Between wonder and pressure of the result, their heart swings. As every year, the rookies are numerous and are added to the legend of the event. Among them, big names from other disciplines and ambitious young wolves who are not insensitive to the craze for the Hypercar category.
A new world
At Le Mans, the big party begins well before the traditional starting ceremony. A week earlier, the pilots are already thrilled, warmly received by the Le Mans public at the Pesage. “I find it hard to believe that we are one week away from the race; there were already thousands of people in the city center. So far, everything I’ve seen here is amazing”confided Olli Caldwell, a young Alpine driver in LMP2, fascinated by this unusual atmosphere.
Whether you are just starting your career like the Briton or have accumulated more than a hundred races in Formula 1 like Daniil Kvyat, the impression remains the same. “Le Mans is one of those legendary races that everyone talks about, that everyone knows about. It’s unique. I’m very impressed because there’s still a week to go until the race and already there are so many fans… » Very varied profiles, but one constant: everyone speaks of their participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as an achievement.
An accomplishment linked to tender childhood memories for Jimmie Johnson, seven-time NASCAR champion who discovers the classic race at the wheel of an astonishing vehicle. “This race is a childhood dream, I remember my father reminding me of the drivers who raced to their car at the start. Ever since I was little, I have been fascinated. » For Ulysse De Pauw, a 21-year-old Belgian rookie with the AF Corse team, “Doing the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an honour, especially for the centenary year. It’s a childhood dream that also represents a lot of sacrifices. »
Do not miss
For a professional pilot, pressure management is a big part of performance. There is no doubt, the 33 rookies present at the start will have at least a little apprehension which translates differently according to the profiles. Even for Jimmie Johnson, who has nothing left to prove in motorsport. “We thought of this commitment as a real competitive program. Chevrolet wanted something serious, with the ambition to compete with the other LMGTE Ams. For the drivers and the team that we are, it’s complicated not to fight in the race. Above all, we have the pressure in relation to the intrinsic performance of the car. We do not know its weak points, its strengths, and we do not know how it will behave compared to other GTs. »
Jimmie Johnson does not discover endurance, having already participated in the Rolex 24 at Daytona nine times
Arnaud CORNILLEAU (ACO)
Although his two teammates have already taken part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the challenge is no less great for the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. “We will have to be careful to respect the regulations and the differences compared to American races. The pressure is related to these little unknown details, it worries me. » For others, apprehensions linked to the singularities of the classic Le Mans do indeed exist. » It’s the first time I’ve been driving at night, in total darkness. I specify, because I have already driven in the evening on circuits in the Middle East but they are lit; there, finding yourself after Mulsanne in the dark night must be special” predicts Olli Caldwell.
The main thing is not to assign yourself an additional burden that could adversely affect the result of the team. “Our first objective is to finish the race, in any case, it is mine. As a rookie, I have to help the team as best I can – and also have fun, that won’t be bad. » A sentiment also shared by Daniil Kvyat: “It shouldn’t add more pressure; I think that being a rookie allows you to avoid this phenomenon. »
Duo of rookies on the Oreca 07 – Gibson #63 Prema Racing, where Daniil Kvyat is supported by Doriane Pin.
JEAN-PHILIPPE BOYER (ACO)
The Hypercar on everyone’s lips
The presence of seven manufacturers in Hypercar does not go unnoticed for hungry young wolves. Everyone knows it: places can become available in the most prestigious of categories, provided you make a name for yourself. This is the case of Olli Caldwell, a talent identified for a long time in single-seaters and who even won a test at the wheel of Formula 1 Alpine at the end of last year. He knows it, this centenary edition means a lotespecially since the firm will unveil its Hypercar prototype on Friday, June 9: “For Alpine, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is very important, we all know that. A lot of teams will be watching my performance like other youngsters, so I mustn’t make any stupid mistakes. I am aware that this race could be decisive for the rest of my career. There is nothing confirmed at the moment, but for sure I would love to be in the Hypercar Alpine next year ».
Similar observation for Ulysse de Pauw, who, within the LMGTE Am AF Corse team, cannot help noticing the public’s love for the Ferrari 499P also managed by his employer. » You have to take advantage and also project yourself. There are still rungs to climb. Why not, one day, end up in the Hypercar Ferrari. For now, I don’t have too much pressure on the race but it’s sure to come! »
Daniil Kvyat already has one foot in the future since he is responsible for the development of the future LMDh Lamborghini, which he sees as a « additional challenge ». Even Jimmie Johnson does not intend to stop there: » I hope this will not be my only experience at Le Mans. Would love to come back here later, why not within the Cadillac or Corvette program. »
Obviously, Le Mans crystallizes all ambitions and has not finished making those who have long teeth dream, whether they discover racing or not..
Jimmie Johnson driving NASCAR through the streets of Le Mans. What show !
Alexis GOURE (ACO)