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Pechito López, the other Argentine who is a world champion and is not Fangio: from the credit card that did not work to living in Monaco

2021-06-10T22:40:58.732Z

The Cordovan spoke with Clarín in the run-up to 8 o'clock in Portimao, a new date for the World Endurance Championship. In a chat without cassette, he recalled the adversities of his first trip to Europe at the age of 14. 'I thought, what am I doing here?', He says.



Sabrina faija

06/10/2021 5:01 AM

  • Clarín.com

  • sports

Updated 06/10/2021 5:01 AM

Pechito

López is 38 years old and is one of the two world champion Argentine pilots.

The other, if it goes without saying, is Juan Manuel Fangio.

He did not imagine that reality when he was 14 years old, when he grabbed a huge suitcase - "A boy's suitcase", as he remembers it - that his mother had prepared for him, wearing an Argentine shirt, and he went to run to Europe.

Accustomed to the hustle and bustle of being the third of four siblings, he suddenly found himself in the silence of a foreign apartment on the outskirts of an Italian town.

Alone, without speaking the language, without food

and without that cell phone that now keeps him in contact even though he lives more than ten thousand kilometers away.

Some time before he had been in Europe, although accompanied by Walter Bozzano, whom he refers to as a "dad on the karting track." On that trip he had conquered the Italian Tristano Miserocchi, who wanted him on his team, called Córdoba and convinced José María López Sr. 

“From Argentina I travel with Miguel Acuña, Juan Cruz Alvarez and his father and people from the ACA because we were going to a karting race.

We arrived, we ran and on Sunday night they left and left me there

. I didn't speak the language and I stayed with Tristano, who was a fat mechanic who owned the team where I stayed.

'Come, come,'

he told me. I got on the truck he was driving and we traveled two days in which

 I thought

'what am I doing here?'

.

 Tristano took me to his apartment in Faenza, close to Imola, about 10 kilometers from the town. We arrived at night, it was dark.

He leaves me and says:

'Ciao, ciao'

. And he left me.

I thought:

'Tomorrow he will come looking for me'

.

I stayed there, I began to see what was there, there was an old bike.

And it was tough.

I remember the first night I slept alone ... It really hit me because I realized that I was alone ”, he recalls with a detailed account that identifies him as Cordoba even though his permanent residence is in Monte Carlo.

-Food?

-No, food there was nothing. I woke up the next day and I didn't want to move from there because I thought:

"He's going to come look for me and I won't be there

.

"

But the first day did not come.

And there was something in the fridge and I ate. The truth was that he was hungry. On the second day, I started to see how he could eat something. I grabbed this old bike that I had and did the 10 kilometers to the town to go to the supermarket. When I bought the things, I put them in the box to pay with a card that my dad had given me but it wasn't working. It's not that my dad had given me a card that wasn't working, but at that time everything wasn't so globalized. We are talking about '98, '99. He didn't give me the card and I thought:

“What do I do? Do I have to come back with nothing? "

.

Imagine, I was a boy.

So, I go to a business and ask a lady for the phone, in the Indian way because she doesn't speak Italian.

But I manage to call my dad:

"Daddy, my credit card doesn't work at the supermarket and I haven't eaten for two days

.

"

Imagine my dad.

-And what happened?

-He told me:

"Stay there, give me the number that I will call you

.

"

I waited, waited and waited until he called me, at about two hours: "

Go now and prove that he will walk

.

"

I went, walked and got back on the bike with the two bags straight. I made myself a rice pudding, I think.

And Tristano came back a week later to pick me up to go jogging the next weekend.

In all that time I was watching TV to try to listen and learn Italian. So I learned a couple of words to tell him that I wanted to work in the workshop. I started working, he paid me lunch and that's how I started. Things that one does not experience at that early age but I had to get used to cooking, washing, ironing, traveling. Lots of things I wasn't ready for yet.

-What were you doing in the workshop?

What did you know how to do when you were 14 years old?

-In the beginning,

I started washing the karts

.

He had a large shed and a large washing machine outside.

Later, he showed me how to make the brakes.

