championship in which the races last between four and 24 hours. He added a new crown to the three he had achieved between 2014 and 2016 in the World Tourism (WTCC) and settled next to Juan Manuel Fangio, winner of five F1 championships, as the two drivers who gave our country its nine world titles on the track.

“This championship makes me proud and I feel privileged to achieve these types of goals and represent the country at the world level. I would have liked to get to Formula 1 very much. I fought for that most of my sports career, I was very close and to The end did not happen, But I could continue to believe in myself, I achieved important things and I think I found my best moments away from the maximum category. I really enjoy where I am today because I think not everyone is lucky enough to be able to continue after losing an option in F1 “, reflects López.

With the title that he won the weekend in Bahrain, Little breast became the third driver in history to be crowned champion in two different categories of the International Automobile Federation (FIA). He shares that honor with Spain’s Fernando Alonso, who won F1 in 2005 and 2006 and the WEC last year, and the Norwegian. Petter Solberg, Rally champion in 2013 and Rally Cross in 2014 and 2015.

“I feel a little strange when they compare me with Alonso or Solberg, but also proud because getting a world championship is difficult. Having four, the truth I never imagined,” he acknowledges. “I know Fernando quite a bit, because we shared the team for a year. When he came to Toyota, he always joked ‘Don’t believe so much, because here the only one who has three world championships is me’. He was laughing and when he won last year, he told me ‘Now we both have three’. So surely I am going to send him a message also jokingly telling him that I passed it again. ”

The man from Cordoba has a long history. At the age of 14, he left for Europe pursuing the dream of Formula 1. He went all the way to preparation and even became part of Renault’s young drivers program, but never got into a car in the top flight. He returned to Argentina and left his mark on the Creole tracks, where he added two titles in the TC2000, one more in the Top Race and another in the Super TC2000. In 2013 he reached the WTCC, which he conquered in three consecutive seasons. It seemed that he had found his place. But he was not satisfied and decided to seek new horizons. Thus, after a brief stint in Formula E, he landed in the WEC in 2017, a very demanding championship.

“I wanted to keep growing and learning. I felt that in the WTCC I had reached a ceiling and to continue progressing I needed to demand more of myself. And that came hand in hand with Toyota and this Endurance World Cup, where I had to start competing with people who I was coming or I was in F1, I knew about these hybrid and downforce systems. I left my comfort zone to look for something new, that’s why I am very proud of this title. Also, I always dreamed of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and if it was as part of a world championship, the better, “said the Cordovan.

That desire to conquer the French event, one of the most demanding in world motorsports, has not yet happened. This year, a problem in the engine of the Toyota # 7 forced the Cordovan and his teammates to settle for the third step of the podium. However, his four seasons in this category gave the Argentine a lot.

“Driving these cars is incredible. They have 1100 horsepower, a lot of downforce and every lap, every moment on the track, is very enjoyable. The physical and mental demands are very high. And so I had to prepare very well when I got to the race. category. I had to work hard to keep up and earn my place in the team. And that gave me a lot as a pilot and as a person, “he said.

-During your career, you suffered blows and disappointments, but you always came out ahead. What is the secret?

-The support of the family, which is essential. And also the training I had since I was a child, what my parents taught me. They made me a very strong person and that was important being in a highly competitive sport and fighting with other drivers. And when things didn’t work out, the most important thing was to keep trying and hold on to your passion for what you do.

At 37, the Cordoba is today the benchmark for Argentina in world motor racing. And beyond the pride that comes from having reached that position on his own merit, he feels that it is his responsibility to help future generations of pilots in our country.

“There are many guys who look at what you do and then you become a kind of example. I always try to convey the principles that have been taught to me, the ways of working and the conviction that nothing is achieved without effort. And thus make the path a little easier for guys who are starting in motorsport. That’s why I always say that my phone is always open. Today I can’t help someone financially, an aspect that in motorsport is always difficult; but I can do it out there with a call to people that one knows or transmitting my experience, something that did not happen to me “, said the man from Cordoba.

– Looking back and reviewing all the years traveled, what evaluation do you make?

-A lot of things happened, I experienced many changes and many challenges, which I myself sought to continue growing. It’s amazing to be racing today when at one point I had given up hope of competing at the world level again. But I was able to get to the WTCC, to a team like Citroën, and win three championships. Then I completely changed my discipline, when everyone told me that I was crazy, that I could have followed many more years in Tourism. The truth is, I am happy and proud with my career so far. Anyway, my head and my body are still for much more so I hope I can enjoy it and continue winning. Winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, for example, would be the icing on the cake. I feel that there are still things to be conquered.

“All the titles I won were unique for different reasons. But this is undoubtedly one of the most special, because it is a different discipline, a very high level, with a really very technological team and cars. It really occupies a prominent place for me. “, he comments Little breast, reflecting on the championship he conquered with Conway and Kobayashi.

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