Podcast PODCAST, SEASON 3, EPISODE 6: Marc Lieb on his journey to winning Le Mans

5 min

Live from the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans 2023, a race he won in 2016, Marc Lieb recalls the moment that jump started his career.

There are moments when time stands still. Moments where you find yourself on the verge of greatness. Moments that stand the test of time. The Edge is a series of conversations where extraordinary people tell intimate stories of one moment that changed everything for them. A world record, a world championship, an epiphany, a life-changing decision. They relive their moments, minute by minute. How they overcame pressure, fear, pain and pushed themselves to the limit. To The Edge. 

Our guest this time is Marc Lieb, former FIA World Endurance Champion and Porsche factory motor-racing driver. Marc thrived in the world of endurance racing for nearly two decades. He won the FIA GT Championship in 2003 and 2005 and the European Le Mans Series in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. He also dominated the 24 Hours Nürburgring, winning it four times. Live from the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race he won in 2016, Marc recalls the moment that jump started his career. He also tells us why Le Mans is so special and gives us a unique insight into the mind of an endurance racing driver.

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Here are a few snippets to put you on the starting line and get the adrenaline pumping. But don’t forget to subscribe to our Podcast so you can listen to the full, unfiltered episode later. The Edge is a series of conversations with extraordinary people operating at the edge of possibility. It’s about the thin line between taking part and tipping into victory; it’s about what gives us our edge and what we can do to go beyond it.

On his career-defining moment

It was definitely when I joined Porsche in 2000, because I was a poor young racing driver who was dreaming about a single seater career. And [at that point] my career was basically finished because of running out of budget. I didn’t have any management. And then the opportunity came up with Porsche to join the junior team. And that definitely helped me become a professional racing driver and make a living out of it. So this definitely was the changing point in my career. And I’m really thankful that I could do this for almost 17 years with Porsche.

How did it feel to win for the first time

I mean, you win races already in go karts, so the feeling of crossing the line first is always special. And when you look at big races and you win, it’s even more special. But I would say the one which was very important was my first win in a Porsche. This was in 2002 in the junior team. This felt so good because it just was such a relief, as I was struggling a little bit for three years. I was very unlucky sometimes and never made it happen. And then, suddenly, you win a race.  I will never forget this feeling. Then there were so many other victories and moments and memories, but the first one in a Porsche was very special. And I will never forget it. 

His first Le Mans

My first Le Mans was in 2003. I went as a factory driver. For me, it was just a great opportunity. They told me ‘You can drive at Le Mans’ and it was very cool, I knew the movie Le Mans with Steve McQueen. So you already have a feeling that it’s a big race and it’s a huge opportunity. But this is so far away from reality because when you are here, and you enter the track, it just completely blows you away. I mean, the greatness, the atmosphere, the people here, the whole city. It’s just something you really have to feel and you have to come here and get to experience because it’s amazing. It’s this heritage. It’s just greatness. It’s such a cool format. I think everything is perfect, in my opinion. It’s just how every race should be like. 

On winning Le Mans in 2016

It was already  the third year for myself in the big category in the prototype. So before that, I was always racing in a GT category. And, you know, at the beginning in 2014, 2015,  everything was really exciting and the pressure was building up and I really wanted to win that race. In 2016, I knew we had a great car, great teammates and we were prepared, but you need luck to win that race. I mean, that’s obvious. You can be at your peak performance. Everything can go right. [But] you can [still] crash with a slower car or you can have a puncture or something. So this is something you just can’t control. And the approach was definitely to go there to try to perform in the best way I can. That’s how I prepared mentally, physically with the team. And it was really good spirit because it went just like that. I was very happy with [my performance] most of the time. 99% of the time after driving you think ‘I could have done that a little bit better, I made a small mistake there’. And it’s always this type of self-criticism. And 2016 Le Mans was one of these races where you hop out of the car and I was really satisfied with my own performance, which is very rare. And that’s why I rate this race very high. I got out of the car after three or four hours and I was just really happy with the performance I did. And at the end we just got to win, which was unreal. The feelings, the mixed emotions we had, I’ve never experienced it ever in my life. 

Advice for young drivers

I think the most important thing is passion. I think that you need to have that passion for the sport and you have to be a hard worker and always improving yourself, continuously improving and learning. And sometimes being patient. It’s just not always going as you would like to do it. And just live your dream.