Nicolas Prost may have the famous last name, but he doesn't need any help from his father to make his mark in racing. In a few hours he'll be getting on track for Speedy Racing Team Sebah in their Lola B08/60-Aston Martin, for the 24 Hours of Le...
Nicolas Prost may have the famous last name, but he doesn't need any help from his father to make his mark in racing. In a few hours he'll be getting on track for Speedy Racing Team Sebah in their Lola B08/60-Aston Martin, for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Prost's previous Le Mans experience is limited to a 2007 drive with Team Oreca's Saleen S7-R in the LM GT1 class; this year he is stepping up to the premier LM P1 category with his new team. Unfortunately for Prost, as well as many others, the test day was cancelled this year for cost reasons.
"I have only done six flying laps," says Prost. "Four in Thursday qualifying and then two this morning. I did just a few laps in the rain, desperate, really, just to get my night laps in."
Prost has substantial experience to draw on: in addition to his previous Le Mans experience in the GT1 class, he has recently been driving also in the F3000 Euroseries and the A1GP championship. But the P1 is still a learning experience for him -- and for rookie teammate and fellow A1GP alum Neel Jani -- and he was careful in the qualifying sessions, building up experience and leaving the task of qualifying to Andrea Belicchi, who already drove for the team at Le Mans last year.
"I actually found it easier driving a P1 than a GT1; there is a lot more downforce so it's much easier in the quick corners," Prost explained. "It's going to be a long race. I think we'll have a big fight with the works Astons and with the two private diesel cars, from Kolles. First aim is to finish, and not take too many risks."
The factory Lola-Aston Martins certainly seem within reach for the team; Belicchi qualified the car 10th overall with a time of 3:28.134, just 0.954 seconds off the pace of Stefan Mucke in the fastest of the works cars.
"I think (the works Astons) have more power than us with the new direct injection engine, quite a lot actually," Prost mused. "I think they are taking quite a different approach to us in terms of settings. Honestly, I think that with the same engine we would be quicker --they are not much quicker and here the engine makes a very big difference. "
And tire strategy? As with their competitors, Team Sebah knows the importance of minimizing time in the pits, and getting the tires right is a critical piece for that.
"We tried both soft and medium tires (in qualifying), there is not much advantage to the softs so I think we'll go with the mediums," said Prost. "I think it's very dependent on the car. We could do four stints (on one set of mediums), but it's a risk so we'll probably do three to start. After the first six hours we'll have more information so we could change after that. The time savings from two to three stints is very big, going to four is not as big. But we'll see ..."
The works team's stated goal is to be the fastest of the petrol cars, but Prost, Belicchi, Jani and the rest of Speedy Racing Team Sebah will not be making it easy for them.