Until there came a time when I was in the workshop with him all the time and he would take me to lunch, then I would go to dinner and it was good because time passed.

Later, he even gave me the van so that I could go on my own to test the circuit.

I loaded the karting and I went there alone when I was 16, imagine.

-You ever said that your parents made you a very strong person, how?

-

(He swallows, takes a deep breath and sighs)

First my mother made me strong, which was very important because when we were younger my father left on Mondays and came back from work on Saturdays. That father figure, out there, was not so much and it

was my mother who was there all the time and made us very strong

in that sense. Going to sports, my old man was always there. He always told me:

"You do things well or you don't

.

"

Since I was little I have this memory, and it is true: in my second or third karting race, which was in Almafuerte, close to my city, Río Tercero, my father told me:

“But you want to do this as a hobby or seriously? "

.

And I looked at him, at 8 years old, imagine, and I said:

"I really want to do it

.

"

And there we went, instilling in me the work, the effort, the preparation, that things if you really want them from the inside can be achieved.

And the fact that he trusted me to send me to Europe when I was 14 years old ... All of that was forging me a lot.

-And in sports, how did leaving at 14 influence you?

-They were tough months.

It was changing from running at the national level to the world and I did not arrive on the first day and I was champion.

Any driver who came to race in Europe can tell you that karting is the most difficult there is.

There were many moments when I thought it was not for me.

But I was persevering until at one point it happened: I started to fit in, I went to the official team, I grew up and gave everything.

But everything was always based on a lot of dedication and sacrifice.

I think I am the way I am also because I was never given anything easy or given away.

-There was no project from Argentina.

-The only help that there was, and project that there was, was Fangio and Reutemann.

There was nothing else afterwards.

Not only did they not help me;

most, almost all.

And that is difficult.

One

also

understands that we have bigger problems

 but with motorsport and the level of drivers that we have in Argentina it's a shame that we don't have more representatives outside.

Do not lose faith.

There is (Franco) Colapinto and other guys who are doing very well and trying to find a way to stay here.

-Do you think your successes could help drive you in the future?

-If only.

It would be my wish that it serves

. Thank God, in the places that I have traveled, I have done well and I have generated friendships and contacts that I think are very valuable. If one can use them to help that would be great. On the other hand, one knows that you need a project back, because what existed a long time ago continues to exist. When Fangio went to Formula 1 it was not free, to demonstrate his potential he had to have national support. Like Carlos Reutemann. And it is what is missing. But there are certain issues that one cannot help but see which are the problems we have as a country. Imagine how people would see it, it is not that simple. But if you want, it can be done. There is talent and conditions in Argentina. What I do see is that it is no longer coming and running, it takes a lot of preparation.When you see (Lando) Norris and the guys who have reached Formula 1 they have a condition but they have a very great preparation behind. Then,

talent is not enough

. Around in our time you could take it. I would get out of a racing car in October, I would go back to Argentina and I would not get into a racing car until April.

And I just got on in the free tests of the first GP2 race of the year and competed with Hamilton, with Rosberg, with Piquet and in everything, from time to time ...

At that time there were not as many boys as today with support and preparation.

That is why it also looks more and more distant.

For example, in France you have the school where they prepare them since they were little, they teach them mechanics, engineering, tuning, physical preparation, a lot of things so that they are already prepared.

And you can see: England and France have been the ones that have generated the most pilots in recent years.

You have to work from the base.

There is plenty of talent in Argentina because of how important motor racing is, because kids feed off motor racing when they are young.

But if you bring someone talented here from there, a boy who has 20 thousand kilometers more than him on top of a racing car will grab him and it is impossible.

- Joined the club of millionaires, as Hamilton said.

-You have the example of Mazepin but also that of Norris, who comes from a very good family, who has done many kilometers, but enhanced by his talent.

There is everything.

Among the 22 Formula 1 drivers there are always those who have fallen there for other reasons.

Pechito López with Peter Windsor, the owner of USF1, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, then President of the Nation.

Photo DyN

-A decade has passed but does USF1 still hurt?

-Ten years ago?

Phew...

