You’ve been doing this for a while and you live here too. Do you have a loyal fan base?
“Yes. It’s always great to build on relations with the youngsters who come with their parents. Days like Test Day when people can mill around in the paddock and wander along the pit lane are great. The atmosphere is relaxed. Test Day is one of the more laid-back stages in the run-up to the race. I much prefer to catch up with my friends and sponsors on Test Day or at the first practice session rather than during the race when I need time to myself."
What’s it like to race on home ground?
“There’s not so much pressure now I’ve been doing it for a while, but it’s still really something. We always prepare thoroughly but there’s so much to do for Le Mans. This year, one of my co-drivers is a rookie. So we we spent a lot of time pointing out all the details on the track walk, when drivers do their reconnaissance. We examined the new kerbs and other alterations and made sure he was aware of the braking points. It took us an hour and a half. It’s time well spent, getting into the swing of things, walking the corners and just being together. The more time you spend together, the more trust you build up, by analysing a host of details as a team."
As the local man, do you serve as a tour guide?
“Definitely! I started last night. Some of the team got here quite late in the day so I invited them for dinner. But with three young children, we didn’t eat too late. This evening I’ll book somewhere in town, on Place de la République [where scrutineering takes place next weekend]. I know quite a few nice restaurants because I eat out regularly with business contacts or my family and friends. I enjoy showing people around the town. When I drove with David Hallyday [a French pop star] it was great to be able to take him to places that were off the beaten track. That way, the more famous drivers can visit the city without being followed by hordes of cameras and just enjoy the place. I try to show them the medieval part of town, the Plantagenet quarter, so they can appreciate what we have here."
PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES DU MANS, TEST DAY 2019. Julien Canal lives in Le Mans and enjoys sharing his local knowledge.
BREAKING NEWS: THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS POSTPONED TO 19–20 SEPTEMBER 2020