Vergne: LMP2 "investment" has paid off with Peugeot seat

Jean-Eric Vergne says the "investment" of several years racing in the LMP2 ranks has paid off after being selected as one of Peugeot's drivers for the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

Vergne: LMP2 "investment" has paid off with Peugeot seat
Listen to this article

Ex-Formula 1 driver and two-time Formula E champion Vergne was one of the six drivers named by Peugeot for its two-car Le Mans Hypercar effort last week.

It marks a move up to the top class of sportscar racing for the Frenchman after four years in the LMP2 ranks, which began in 2017 with a season in the WEC with the Manor squad.

The Frenchman switched to G-Drive Racing for 2018, and won that year's Le Mans 24 Hours on the road alongside teammates Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola, only for the team to be disqualified for an illegal modification to the fuelling rig.

Having been rejected for a Toyota LMP1 seat after testing at Paul Ricard back in 2015, Vergne said he viewed dropping down to LMP2 - and initially not receiving a salary - as a price worth paying to secure his long-term future in endurance racing.

Read Also:

"When I left F1, I did a test for Toyota," Vergne told Motorsport.com. "I think when I did this test, in my head, I wasn't very strong mentally and I just wasn't in the right place at the right time.

"So it didn't happen, Toyota didn't hire me. I found myself without a drive; I still had Formula E, but for me, it was equally important being able to do Le Mans, it has always been a dream.

"I asked my manager Julian Jakobi to call absolutely everyone in LMP2. I wanted to stay in prototypes, I didn't want to go to GT, because I think afterwards it's difficult to get back to prototypes. He told me, 'Look, it's not the best team, it's not the best drive, but we've got an opportunity to drive at Manor'. I said, 'OK, perfect'.

"It was difficult: the team had no money, it didn't work well at all. We had an amateur teammate [Tor Graves] who was having fun but was extremely far in terms of lap time, so I knew I had no chance of getting a result. Above all, it wasn't a paid drive, I had to pay for everything like hotels, travelling, flights… but I saw it as an investment.

"That year, I think it was in Fuji, I met Roman Rusinov. We had dinner and I did a test for his G-Drive team at the end of the year, and it went very well. I learned a lot in this team. It was an investment.

"It was not easy thinking I was out of F1 and Toyota didn't want me. I hit rock bottom, and I needed to be calm in order to pick myself up.”

#26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson: Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne

#26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson: Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne

Photo by: G-Drive Racing

Vergne and G-Drive came close to winning Le Mans again in 2019 only to be delayed by the failure of what he described at the time as a "10 cent" piece, and electrical issues and a suspension problem restricted the squad to fifth place last year.

But the 30-year-old believes that his performances in the French classic, and in the ELMS, did not go unnoticed by those making the decisions at Peugeot.

"I think Peugeot - and everyone who watches the performances closely - see the stint average, the qualifying laps, they can really properly analyse how it's going," Vergne said.

"Every year I ranked among the best drivers in LMP2. Last year the performance was really good, I felt really good in the car.

"I have more and more confidence, I also enjoy driving at Le Mans, and on all the other circuits in the ELMS and WEC."

shares
comments

Related video

Champion returns with Dumas to contest Pikes Peak
Previous article

Champion returns with Dumas to contest Pikes Peak

Next article

Opinion: Why safety cars are an outdated institution

Opinion: Why safety cars are an outdated institution
How Toyota defeated Alpine for the 2022 WEC title Prime

How Toyota defeated Alpine for the 2022 WEC title

Toyota #8 trio Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa outscored their rivals in the last season before the World Endurance Championship’s top class gets ultra-competitive. Here's how their Hypercar battle with Alpine and the remaining class tussles played out in LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE Am

WEC
Dec 5, 2022
The long road to convergence for sportscar racing's new golden age Prime

The long road to convergence for sportscar racing's new golden age

The organisers of the World Endurance Championship and IMSA SportsCar Championship worked together to devise the popular new LMDh rule set. But to turn it from an idea into reality, some serious compromises were involved - both from the prospective LMDh entrants and those with existing Le Mans Hypercar projects...

IMSA
Nov 25, 2022
How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game Prime

How Porsche's Le Mans legend changed the game

The 956 set the bar at the dawn of Group C 40 years ago, and that mark only rose higher through the 1980s, both in the world championship and in the US. It and its successor, the longer-wheelbase 962, are arguably the greatest sportscars of all time.

WEC
Aug 25, 2022
Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes Prime

Why BMW shouldn't be overlooked on its return to prototypes

OPINION: While the focus has been on the exciting prospect of Ferrari vs Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours next year, BMW’s factory return to endurance racing should not be ignored. It won't be at the French classic next year as it focuses efforts on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, but could be a dark horse in 2024 when it returns to La Sarthe with the crack WRT squad.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2022
The history lessons Peugeot should have learned on its return Prime

The history lessons Peugeot should have learned on its return

The Peugeot 9X8 will make its FIA World Endurance Championship debut at Monza this weekend. The French manufacturer has gone radical and will be hoping it doesn’t need to overhaul its contender, as it did with its first Le Mans challenger…

WEC
Jul 8, 2022
How Formula E's double-duty drivers got on at Le Mans Prime

How Formula E's double-duty drivers got on at Le Mans

Eight Formula E drivers made the 7,000-mile sprint from the streets of Jakarta to the fabled Circuit de la Sarthe and every one had a story to share at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Despite a range of triumphs and disappointments, each driver doubling up on the day job played a key role in their teams' fortunes

Le Mans
Jun 14, 2022
How junior formula giant Prema is readying for its Le Mans future Prime

How junior formula giant Prema is readying for its Le Mans future

Prema remains a colossus in single-seaters, but the serial Formula 2 and Formula 3 title-winning squad has joined forces with top GT squad Iron Lynx for an attack on sportscars in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series. Ahead of its debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours, its sights are firmly fixed on LMP2 glory – and a future in Hypercars next year...

Le Mans
Jun 8, 2022
The British rookies targeting a good first impression at Le Mans Prime

The British rookies targeting a good first impression at Le Mans

Three young Britons will make their first starts in the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend in the highly-competitive 23-car GTE Am field. But how did they get here? Motorsport.com hears their stories.

Le Mans
Jun 7, 2022