-And more, eleven ...

-Yes, more than ten. No no no. Not because those things work at the time. If it was a blow, the fact of having been able to return to Europe and be world champion and reach a team like the one I am today and at the level where I am, I think in a certain way that

filled that space that that had generated at that time , not having reached Formula 1, both with Renault and with USF1

. On the contrary, (it doesn't hurt) because really nice things have happened to me after that and if I look at 2013 or 2014, I would never have imagined that from Argentina I would be running back here. In that sense, I am grateful. Everything that I had to live helped me to arrive prepared for what happened in recent years.

-Had you lost hope of competing at the world level when you returned to Argentina? (NdR: in 2006 he stopped being a Renault F1 development driver and in 2007 he started racing in the country)

-I think it's a bit normal, it happens with footballers who come back.

It is always difficult to re-enter the ring in any sport.

Argentina treated me very well, I did very well, I enjoyed it and I learned a lot.

But that did not stop trying to return.

When there was a small center that gave me the possibility, my old man was

fighting

as always.

So it was that I ran that couple of races with the Automobile Club that had rented that Ferrari or when this car (a WTCC BMW) arrived at Termas de Río Hondo and there was no one to run it and I ran it and it ended up being the detonator of what what happened next (NdR: in 2014 he joined Citröen and was three-time world champion of the WTCC).

Pechito López: life in Monaco, the present in WEC and the analysis of motorsport.

Photo Press Toyota Gazoo Racing

-There are only three drivers in history who won in two FIA categories and only two Argentine world champions: Fangio and you. Maybe your career was aimed at Formula 1 ... But what do you think of your achievements?

-It's cute.

There were a lot of changes but I was lucky to be able to do it well.

And I still feel like I can keep doing it well and that I'm still learning.

In professional sports, many times at 38 years old many see you as the almost retired one.

But I still see myself very far from that.

Because I always find something to challenge me, to motivate me.

Today I do see 18 or 19 boys who get into the car after me and measure themselves.

But I am still finding the strength to continue at this level.

At such a high level, in a moment the body can put a limit on you.

But there will be other categories.

Today I feel far away and, on the contrary, every time I continue to motivate and find things that continue to do me good.

-How do you handle being a reference?

-Over time one realizes things. In itself, let's say, I do not run for recognition but for what it generates and because I like it. But good things and good results come hand in hand with recognition. And, above all,

that recognition began when I returned to Argentina

. It gave me the recognition of the people.

When I come back in 2007, I was a driver who represented the country in the world, who had been close to Formula 1

. But in Argentina if you didn't run TC2000 or TC they don't know you. I remember that in a Karting Master they told me: 

"Hey, you, the Renault diver"

.

I also think that being a professional, dedicated to sports and fitness, things that one brought because it was at a high level in Europe, made many people say that there was a before and after, that the pilots began to become more professional, to be better physically.

The fact of having walked well and won championships there gave me recognition that when I returned to represent the colors of the flag abroad it became bigger.

And it's good because ultimately it's like football, let's say: I give everything I don't have to always leave the flag, one's colors, and the country in good standing.

From Rio Tercero to Monaco

The pandemic that paralyzed the world in 2020 allowed

Pechito

López to turn back the clock until he was 14 years old, when he was still living in Río Tercero with his father, José María, with his mother, Mabel, and with the brothers Gaspar, Tamara and Juan Manuel.

On March 14 of last year he was supposed to run the 12 Hours of Sebring, in the United States, but the race was suspended and, given the impossibility of returning to a Europe with its borders closed, he traveled to Argentina, where a few days later Alberto Fernández decreed the quarantine.

It was the first time since I was 14 that I spent three months with my family, with my brothers.

It was really nice, beyond the situation ”, he recalls.

-As was?

-I was

a teenager

, I slept late. My mom took care of me all day, she cooked for me. I was with my brother all the time, we played games because there was nothing to do. Ayrton, my dog ​​who stayed in Río Tercero when I returned to Europe, was happy because I was there and had him all day in the room. It's crazy to think that it was the first time in so long that I was able to spend a couple of months with my family. Because even when I went back to Argentina to run, I lived in Córdoba, but even though I was close, sometimes you are capable of being there. Especially for my old man and my old woman, who did not have me so much as a boy, perhaps the first two weeks they enjoyed it. After being able, they didn't want to have me there anymore, ha.

