Pierre Ragues Q&A
You said before Le Mans that it was likely to be the biggest challenge of your career so far. Did that turn out to be the case?
"Certainly; in fact before the race it turned out to be an even bigger challenge than I thought it would be. We had a problem during qualifying with the engine, and this meant that we weren't able to run at all in the second session. Obviously this was far from ideal before the start of a 24-hour race, but the true test of any team is how it reacts in adversity. It's easy for life to be wonderful when things are going well but not everyone can overcome obstacles. Faced with this problem, we all pulled together in the same direction to try and solve it: quietly, methodically and with no drama. Ironically, it was then that I knew we had a really good chance of doing well. Effective teamwork is a vital key to success at Le Mans, and it was clear that we had it."
Did you expect to finish on the podium though?
"The truth is that at Le Mans it's a mistake to expect anything. The perennial fact that it is such an unpredictable race is what makes it fascinating. So I expected us to do our best, but I had no expectation of what the end result might be as there are so many different parameters and things that might happen. We had never run for 24 hours before, so it was a big leap of faith for everybody. That faith was definitely there though, as I knew from the previous Le Mans Series races just what the capabilities of the team and the car were. It was just a question of putting it all together."
What was the most difficult part of the race for you?
"The weather conditions didn't help, certainly. Le Mans is generally quite a low grip circuit, but the intermittent rain made life very tricky. In certain parts of the race there were some corners that were fully wet and others that were quite dry. Obviously that has a huge impact on the tyre choice, so making the right call was often very difficult. Generally speaking, the biggest handicap we had was lack of information. The car was brand new and had never raced at Le Mans before, and I had not raced there since 2006. Even so, I was still the most experienced person in the driver line-up, so of course there was a bit of pressure as well."
How much did your experience of the Le Mans Series help you prepare for Le Mans itself?
"It was invaluable. It's not enough to have a good experience of driving the car -- although that certainly helps -- but you have to find a good rapport with your team and particularly your fellow drivers as well. I was in the car with Matthieu Lahaye, who I have raced with throughout the Le Mans Series this year and we have an excellent working relationship. Joining us was Franky Cheng, who did a really good job as well. Thanks to the Le Mans Series campaign we managed to find an excellent degree of speed and reliability with the car -- which was naturally crucial to our chances. The fact that we were able to translate that into a podium was down to the thorough preparation from every member of our team, not just the drivers."
What does competing at Le Mans mean to you?
"It's simply one of the world's mythical races, isn't it? Particularly being French, it was something very special for me to compete there again. Standing on the podium, after the physical and emotional exhaustion of the race, was definitely the proudest moment of my career so far -- and I hope that it is a moment I will have the opportunity to repeat."