This weekend, Henri Pescarolo - who will celebrate his 76th birthday in September - will take the start at the 9th edition of the Le Mans Classic. The four-time 24 Hours winner took advantage of his return to Le Mans to hit the legendary track at the wheel of a "newer model" car: a Pescarolo!
It would be safe to assume after 33 participations in the 24 Hours that Henri Pescarolo has experienced just about everything Le Mans has to offer as a driver, not to mention the 13 editions to his credit as the owner of his own team. Yet, for the first day of the Le Mans Classic, Henri Pescarolo did something he'd never done before: several laps at the wheel of a contemporary car, the 2007 Pescarolo 01 fielded at the time by the champion's team (later dissolved). The reunion between the man and his machine was an emotional one for the celebrated French driver:
"I have never gotten over the collapse of my team, so when Jacques Nicolet (the owner of Onroak Automotive, producer of the Ligier LMP2s, who bought out a part of the Pescarolo Sport team, Ed.) suggested I take the wheel of the Pescarolo 01, I hesitated because I was afraid to bring back bad memories," admits Henri Pescarolo. "But I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to drive this car for the first time at a circuit. I had only driven it on a straight at the air base in Brétigny for aerodynamic development. Even though the car is a 2007, there was already a good deal of aero and the car goes fast let me tell you! Also, it's an open cockpit which I love because I can't stand closed cars. I enjoyed myself even more than I could have predicted, it was so much fun, especially given that many of the people who take care of this car came from my former team. It really moved me."
An experience that Henri Pescarolo, whose 1976 Inaltera will participate in the Le Mans Classic in grid 6 this weekend, summed up with one word: terrific! According to another competitor on the track with him at the time, the septuagenarian's reflexes are excellent...really excellent.
Photo (Dominique Breugnot / ACO): Henri Pescarolo at the wheel of the 2007 Pescarolo 01 during the first day of the 2018 Le Mans Classic.