-You will name Ayrton and you have to talk about the names of your pets, all related to Senna or Formula 1. Now in Monaco you have Imola.

-In my house we have always had dogs.

In Río Tercero, which has a huge park, we have eight or nine dogs, among which is Ayrton.

The first one I had was Mika, because she was the dog I had when I was little and I gave her the same name.

My first years in Europe, I lived very close to Monza and Imola, they are places that I like and that I remember very well and that fit well with dogs and they fit well.

I imagine

the next one will be Ascari

or I don't know.

The good thing is that it is easy to find a name.

Pechito López with his girlfriend Carla and the new pet, Imola.

Instagram photo

-What is it like to live in Monaco?

-I found a place that is super quiet.

Obviously, at the time

I was a bit scared by the idea of ​​Monaco

and all its extravagance as I am quite low profile, I even notice it when I say that I live in Monaco and everyone tells me: 

"uh, Monaco"

.

But it is a town, because it is small.

And many people are passing through because they travel a lot, many are athletes because the climate is excellent for training and there are very favorable tax issues.

Today I am happy here, very happy.

It is a paradise for cycling, you are 10 kilometers from Italy, 5 kilometers from France, the airport is very close to me.

And not to mention the Côte d'Azur, which is heavenly.

-For someone who only imagines the jet set, how would you describe it?

-It's very quiet, you

hardly hear cars

.

It gets a little louder once a year: when the Formula 1 Grand Prix is ​​around. You come down from the department and you have the beach right here.

I am in the Italian area and there is the bar for coffee.

And you go from being at sea level to 1,500 meters high there, because the mountains are stuck together.

It's how I imagined it.

Obviously you have those huge ten-car boats, eight are Ferraris or luxury cars

.

But you can live normally too, without excesses and without extravagances.

-At some point you get used to being all the time going through a circuit with so much mystique?

-You don't realize it, but every day you walk or pass by some side of the track.

When you live you get used to it and it is normal.

People here are pretty fierce, they like cars.

They complain a bit about the closed streets when there is Formula 1. But it is incredible because with the speed that it is built, it falls apart.

Even one day I got up early, went out to train, went by one side and the street was in a way.

I went to sleep, got up, went out again and was completely resurfaced.

The track is a billiards;

it is not necessary but they resurface it every year.

You live it all the time: when you arrive at Sainte-Dévote, you have the brakes and the marks of years there;

you pass through La Rascasse and see the Fangio monument;

or every time you go in and out of the tunnel. 

From individualism to team running

The era of the Hypercar.

"It is a matter of time to differentiate the two categories," Pechito López observed hours before the second date of the WEC.

Photo Press Toyota Gazoo Racing

-From karting to formula, from formula to tourism and now to endurance.

Why so many changes?

-I like changes, I like challenges.

Not now, I prefer to be calmer.

But

I like the idea of ​​being able to be fast in any car

, let's say.

I don't like being in the comfort zone, I always like to push myself.

That is why I think that is how everything went.

In the WTCC I felt at some point that I wanted to continue growing and measure myself with a higher level and I tried the Le Mans thing.

So I came to Toyota and had to measure myself.

And now here I do feel that all races are a challenge because you compete against teammates who are ex-Formula 1, in demanding races.

I feel like I'm not on a roof, that I'm still growing.

-How was it adapting to the WEC, a category with only six dates and a lot of time between races?

-

It took me a while because I was someone who ran a lot of weekends

. In Argentina there was a year in which I don't know if there were 44 races running the three categories. Then I spent here running fewer races in the WTCC but I added Formula E and then the WEC. Due to a personal decision, I wanted to lower the intensity a bit more and focus more on my main program, which is Toyota's. In itself, the races are less but they are much more intense. If you compare the amount of time you spend in a car, let's say, just using Le Mans is a complete championship of any other category. But I have a lot more free time that I use to prepare myself physically all the time and be at 150 percent when I have to get in the car. There are also tests, simulator sessions and I have another project, as a part of the development of the Yaris GR. So I'm staying pretty active and compliant for nownot? But yes, you have to look for things to do and stay active because coming from so many things out there ...

