And for the third time ... I almost won it! However, with the last edition in my pocket it is easier to say that we will try this again next year! Le Mans is a race that, despite consisting of 24 hours , the winner can be decided in the last lap and by few seconds difference. A race where the fastest and favourite car not always win. A race which, without these requirements, would not be that special.
Our finishing on this occasion was cruel, but now that the anger has gone, I start seeing the positive things and enjoying the good memories of this new edition. The only fact of taking part in the race with the number one is just impressive. Before the qualifying, we attended the unveiling of a plaque on which my hands and the ones from my last year’s teammates are stamped . The champions’ avenue has the name of Saint Nicholas and it is there where all the winners stamp their hand forever (as it happens in Hollywood!). After this emotional moment, our focus was just the race.
The qualifying went very well, and Peugeot proved to be fast. The race was about to start and I had the extra excitement of having the responsability of doing the start. I was very happy about this as it was the only part of the race I had never done before. Alex (Wurz) advised me to rest as much as I could as it is very exhausting and he was absolutely right. The 'warm up' was on wet conditions and helped us to test the car. Then, the countdown began. We first had a ‘fictius’ start running to the car as it used to happen in the past, but it has now been banned for security reasons. After that, the big moment arrived, green light ... go!
I felt very comfortable in the car and our first three shifts were quiet and fast, everything went perfectly. After 3 hours, Peugeot had great advantage over Audi and our Peugeot took the lead ahead of Peugeot N. 2 and N. 3. After 6 hours, we increased the lead to a minute and a half, all was going well ... but it was early stages of the race. And it happened... I was doing my second shift when I had to stop at boxes as I saw an alarm showing that the battery was low. We were there for thirteen minutes which seemed to me like a very long time and I returned to the track in the seventh position. At that moment, a new race started for us. Peugeot n. 3 abandoned and the Oreca was having problems ... so, things started to get complicated. Despite the adversity, we did our best and started a great recovery gaining minutes lap after lap. That lasted more than 12 hours and our pace was so good that we even began thinking in a possible victory. And this is Le Mans... a race full of mood swings, where optimism and pessimism are mixed several times in one day.
Never better said, as with only 2 hours to the end of the race, everything went wrong and we saw the darker side of Le Mans. Wurz was on track and I was in charge of the last shift. I was nervous because it was very important as we could win the race. However, our engine failed and we had to abandon 2 hours before the end of the race. That was cruel, very cruel. But this is the greatness of Le Mans, it is a 24 hours race and it does not mind if you are the fastest or if you are doing a great race, the only important thing is to finish first at 3pm on Sunday. A great final which shows the level of this endurance race. After 24 hours, the victory is decided by seconds and excitement is maintained until the end. I was angry, really angry, but I'll only remember the great moments I lived again there. For example, the fact that for the first time, I did the Porsche curve where I had the accident two years ago faster than that day. Another great step that makes me look forward to participating next year!
... And the important thing is that we have checked everything with the team and Peugeot have located the problem ... so for me, it has already begun the countdown to the next edition with the only objective to win.
See you soon!