Julien Canal has quite a successful track record at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In eight participations, he has reached the top step on the podium in his class three times. Here he looks back on some of the highlights of his career and also talks about his projects for 2018...
What do you have in the works for 2018?
"It's still up in the air, especially since the Rebellion Racing team is still undecided about the class it wants to compete in, whether to remain in LMP2 or jump into LMP1. Team manager Alexandre Pesci really likes the LMP1 class and it's an intriguing idea because then we could go after the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Of course it would be difficult, but over the course of this 2018/2019 Super Season there will be two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so there exists the possibility of winning given that the LMP1 hybrids are not immune to breakdowns or mechanical problems. All that's left is to figure out which chassis, which marque and which engine. I hope to continue with the team. After they go into the LMP1 class, with only professional drivers, it will be complicated for me to come along. I've proven my reliability and I've upped my game from year to year, so I have a chance. If they pursue the LMP2 class, it's a sure thing I'll stay with them. Meanwhile, I haven't hidden the fact I've been contacted by other teams like Signatech Alpine Matmut and Jackie Chan DC Racing. I'm not closing any doors, but my first hope is to remain in the WEC."
To win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in prototypes would be the pinnacle for me!Julien Canal
The LMP1 class would be a huge pleasure for you in terms of driving, isn't that right?
"Absolutely (laughs, Ed.). When I went from LMGTE Am to LMP2, it was exceptional and I thought I'd hit the jackpot. Second in 2014, first in 2015, it was incredibly fun. The leap was nonetheless significant, I had to challenge myself to the point of working almost like a rookie. In 2017, there was the addition of 100 hp to the LMP2 cars, that was a real leap forward. You go faster, you take turns faster. It's great. It helps a lot from a safety perspective relative to the GTs, and I've said as much to the members of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. They were a little apprehensive about the fact some gentlemen drivers did not make it, but I told them it was easier in the end. Now, with the upcoming season, everything is balanced between the non-hybrid LMP1s between the LMP2s and the LMP1 hybrids. I'd love to drive one!"
You've won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GT class three times (2010 in GT1, 2011 and 2012 in LMGTE Am, see photos below). Are you seeking a new victory, in the LMP2 class for example?
"That's the big question right now. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is always uncertain. Earl Bamber (two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, in 2015 and 2017, Ed.) once said that 'You don't choose to win Le Mans, it's Le Mans that chooses you.' There are so many factors at play. You can prepare as best as possible and still lose, there's an element of luck, that's undeniable. The non-hybrid LMP1 is already an extraordinary dream, but to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a prototype, whether in an LMP2 or LPM1 would be the pinnacle for me. That would give me a big trophy to put next to the three others (laughs, Ed.). It will be hard to do, but I've been fortunate enough to be successful at Le Mans: eight participations, three victories, a third place finish and only one retirement (#26 Ligier JS P2 Nissan, photo below, Ed.). I believe I have a guardian angel at the 24 Hours. Also, to get good results there, as a Le Mans native, gives me chills. Recently, I attended the screening of the official film of the 2017 24 Hours, and when all those people from Le Mans sitting behind me applauded me, it warmed my heart. That's why I want to continue in Endurance racing in the WEC or ELMS. It's a dream that never ends."