Aboard the Oreca 07 stamped with the No. 47 of COOL Racing, we find a former winner of the Indianapolis 500 Miles who was also involved in the Peugeot 908 adventure at the turn of the 2010s, Simon Pagenaud. But he is not the only one ! His two teammates may be damn young, Reshad de Gerus (19) and Vladislav Lomko (18) showed great maturity during the tests for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2023 with the 4th time of the Hyperpole.
We caught up with the native of Reunion and the rookie winner of the 2022 Grand Prix de Pau to find out more about the agreement with the 2016 IndyCar champion and their expectations ahead of this Centenary edition.
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What does Simon Pagenaud bring you?
Reshad from Gerus: Vlad and I are young and we need someone with experience like Simon. It is exceptional to have him with us. He brings a lot of serenity, it allows us to rely a little on him in certain situations. With Nicolas (Lapierre) as boss, we are well supervised.
Vladislav Lomko: Simon will be very useful in the race, when managing traffic. Experience of major 24-hour events is an asset.
Did you address them on your first meeting?
RoG: No (laughs). There is a very good cohesion between us, the team is family. We manage to decompress when necessary, to laugh heartily, and when it is necessary to be serious, we know what to do.
Vladislav, how do you experience this discovery of the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
VL: It’s special. Especially with extremely long days. For example, during the tests, you have to wait several hours in the morning until the first session begins. On the other hand, once it’s started, everything goes very quickly until qualifying. The track is atypical in its length (13.626 km). I have never driven on such a long circuit! I like the place, it’s very cool. Many drivers would like to benefit from this kind of opportunity, we must not forget to have fun and work in order to aim for the best possible result.
When Simon landed in the stable, he had to be given the manual for the Oreca 07?
RdG: On the Oreca, he was well supervised by the engineers and Nicolas. We are used to driving this LM P2 in the European Le Mans Series, but its adaptation was very natural. Don’t forget that Simon is driving in an IMSA with an Acura GTP, also built by Oreca. It’s not quite the same prototype, but the driving philosophy is similar.
Rain is forecast for the start of the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. Have you ever driven in these conditions?
RdG: I rode a session on a wet track, but that’s it. Honestly, I’m not too worried.
VL: I did a test day in the rain. It helps to understand the behavior of the car. I don’t think the rain is going to be a problem because the opponents haven’t driven much in these conditions either.
Vladislav, what is your link with France? You speak French very well !
VL: I was born in Russia, in Nizhny Tagil. I moved to France four years ago. I spent a year at the FFSA Academy in Le Mans, where I had already met Reshad in the same school, but not in the same class. Today, I live in Paris. (Vlad Lomko chose a French pilot’s license in 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Editor’s note).