VOICES OF LE MANS: SIMON PAGENAUD AND JAIME MELO Simon Pagenaud and Jaime Melo each have found their share of success in the American Le Mans Series - Pagenaud with de Ferran Motorsports and Acura, and Melo with Risi Competizione and Ferrari....
VOICES OF LE MANS: SIMON PAGENAUD AND JAIME MELO
Simon Pagenaud and Jaime Melo each have found their share of success in the American Le Mans Series - Pagenaud with de Ferran Motorsports and Acura, and Melo with Risi Competizione and Ferrari. Both are among the contingent of Series' competitors on hand at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Melo happened to be part of the GT2-winning Risi entry last season. And Pagenaud is driving a diesel-powered Peugeot. So how do they see the race shaking out this year?
It's a very special race, especially for a Frenchmen. I've been watching that race since I was a little kid. You always want to have a good result in Le Mans but it's such an unpredictable race; anything can happen at anytime. There is gravel on the track, sometimes oil; it is a very difficult track. Mentally you really need to focus all the time and you don't have time for any risks. Even though the straights are really long and you can physically rest, mentally you can't give up anything.
This year we're going to have a strong competition. There are going to be nine diesel engines, so it's going to be a big competition with the Audi and the Peugeot; the Aston Martin is very strong as well. I think it won't be easy at all, but as long as we can get to the finish, and hopefully if we can expect to be in the top-five it will be a very good experience for me and a very good year, of course. Hopefully things go well. You can't really say before the race, just wait and see and take things step by step. Being able to drive for two manufacturers (Acura and Peugeot) is such a good opportunity.... The only obvious difference is the closed top, which may make a big difference. The windshield gives you a delay in the speed so you feel like you're not going too fast in the straight when in fact you are going really fast. When you come into the corners you have to remind yourself that you are probably not seeing what is actually happening; you have a delay in the perception. It's something that you need to get used to.
The Peugeot team is getting to a good maturity now after the couple of years they've been practicing for Le Mans and I think the team is now ready for the win, but again it's never easy. The car is obviously made for Le Mans, it has very good straight-line speed, very good braking as well, and the torch of the diesel engine is quite unbelievable.
Not just for me but for every driver, I think that Le Mans is one of the most important races in the world. Winning Le Mans is something like winning a championship - American Le Mans Series or wherever. We need to give everything we have; we need to be prepared mentally and physically for this race. It's something really special, especially after last year when we won. This year I'm looking for it one more time. It's a really big event; the preparation for this race is really big and the team has been doing very good preparation. It's rebuilding the car; it's doing the best they can to prepare and to give us the best car. For sure, it's a different event. It's everyone together, every championship together and the ambiance outside of the race is similar. They make a little party and park around the track so that makes people come and have fun during the race as well.