I think it was a process.

At one point I felt that something was missing

but now I realize that I can focus much more fully on something that demands a lot of me physically and mentally because it is a car that you need to be very well.

-Was it difficult for you to learn to run as a team in such an individualistic sport?

-

Yes, you learn over time

and it also takes time

because there are many aspects that change a lot. I think the hardest part is when you make a mistake. Because when you run alone and make a mistake, well, you ruined the race for yourself and, ultimately, your team. But when you make a mistake it is more difficult to face it because you know that you ruined the race for your teammates. It is much more difficult to carry it. Then, obviously, you learn to trust. But one understands and knows that when you are not in the car, there are two colleagues who are equal to or better than you and they will do an excellent job. And when you don't have those bright days, your teammates save the day for you. Or vice versa. You establish a kind of brotherhood, because

You learn to trust something you are not used to, which is giving your car to someone else

.

Victory is enjoyed more and defeat is suffered more.

-How do you nurture contact with your teammates Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi?

-They have residence here in Monaco, although Kamui travels a little more to Japan because he runs there too.

But one of my activities, part of my training and my hobby, is cycling so we ride a lot together, also with Brendon Hartley (NdR: Toyota car 8 driver), who lives here.

We see each other a lot, we eat, we have a pretty strong friendship relationship.

And in races you spend a lot of time with your teammates, it is very different than when you race alone.

A very nice relationship is established, which is more difficult to achieve when one competes alone.

Pechito López, in the center, with English Mike Conway and Japanese Kamui Kobayashi.

Photo Press Toyota Gazoo Racing

-They were already champions but they did not win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

If you have to compare it, is it like a World Cup?

-For a motor racing driver, racing Le Mans is already very special, too important.

The category car is already born as the Le Mans car and the rest of the races are those that prepare you for Le Mans.

It is a whole year of preparation.

Of hours, hours and hours, of nights.

Of risks too, because we do tests at night for 36 hours without stopping and when it is winter there can be fog, rain and four degrees below zero and we continue driving in the car at any time of the night.

Really when the moment comes, you look back and you realize that the important thing is coming, that all those hours are going to be defined in those 24 Hours.

And I think that also makes it very special.

-You talk about risks ... Do you learn to live with fear or perhaps adrenaline overcomes it?

-

You do not get into the car with fear but you do learn to respect what you are doing

, because I think that the problems come when you no longer respect it. We are all aware, and we often talk about it with my teammates, that the risk is very high especially in this endurance racing discipline. Because we run at night, we run in adverse conditions and, above all, we run with 60 cars on the track that you are constantly passing, of which some may be driven by an amateur. So, the level of concentration that you have to carry is great. And the truth is that yes, something bad can happen, something can fail and they are cars that go more than 300 kilometers per hour. I am someone who always tries to know that beyond the security levels that have been acquired, we continue to run in a risky sport, right? Not that I'm not surprised, but

when an accident happens it is a reminder

that we are not at home or doing a less risky sport than we do.


Praise to Fernando Alonso

"I am impressed by their desire because it is an important challenge. The laps, as Schumacher's was at the time, are not easy; they carry the weight of those who have done very well, of those who have been referents, right? And it's good that it should be. But at that level there is a process of adaptation that you cannot avoid, no matter how much you are Alonso. But you can do it because of the conditions you have. I believe that it will become what it was at some point. "Although he is not in a winning car. When you say Alonso, you expect more, like Messi when he passes two games and does not score a goal. It is the cross carried by those who have always been referents."

Pechito Lopez

Pechito López and Fernando Alonso were teammates at Toyota in 2019. Photo Jean-Francois MONIER / AFP

Look also

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Pechito López starts the era of the Hypercar in the World Endurance Championship: "This car gives you more pleasure"

Source: clarin

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