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“I believe both of our driver line-ups are among the best in the Hypercar field!” – Hertz Team JOTA’s Sam Hignett discusses 2024 drivers and his thoughts on Jota’s journey to the top of the WEC grid

Frant-based Hertz Team JOTA is already a team of legend in the sportscar racing world. JOTA, owned by Sam Hignett and David Clark, has finished on the podium of the 24 Hours of Le Mans ten times in the last ten years, including an extraordinary race in 2017 when Jackie Chan DC Racing, as the team was then named, held the overall lead late in the contest and went on to finish 1st and 2nd in the LMP2 class and 2nd and 3rd overall.

In 2023 Hertz Team JOTA graduated to the Hypercar class in the FIA World Endurance Championship, taking delivery of their new Porsche 963 shortly before the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

After the announcements of five of the team’s six drivers for the 2024 WEC season, Hertz Team JOTA director Sam Hignett spoke with EnduranceandGT’s editor Andy Lloyd about his thoughts on 2023 and the team’s plans for the upcoming season.

AL: From the outside, Sam, 2023 looked like one of the most challenging years in the history of Jota with the late delivery of your Porsche 963, qualifying challenges at Le Mans and drama during the race itself and finishing the year with that thrilling final round in Bahrain. How do you look back on this incredible season?

SH: “Very fondly and positively is the way I look at. It was enormously difficult with the late delivery of the car, which we were aware of but obviously had to manage, the difficulty with the supply of parts and the complexity of the car and then stepping up into the Hypercar field. The final round at Bahrain, as you say, was really lovely. Every time the car went out, it was a little bit easier for the team, culminating in the result at Bahrain.”

When you look back on the year, is there one memory that sticks out for you as a defining moment for 2023?

“I think it would have to be António (Félix da Costa), Will (Stevens) and Yifei (Ye) fighting the Ferraris in Bahrain. That was pretty cool on reflection and at the end of the race the team were thoroughly upset and disappointed not to get on the podium but you have to put into perspective what we were doing – fighting the best from Maranello.”

Looking forward to 2024, was it always Jota’s intention to work towards a two-car entry in Hypercar when you saw how the class was developing?

“We’ve always had the belief that WEC has the potential to be the second biggest motorsport series in the world and I think it’s going that way. We see it as a very valuable entity and therefore our entries are very valuable so it was always our goal to maintain our two entries.

“When the ACO announced that the LMP2 class was going to be leaving the Championship, our plan of one LMP2 entry and one Hypercar entry went out the window and we had to plan for a two-Hypercar team. In order to keep our two entries, we had to expand to a two-car Hypercar team.”

The driver line-up that you have announced for the #12 car – Callum Ilott, Norman Nato and Will Stevens – looks very strong. You must be very pleased with that line-up, aren’t you?

“Yes, we are very pleased with that trio. We’ve been out testing already and it’s a very, very good line-up. It’s as good as this year’s line-up so we’re very excited. To be honest, I believe both of our line-ups are some of the best in the Hypercar field.”

You’ve currently announced Phil Hanson and Oliver Rasmussen as two of three drivers for the #38 car with a third driver to be announced shortly. Hanson and Rasmussen must be two of the finest young prototype drivers available today.

“When you look at what Phil has achieved in his career, including some incredible drives this year, he will be competitive against any of the high-profile names in the Hypercar class.

“We have nurtured Oliver to be the next Will Stevens and Will is an incredibly quick and incredibly efficient driver. When we announce our third driver for the #38 car on Friday December the 15th, it will be clear what a strong driver line-up we have across both cars.”

You mentioned to me at Le Mans that, even at that stage, Jota had accumulated a lot of data and experience on the Porsche 963. Do you feel you’re at the point where you can extract the maximum from the package?

“No. It’s forever a learning process and I think that that learning will go on and on. Every time we go out, we learn something new about the car. We identified a weakness in Bahrain on our out-laps because our drivers just hadn’t had the experience of the other drivers of going out on cold tyres. So there’s plenty still to learn about the 963.”

Hertz Team Jota will announce the third driver for the #38 car on the afternoon of Friday the 15th of December. The 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship gets underway in Qatar on February 24th 2024 with the Prologue followed by the opening round on March 2nd.