Over the last 10 years or so, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has required more and more of drivers, explains Signatech Alpine Matmut team member Nicolas Lapierre.
All drivers seem to agree: the 24 Hours of Le Mans is more mentally and physically demanding than ever. Professionals and amateurs alike must be in top physical condition and pay extreme attention to their lifestyles. For teams, it's a real juggling act managing at a minimum a car, three drivers, a 24-hour race and set goals all while remaining in compliance with the regulations.
You don't have a choice anymore, you have to be on the attack from the first minute of the race.Nicolas Lapierre, Signatech Alpine Matmut
Over the last 10 years, driving requirements and the pace of the race have changed. Nicolas Lapierre, driver of Signatech Alpine Matmut's #36 Alpine A470-Gibson, LMP2 winner at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, is understandably concerned by this phenomenon. "In 2007, for my first participation at the wheel of Team ORECA's Saleen S7-R, I was asked to respect a certain lap time and to be as consistent as possible. Then we'd wait to see how the race unfolded. Over the years, things have changed. Now, you have to attack constantly because if you don't, another driver will and gain an advantage by doing so. Today, for drivers the 24 Hours of Le Mans amounts to six to eight stints full speed ahead. You don't have a choice anymore, you have to be on the attack from the first minute of the race. We can do that now because the cars, particularly the LMP2 prototypes, are extremely reliable."
At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving time is regulated. In all classes, no driver can drive more than four hours in a six-hour period. Over the 24-hour race, no competitor can drive for more than 14 hours or for less than six hours in total.
The first year the 24 Hours of Le Mans was won by a car shared by three drivers was 1977. The winning Porsche 936 that year was driven by Jacky Ickx, Hurley Haywood and Jürgen Barth. Since 1985, every car that has claimed the top step on the podium has had a thee-driver line-up.