Gabriel Aubry is a very happy young man thanks to everything going well in his endurance racing career this year, well almost everything. He won the 6 Hours of Silverstone and is currently second in the running for the FIA Endurance LMP2 Drivers Trophy going into the Shanghai round in China this weekend. He also replaced Paul Lafargue (injured at the wheel of the #28 ORECA 07-Gibson) within the IDEC Sport team in the European Le Mans Series. The only knock on his record was failing to achieve a good result at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans as a rookie.
This year you competed in single-seaters and in endurance. You said it yourself, your season in GP3 Series has been difficult (18th overall). Is endurance racing a sort of breath of fresh air for you?
"I would say so, yes, because it's my passion and the reason I do motorsport. And yes, given the results in the World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, it is a breath of fresh air, but I know my performances in endurance have been good thanks to my season in GP3. Even though the results haven't been up to par, I still learned a great deal in the class which will serve me well in the long run."
You took the start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, a very special race to you…
"It's the most wonderful race in the world, without a doubt, but also the most complicated and the most unpredictable because anything can happen in 24 hours. It was my first time doing it as a driver and I learned in brutal fashioin. You have to remain humble taking it on. You can be in the lead and breakdown one lap from the finish, it's such an extraordinary race! From a personal standpoint, before 2018 I had 11 participations to my credit as a spectateur (laughs, Ed.). My first dates back to 2005. The Sunday before the race this year, I went into the paddock, which I'd done dozens of times before, and said to myself this time, it's me! However, I'd never experienced the parade before, even as a spectator. It's just wild! Such a fantastic atmosphere, incredible to be a part of. Few races in the world can fill you with so much emotion. Also, I've been with IDEC Sport in the ELMS since Spa-Francorchamps and the team manager is Nicolas Minassian. It was odd the first time I had dinner with him because I still see him at the wheel of the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP up against Nicolas Lapierre, Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen, etc. Now I'm representing his team, it's really great."
How did this year's edition of Le Mans go for you?
"Not very well! As early as qualifying, we had trouble finding our rhythm compared to the others. We had a chance during the race thanks to the great work my teammates and the team had done. We were unlucky early on when Ho-Pin (Tung, Ed.) had a flat tire. He got the car back to pit lane slowly without any damage, losing only two or three minutes. After two good stints, during the third - out of nowhere - one of my tires exploded at 300 km/h. That ripped the undercarriage and since the tire was not completely delaminated, a portion tapped against the car so I couldn't go more than 60 km/h and it heated the engine. I was afraid it would catch fire and it took me 14 minutes to return to the pits. After that, it took another 45 minutes for repairs. We knew then that the race was lost. It's tough, we had been preparing for a long time, we had a goal and after four hours, it was all over. The worst is that there were 20 more hours left in the race!"
Since then, everything seems to be going well for Jackie Chan DC Racing with a win at Silverstone and a one-two at Fuji. What happened in the interim?
"Since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team has accomplished an enormous amount of work. We did a testing day, that helped us a lot, the team never rests on its laurels and, even after two one-twos, continues to push the drivers to keep working."
It's time for me to dedicate myself 100% to endurance racing. So continuing in the WEC is my goal.Gabriel Aubry
In September, you joined IDEC Sport to replace Paul Lafargue in the ELMS. Is it hard to join a team in the middle of a championship?
"No, it went well because it's a French team with a family ambiance so you feel quite welcomed. I felt comfortable right away. Still though, it wasn't easy. I was in London on a Friday with Arden training on a GP3 simulator. At noon, my father called me to say I needed to head to Spa immediately for the ELMS round. I got there at 22:00 to get my seat fitted and at 09:00 the next morning, I was in the car! It all went fine, I performed well right from the start. The team's members did everything they could to get me acclimated as quickly as possible."
Jackie Chan DC Racing competes in the WEC, IDEC Sport in the ELMS. What are your thoughts on the two teams?
"Jackie Chan DC Racing has been around for a long time, now with more experience and better structuring. The team has a strong work ethic and is very thorough in everything it does. The members are excellent, make no mistakes and are impressive overall. IDEC Sport is more of a family with enormous potential, as you can see from its pole position at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team makes constant progress, is getting more powerful and has a fantastic future ahead of it!"
What is 2019 looking like for you?
"One thing is certain, I will be in the WEC through June and will do Le Mans in 2019 with Jackie Chan DC Racing. My priority is to continue in this championship because single-seaters will be done for me at the end of this year. I have no regrets, I did my time and learned a great deal. I need to focus on just one discipline. It wasn't easy to go from GP3 to LMP2. Last weekend at Portimão was my second race in the LMP2 class and I felt the difference. It's time for me to dedicate myself 100% to endurance racing. So continuing in the WEC is my goal, but that won't be enough, so why not round it out with the ELMS or the IMSA in the U.S.? I would really love to do the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, I'm working on it!"