Sébastien Ogier is continuing his conversion to Endurance with satisfaction. On Sunday, the eight-time world rally champion took 9th place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the very competitive LMP2 category. A result that validates his progress with the crew of Richard Mille Racing, where he shared the wheel of the Oreca n°1 with another debutante, Lilou Wadoux, and Charles Milesi, winner in the class under another banner in 2021.
On March 22, the 38-year-old from Gapença had made a difficult start to his second life as a pilot, at the 1000 miles of Sebring. A wheel lock had compromised his race plan and the numerous race interruptions had broken the pace he intended to maintain.
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“I can’t say that I’m happy with my first two stints. I wasn’t comfortable with the brakes, I locked up the right front wheel and the flat tire compromised my whole stint because we had to make an early stop. We have the ambition to do better in the future, so don’t be alarmed and take away all the positives to move forward.”
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Just an unfortunate mistake at the start of the race
On May 8, at the 6 Hours of Spa, the second round of the World Championship, he had had an extreme experience, under a deluge. And scored his first points after a test again chopped by accidents. “These were my first laps in the rain with this kind of car“, he had insisted. I did all of my stints in these sometimes very precarious conditions. I felt good and I think I had some good times, but I also made some small mistakes.. ” Errors in the assessment of the braking points had led him to make unreassuring deviations.
This week, at Le Mans, the weather was fine and he was able to continue his training smoothly which, he hopes, will lead him to join one of the Hypercar teams of Toyota, the brand for which he was world champion in rallies in 2020 and 2021, and does freelance work this year.
“I learned a lot, discovered a lot of thingshe confirmed on Sunday. I’m happy to have overcome the many pitfalls during these 24 Hours. There was just an unfortunate mistake at the start of the race when entering the pits. It’s not a big mistake, but it cost us 1 min 30. Without that, the mission would have been completed 100%. To finish in the Top 10 with 25 cars at the start in clearly the toughest category at the moment is honorable and deserved.”
We were very ‘clean’
“A priori I should be able to take other steps much fasterhe assured. I rode a lot at night, I learned to ride cleaner than what I had been doing for the last two races. I’m really discovering the car. Physically I end up a little tired, I thought I would sleep more than that after all. But I only managed to land twice for an hour, it’s still light. But honestly it didn’t bother me at all in the race, I was 100%. With adrenaline you don’t feel tired, even if it’s falling a little!”
As a diligent student, ready to start from scratch and learn in accelerated mode, he took on the dimension of the legend of Le Mans, very intimidating with its 13.6 km route, where traps are everywhere, and not just in traffic. “I arrived with a lot of humility in this project because despite my track record, here I discovered everythinghe explained. I arrived well at listening, trying to learn as much as possible. I kinda liked everything. I really enjoyed the last stint, it went more peacefully for me because I really had instructions to preserve the car as much as possible. We were very ‘clean’, we had no collisions, the car is in good condition. At night, it took a little time to adapt during the tests, but in the end it came back quite quickly, quite naturally during the night too. What I liked overall about the weekend is that I rode a lot.”
WRC again this year
What follow-up does he intend to give now? Monza is next on the calendar, July 10, but it is almost certain that it will not be. “My goal was to do Le Mans and the two previous races to prepare for it.he said. I didn’t want to do the Endurance Championship in its entirety (6 races). I have more of a desire to continue doing some rallies this year. I discovered the 24 Hours of Le Mans through the front door, directly as a driver. I had never been here before. Now that I’ve been stung, it just makes me want to come back.”
Announced at the start of the Kenya Rally, from June 23 to 26, for a new duel with Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier specifies that his objective remains to “five or six rallies” this year. Knowing that he has already raced in Monte-Carlo and Portugal.
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