Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard finally made it to the Le Mans in top prototype cars -- each has driven LM GT2 cars here, and Dumas has been with Team Pescarolo the past two years -- but it wasn't to be in the pair's usual Porsche RS Spyder from...
Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard finally made it to the Le Mans in top prototype cars -- each has driven LM GT2 cars here, and Dumas has been with Team Pescarolo the past two years -- but it wasn't to be in the pair's usual Porsche RS Spyder from the American Le Mans Series. Instead, the duo are about to get into the #3 Audi R15 for the start of this afternoon's race.
"I was racing for Penske, and it was a tough competition with Audi. So it was a bit of strange feeling in the winter when I had the contact from Audi," Dumas described. "It was a great opportunity for us, and we're very proud of it. And to be with this team, which we used to fight against, it's a little bit unbelievable, but very nice."
The ALMS duo is joined for the June endurance classic by Alexandre Premat -- the youngest of the three, but with two years of experience at Le Mans with the Audi works team. For Dumas and Bernhard, who won the 2007 and 2008 ALMS P2 titles with Porsche, there is much to learn, though.
"I only drove in the rain or in the night here so far," Dumas explained. "I drove (the R15) for about two hours in testing at Paul Ricard. It was very good, I was quick, there were no problems. But it's not the same story when you arrive here. Such a different track, with high-speed corners, so we had to re-adapt. And at Ricard, there is a lot of space, but here you don't want to make a mistake!"
And while the R15 and RS Spyder are both prototypes, and were often very close in performance on the tighter American tracks, the R15 is certainly a different driving experience.
"The R15 is very, very quick," Dumas describes his new steed. "It's very quick on a high-speed corner, like the the Spyder. It brakes very good, but in the slow corners it's not as agile, it's heavier. But for Le Mans, this the right car!"
With both Dumas and Bernhard still working on getting to know the car and extract its full performance, it was no surprise that the #3 was the slowest of the three works Audis in qualifying at seventh overall. But Dumas is not concerned about the qualifying results reflecting on the race.
"In qualifying, it was not too easy to get a good feeling and to be able to get the maximum from the car, but the lap times got better and better, so it's good," Dumas described. "For the race, though, we have a good pace."
There are 24 hours left for Dumas and Bernhard to get to know the car better, increasing the pace without excessive risk.