It’s like nothing has changed for him. The car he drives is still blue, still No. 8. Even one of his teammates could lead him to believe he’s still a member of Peugeot Sport.
Of course, this is not the case. Stéphane Sarrazin had the chance to rebound into a seat with Toyota this year and with the TS030, he’s an outsider for the race. An outsider who only completed 10 laps on Wednesday and 10 on Thursday as his car was not spared a few problems during the practice/qualifying sessions. “No, but it’s OK, I know the car after testing a lot at the Castellet, and I know the track pretty well too…”
As for the e-trons, I can barely follow them once I leave their slipstream.
Enough for him to list the positive points of the car: “I’d say its reactivity in the successive corners, the finesse of the aerodynamics and the power of our hybrid system.”
As for the weak points, Stéphane adds: “The deficit in power from our combustion engine compared to Audi’s. We also have to improve the braking performance. We aren’t very good in that domain and it has nothing to do with the hybrid system. We have to be careful. It’s normal that certain elements need perfecting because the car is still quite new…”
From outside the car, it looks nervous and jumpy. “Yes that’s true but once again, we need time to fine-tune the setup of the car. And also, it’s more impressive seen from the outside than when you’re behind the wheel. For example, the most difficult bump on the circuit is on the downhill after Dunlop, where the track separates in two, Bugatti on one side and the 24 Hours track on the other. There, the 908 was always a little shaky, but the TS030 isn’t…”
Only twenty laps in two evenings but each time Stéphane had the opportunity to run behind an Audi, both an Ultra and e-tron. “Compared to the Ultra, we don’t have any issues passing them during accelerations from corners, as our electric system kicks in. It only lasts a second or two but it pushes hard.” As hard as from 2007-2010, with the big diesel engines? Stéphane’s eyes spark. “Ah, don’t talk to me about that. We had 800 hp at our backs. 3:18 a lap! Imagine what times we’d be setting now with the new asphalt on the long straight…No, don’t talk about that. It pushes hard for today’s standards, but not like before. In any case, once the electric stops, you can feel that the diesels are stronger. As for the e-trons, I can barely follow them once I leave their slipstream.”
Stéphane is confident however of the tyre situation. “It’s an area where we are good.” As for the consumption? “We know exactly where we are but we know nothing of the Audis.” Nontheless, the Frenchman remains confident in his car enough to believe “we can think about annoying the Audis at least in the first few hours. I think it might be fun. But over the course of 24 hours, who knows?”