Ask the Drivers: Le Mans Debut

Le Mans TestAs part of our series to give our fans a better insight into Le Mans we are asking ‘do you remember the first time?’

Alex: That is a long time ago because I drove here in 1996 when I was still a young guy. It wasn’t so extreme at the time because the cars had been slowed down after the Group C days. Coming back to Le Mans after my F1 time, we had a lot of downforce in the Porsche Curves and that was literally an eye opener. It was fast, proper fast, and you realised these cars are made to fit this track. It is cool and it keeps you awake.

Stéphane: The first time was very special. It was in an LMP1 with ORECA; Hugues de Chaunac gave me a chance when I was TOYOTA test driver in F1 in 2002. It was really cool because going 300km/h plus on a normal road is incredible. You see all the road markings like a normal road and this is amazing when you drive it for the first time! I am a French driver so to have this race in France is lucky for me.

Kazuki: It was very exciting moment, although I had been going through the simulator sessions before. To come here to drive in reality was really something special. I really had to have a lot of respect for the track, particularly because any time you have to drive here is very precious as you only have a limited time for testing. You cannot make any mistake until the end of the race; you cannot waste any time. That puts a bit of pressure on the driver but it is normal for us.

Anthony: My first experience there was in 2003. Well, I cannot remember the first lap I drove but I do remember the feelings of a non-regular driver on this track, such as not being sure of the line and how some parts were quite difficult to learn. But I was not anxious. I was probably too young to be anxious! I did not know what I was getting into, I was still very much linked to Formula 1 and I think I learnt during the event just how tough it was. Almost I would say innocence is maybe the best thing for this race, to come with no experience of how tough the race is. I was a very young guy, not like now!

Nicolas: The first time I drove there I was more stressed than anything else and I did not really enjoy it. It was in 2007 in a GT car. I was focused on so many things that it was not a big pleasure but hour after hour I became confident and I started to learn it.

Sébastien: I discovered Le Mans track quite recently, in 2012. I was impressed in the first few laps because it is a long track and you feel you are driving on a normal road with barriers on the side. It was a little bit wild, so different from a clean Formula 1 track. It took a little bit of time to get used to it but I loved that.