After the 24 Hours of Daytona, how do you see the 12 Hours of Sebring?
It will be more difficult because we have an amateur driver, Jon Bennett, in our car. The course will more complicated for him than in Daytona. I think that here in Sebring, the gaps will be wider, especially for the DPi class [the Prototype P class that includes the Dpi cars specific to the USA and LMP2s], it will be tougher, especially in terms of pace. The CORE autosport squad I drive for (Oreca 07) is very good, but the Cadillacs are a step ahead. We’ll approach the race in the same way, aiming to ‘survive’ for as long as possible then, when we’ve done ten hours, we’ll see where we stand.
Back in Europe, you have recently been testing the Porsche 911 RSR that you’ll be driving at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was a long time since you’d driven that kind of car. How did it go?
Yes, last year Porsche would have liked me to drive a GTE but I still wanted to race in a prototype [he competed at the wheel of the #36 Alpine A470 for Signatech Alpine Matmut at Le Mans, finishing 8th in LMP2 with Gustavo Menezes and Matt Rao]. This year, I’ll be at Le Mans with Timo [Bernhard] as part of an excellent outfit with four Porsche 911 RSRs. I put the car to the test not long ago in Abu Dhabi and it’s not easy to drive. The GTEs have come on leaps and bounds, they’re faster than before. What is more, we’ll only have a couple of days’ testing at Spa before Le Mans, so I don’t think it’ll be easy to move straight on from there.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list revealed 17 cars in the LMGTE Pro class. How do you see things playing out?
It will be the most exciting class to watch at Le Mans! There are 17 official cars, all driven by factory drivers. Everyone will be out to win, and will have the resources they need to do so. You only find that level in LMGTE Pro – the grid is just fabulous.
What do you think will make the difference in the race?
The car itself. I can’t tell you which manufacturer will win. Ford are always excellent at Le Mans and they shone at Daytona. There is no reason for that to change, although the balance of performance won’t be the same as in the States. Corvette will no doubt be among the leaders, as they often are. Ferrari has a powerful chassis. We’re not quite as consistent at Porsche. For BMW, it’ll be a bit more difficult because they have a brand new car, like Aston Martin. So I think there are three or four manufacturers who could win, though if we count them up, that still makes more than ten cars in with a chance – there’s not enough room on the podium [laughs].
You’ll be contesting Pikes Peak with Volkswagen after the 24 Hours of Le Mans. How did you team up with them?
Volkswagen contacted me just before Pikes Peak last year. My ultimate goal is to enter the race with a constructor. My initial idea was to fit a Volkswagen engine in my prototype but we went with the idea of an electric car, which was not possible with a private team. The German manufacturer therefore decided to take care of everything, which was the best solution. Some of my mechanics are involved in the project. And I insisted that my team, RD Limited, should be able to field our own private entries. We’ll be entering three, with Laure Many, Raphaël Astier and Vanina Ickx.