Julien Canal is a happy man! The Le Mans native has just added a third award to his collection by winning the Endurance LMP2 Drivers Trophy with Vaillante Rebellion (#31 ORECA 07-Gibson). Meanwhile, "nothing would have been possible without Bruno Senna and Nicolas Prost," his two teammates.
You trailed significantly early in the season, more than 40 behind the Jackie Chan DC Racing team, only to end up winning the Endurance LMP2 Drivers Trophy. Tell us about your year.
"LMP2 is a highly competitive class because everyone has the same chassis, the same electronics, the same engine. At the beginning of the year, the team entered the Rolex 24 at Daytona with drivers like Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin and Nick Heidfeld. That allowed us to figure out what our weaknesses were and greatly helped us kick of the World Endurance Championship on the right footing. We achieved a good early season at Silverstone and Spa, but at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, our gearbox broke. Even though we were slightly slower than Jackie Chan DC Racing's ORECA 07-Gibsons, we should have managed to claim a podium finish, and the end of the season would have been less complicated. After Le Mans and the Nürburgring, our morale was pretty low with our 46-point deficit in the championship. Our goal from then on was to win every race. We knew it would be an uphill battle, but it was doable. We questioned ourselves on quite a few points. We did longer technical debriefings, tried to understand the functions of the car 100%. We did written Q&As every race about every possible problem and how to find solutions, we already trained a great deal on pit stops, refuelings and driver changes, saving six or seven seconds between the first and last rounds. It all went towards a wonderful dynamic as evidenced as of Mexico where we understood by making zero mistakes, we could in fact win every race. We also talked a lot, not favoring the feelings of any one driver, but all three. It involved a level of teamwork that rarely exists."
How did you get along with Bruno Senna and Nicolas Prost?
"I already knew Nicolas Prost from competing together in Formula Renault in 2005. As for Bruno Senna, I met him through the the OAK Racing team two years ago. Philippe Dumas, my former team manager with OAK Racing, spoke very highly of him and I knew he'd be with Vaillante Rebellion in 2017. My only prerogative was to be associated with Bruno for this season, and why not Nicolas as well. I knew on a personal level we would gel. In Endurance racing, it's not just the tenths of a second that count, it's how well the drivers get along with each other. That's also what allowed us to win this title."
This 2017 trophy is particularly special to me.Julien Canal
You've just won a third crown in the Word Endurance Championship. Does this title mean more to you than the others?
"Yes, it's special because now I'm 35 years old, the competition is harder, the performance levels increase and technology advances, and I'm still in the mix. Also, with the work done this year, even for me with my other career, we had to optimize every point, Bruno and Nicolas as professional drivers and me as a Silver driver. Considering where we started from, the effort put out, the time moving forward, the competition, this 2017 trophy is particularly special to me. Also, to do 72 hours of WEC (all of the rounds tallied, Ed.) and finish 10.6 seconds ahead of Jackie Chan DC Racing's #38 ORECA 07-Gibson is just incredible."
To be continued tomorrow...