Will Stevens, Robert Smith and Dries Vanthoor shared the wheel of the #84 Ferrari 488 GTE at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The trial turned into a masterstroke when the trio claimed the top step on the LMGTE Am podium despite the fact the line-up included a debuting driver (Dries Vanthoor) and the car was new to the team.
How do you feel now that a few months have passed since your win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LMGTE Am class?
Dries Vanthoor: "It's a huge win at just 19 years old. It will always be an excellent memory. We didn't make the slightest mistake for 24 hours, including the drivers, mechanics and engineers. JMW Motorsport is a small outfit, but we feel good together and everyone is highly competent. I am happy with this result because I haven't had much luck this year. With the exception of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, I've felt success wasn't in the cards for me in 2017, particularly at the 24 Hours of Spa. But, it did end on a good note with two wins at the Hungaroring (along with Marcel Fässler, Ed.)."
Robert Smith: "Shortly after Le Mans, I began feeling like I was coming back down to Earth (laughs, Ed.). Then I went to the Red Bull Ring and so many people mentioned Le Mans to me, congratulated me, and so I returned to cloud nine. I'm trying to rid myself of all of that, close the book on Le Mans and focus on my work in the ELMS as our goal is to perform well through the end of the season (JMW Motorsport is currently second in the championship in the LMGTE class, one point behind the leaders, Ed.)."
Will Stevens: "I feel really good (laughs, Ed.). What happened at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was just wonderful."
What were your first impressions of the 488 GTE?
D.V.: "This Ferrari is truly a fantastic car, easy to drive. Good luck trying to find its limit. Also, it doesn't have ABS, which is different from what I'm used to driving in GT3 (Dries Vanthoor drove the WRT team's Audi R8 LMS in the Blancpain Endurance Series this season, Ed.). This car quickly gives its driver a sense of confidence and that is very important."
R.S.: "We won the last race the 458 Italia did (the 4 Hours of Monza, Ed.). That will always remain an exceptional day for me. When the car left Monza, it went straight to the factor. When it arrived, the mechanics fromed an honor guard and applauded. That's the Ferrari passion, and it's why I am proud to drive a Ferrari. With the 488 GTE, I admit I didn't feel the difference right away. Now that I've driven it more, I find it better than its predecessor in every aspect: aerodynamics, brakes, acceleration, maneuverability and comfort. It's just an incredible car to drive."
W.S.: "To be honest, I can't compare it to previous Ferraris because I've not driven them. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, I had only driven an LMP2 before (G-Drive Racing's ORECA 05-Nissan with which he finished second in LMP2 along with Roman Rusinov and René Rast, Ed.), never a GTE. So a lot of things were new to me. This car was just great. We didn't have the least bit of trouble during the entire race, the balance was super. It reacts to the smallest adjustment. Also, we took the lead rather quickly, which allowed us to avoid pushing it 110%. It was a very positive experience driving this 488 GTE and I am happy to get back behind the wheel for the end of the ELMS season."
Were there any moments particularly special to you at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans?
R.S.: "I can say I drove at this circuit and now I can say I competed at Le Mans, I'm a member of that group. It was a dream of mine 20 years in the making. During the last three hours, I couldn't watch the race. Just 30 minutes from the finish, I started to hope and believe and then it happened!"
W.S.: "It's always special to go to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, no matter the class. I've known the JMW Motorsport team for quite some time. We came to Le Mans with the intention of winning the race and that's what we did. We worked very well, I have a great relationship with the entire team, especially Robert and Dries. It's hard for me to pick out just one moment, though the podium with the whole crowd watching is very special. In any case, the race itself is special."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans: A dream? A rite of passage? A step toward other opportunities?
D.V.: "It's a dream that became a reality. I may not have won overall, but this class win is just a first step for me. It is my greatest victory to-date. I hope to be able to do the 24 Hours of Le Mans again next year and that this win will open some doors in LMGTE or in Prototypes, to compete at Le Mans in LMP2 would be fantastic! (Dries Vanthoor competed at the 4 Hours of Spa in the ELMS in 2016 at the wheel of a Ligier JS P2 entered by WRT, finishing second, Ed.)."
R.S.: "It means everything to me. This is the highest level I can claim as an amateur driver. I know I will never be a professional, and it's not something I've ever wanted. For me, to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans is like climbing Mount Everest! It's the same for the team as well. They had competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times and their best result had been fourth place until now. This year we topped that together in a big way."
W.S.: "When you start out your career, there are four or five races you would love to win and the 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of them. I reached the second step on the LMP2 podium then won the LMGTE Am class, so that's a good thing. Now I would like to achieve the overall win. The goal is to attract a manufacturer and so this victory is a step toward other opportunities for me."
Tell us about your win.
D.V.: "Right after the race, I reminded my brother (Laurens Vanthoor, official Porsche GT driver, Ed.) that I had just done the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time, and won, and that he had already done it twice and still hadn't (laughs, Ed.). Meanwhile, he has won practically everything else, the 24 Hours of Spa, the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, Zolder, etc."
W.S.: "I won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the LMGTE Am class and hope it's the beginning of a long string of victories to come. When you win this race, no matter the car or the class, it really boosts your appeal to other teams. I had the opportunity to show I know what I'm doing."