After a first encounter with the circuit on Test Day, followed by the first real encounter with the crowds at Scrutineering, Vandoorne is well and truly into the spirit of Le Mans 24 Hours. “Sure, it’s a busy week, or two weeks even. I was warned that you use up a lot of energy before you even get to Race Day. A twenty-four hour race is punishing, mentally and physically. Drivers face an arduous task but do not recoil. Vandoorne knows all that. It will be tough going, that’s a fact. And long, compared to Formula One. In the run-up to the race, he is dotting the is and crossing the ts, making sur he is fully prepared.
The aerodynamics of the LMP1 are different to the electric single-seater he usually drives. “They’re lower-slung so it feels very different. I got some practice at driving in race conditions at Spa-Francorchamps. There was a lot of traffic, but I managed. At Le Mans, it will be harder still: 62 cars makes a dense field. It will be different again. But I’m looking forward to it!"
The Belgian knows what to expect: the unexpected. Although he can rely on advice from his experienced co-drivers, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin (5 starts apiece), Vandoorne has done his own groundwork. “I’ve watched hours and hours of onboard videos and analyses. I’ve prepared as best I can and now all that remains is to do it.” He has analysed every movement, every procedure, every bad move made in the race in recent years. Still, Vandoorne is well aware that being ready isn’t always enough. "I’m going to try and last the course, not take any unnecessary risks. We have to be irreproachable and spare the car, the engine and brakes. That’s the plan”, he says. Indeed, it takes a faultless run to reach the podium of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
PHOTOS: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SCRUTINEERING 2019. Stoffel Vandoorne, driver of the #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1-AER, after the administrative checks.