Three weeks after one of his Ligier JS P217s claimed the third step on the LMP2 podium at the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Jacques Nicolet participated in the Le Mans Classic this weekend with a 1972 Duckhams Ford prototype. On the surface, these two cars should have nothing in common, yet they do: pure fun!
You would think he'd just emerged from a qualifying session in a featherweight 670-kg open prototype even though the ambient temperature is close to 30°C. But then you'd be forgetting who Jacques Nicolet is: a die-hard motorsport enthusiast.
"Driving these cars is very physical compared to modern cars," begins Jacques Nicolet. "First of all, you have to change gears manually with a lever whereas newer prototypes shift on the wheel. These vintage cars also have a lot less downforce and are equipped with grooved tires which provide a great deal less grip so the car slides a lot. The feel is different. You have to use your head! I'm a little too old to take on the Mulsanne Straight at 300 km/h thinking to myself I hope this holds!"
And then he lets out a huge laugh! What matters most to this 62-year-old gentleman-driver with eight participations in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including a podium finish in LMP2 in 2009 against extremely fast Porsche RS Spyders, is fun. Well that's almost all…"Certain elements of the Duckham's gearbox are new," explains Jacques Nicolet. "So I was asked to break it in, but after two or three laps I felt that was enough so I started to go harder. At first you think you're just here for fun, but passion takes the upperhand and you can't help but get into it!"
The permanent smile on the face of the Onroak Automotive owner, designer of modern Ligier LMP2s, speaks volumes about what he felt at the wheel, even going so far as to clock the fourth fastest time behind much quicker Lolas. To have fun driving is great, but to have a blast and work the clock is even better! There's a reason Jacques Nicolet is a Spirit of Le Mans trophy winner…
PHOTO (Michel Jamin / ACO): Jacques Nicolet at the wheel of the 1972 Duckhams Ford at the 2018 Le Mans Classic.