Big debut for Sébastien Loeb Racing !
Four months after its creation, Sébastien Loeb and Dominique Heintz’s team will make its competition debut during the 6 Hours of the Castellet. Nicolas Minassian, Stéphane Sarrazin and Nicolas Marroc will drive the No. 19 ORECA 03.
The big day has arrived for Sébastien Loeb Racing ! Since the beginning of December, the team has been anticipating this first race weekend. The weeks have flown by since the team’s presentation at Haguenau and the move-in to the workshops at Soultz-Sous-Forêts. All members of the team have prepared, to the smallest detail, for this first appearance in endurance racing which will mark an important step in this sporting and human adventure. After discovering the ORECA 03 for the first time a few days ago, Nicolas Minassian, Stéphane Sarrazin and Nicolas Marroc will have the honor of defending the colors of Sébastien Loeb Racing for the first time. A special rendezvous…
Sébastien Loeb : « Everything has been done to be ready ! »
A special rendezvous for Sébastien Loeb as well, who will follow his team’s progress from afar, in Portugal, where he will be competing in the fourth round of the WRC. « I very much would have wanted to be there » said the eight-time World Rally champion. « I’m so excited to see how this first race will go for the team. Everything has been done to be ready. That said, I know racing and I know there will be a lot of things to take from this weekend. There will likely be a few corrections to make, but the team is very focused and ultra motivated. We surrounded ourselves with experienced guys, from the engineers to the mechanics to the drivers. »
With a trio of top drivers composed of Nicolas Minassian, Stéphane Sarrazin and Nicolas Marroc, Sébastien Loeb Racing will be closely watched by their competitors. Nonetheless, Sébastien Loeb will be going into the 6 Hours of the Castellet with humility. « There’s a little bit of apprehension » he admits. « It’s the big jump into the unknown. The goal is to do our best, without putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. We have the advantage of running on the Paul Ricard circuit, a track ORECA, the builders of our prototype, knows well, and that our drivers know well. We have everything in our favor to obtain a good result from the outset. »
Nicolas Minassian : « The Castellet, so special… »
Like Stéphane Sarrazin, and alongside Nicolas Marroc, Nicolas Minassian brings his experience of endurance racing. « Our role is to help the team, » confirms the Marseillais. « We can aid the team to gain time on some parameters, including the car setup or pit stops. I already know our engineer, Léo Thomas, and ORECA, who were with us during the car’s assembly and at the shakedown. This facilitates things even if we are up against a huge challenge. As we go, I’m getting to know the members of the team, who all have a great desire to do well. We can’t rush things, but instead progress steadily. We are working toward the race and definitely not for qualifying performance. »
As a home track, Nicolas Minassian is determined to shine for his return to the Paul Ricard circuit. « I haven’t raced here since 1995 ! » he said. « The Castellet is so special for me…I started there in karting, and ran there in single-seaters several times and I’m happy to see the track once again open to the public. My family and friends will be there. It’s my home race and I want to win ! I’ve never had the chance to win there and I’d really like to !»
Dominique Heintz : « A lot of emotion… »
On Saturday, the three drivers of the No. 19 ORECA 03 will face an intense day with two 1 :30 practice sessions then qualifying. For their big debut, Sébastien Loeb Racing will therefore have to be efficient. « You can say that we won’t have things very easy for us » underlines Dominique Heintz, team manager. « The schedule is ultra tight and this renders the challenge even more difficult, but the motivation is there ! »
Just a few days after its protoype’s shakedown, Sébastien Loeb Racing is getting ready to make its entrance onto the international scene. It’s a new experience, and a big moment for Dominique Heintz, who concludes: « There will be a lot of emotion, and my hairs are already standing on end. The adventure truly begins on Saturday and we’re all ready to be there. We are happy to have chosen endurance. This type of racing puts the focus on team work and that human element linked to sports is important to us. It’s hard to talk about a specific finishing position, but it’s obvious that we want to have a good performance. With Sébastien in Portugal and the team at the Castellet, I hope we will have two great results to celebrate on Sunday night. »
Practice sessions start Saturday, March 31 at 9 :15 a.m. After a second session at 1 p.m., qualifying will be held at 3 :50 p.m. The start of the 6 Hours of the Castellet will be given on Sunday, April 1, at noon.