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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Jean-Eric Vergne’s LMP2 ‘funding’ paid off with Peugeot

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

It marks a transfer as much as the highest class of sportscar racing for the Frenchman after 4 years within the LMP2 ranks, which started in 2017 with a season within the WEC with the Manor squad.

The Frenchman switched to G-Drive Racing for 2018, and received that yr’s Le Mans 24 Hours on the street alongside teammates Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola, just for the crew to be disqualified for an unlawful modification to the fuelling rig.

Having been rejected for a Toyota LMP1 seat after testing at Paul Ricard again in 2015, Vergne mentioned he seen dropping all the way down to LMP2 – and initially not receiving a wage – as a worth price paying to safe his long-term future in endurance racing.

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“After I left F1, I did a take a look at for Toyota,” Vergne instructed Motorsport.com. “I believe after I did this take a look at, in my head, I wasn’t very robust mentally and I simply wasn’t in the suitable place on the proper time.

“So it did not occur, Toyota did not rent me. I discovered myself with no drive; I nonetheless had Formulation E, however for me, it was equally essential having the ability to do Le Mans, it has all the time been a dream.

“I requested my supervisor Julian Jakobi to name completely everybody in LMP2. I wished to remain in prototypes, I did not need to go to GT, as a result of I believe afterwards it is troublesome to get again to prototypes. He instructed me, ‘Look, it is not the perfect crew, it is not the perfect drive, however we have a possibility to drive at Manor’. I mentioned, ‘OK, good’.

“It was troublesome: the crew had no cash, it did not work nicely in any respect. We had an novice teammate [Tor Graves] who was having enjoyable however was extraordinarily far by way of lap time, so I knew I had no likelihood of getting a end result. Above all, it wasn’t a paid drive, I needed to pay for every thing like inns, travelling, flights… however I noticed it as an funding.

“That yr, I believe it was in Fuji, I met Roman Rusinov. We had dinner and I did a take a look at for his G-Drive crew on the finish of the yr, and it went very nicely. I discovered so much on this crew. It was an funding.

“It was not straightforward pondering I used to be out of F1 and Toyota did not need me. I hit all-time low, and I wanted to be calm to be able to decide myself up.”

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

Photograph by: G-Drive Racing

Vergne and G-Drive got here near profitable Le Mans once more in 2019 solely to be delayed by the failure of what he described at the time as a “10 cent” piece, and electrical points and a suspension downside restricted the squad to fifth place final yr.

However the 30-year-old believes that his performances within the French basic, and within the ELMS, didn’t go unnoticed by these making the selections at Peugeot.

“I believe Peugeot – and everybody who watches the performances carefully – see the stint common, the qualifying laps, they’ll actually correctly analyse the way it’s going,” Vergne mentioned.

“Yearly I ranked among the many finest drivers in LMP2. Final yr the efficiency was actually good, I felt actually good within the automobile.

“I’ve increasingly more confidence, I additionally get pleasure from driving at Le Mans, and on all the opposite circuits within the ELMS and WEC.”

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