Just 7 days to go until the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
100: The centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off this Sunday with a host of festivities.
7: A historic and symbolic edition for the IDEC SPORT team, which for its 7th participation will be lining up in the colours of DELAGE, the legendary French manufacturer which took part in the first edition in 1923.
2: the number of cars the team will be handling at this event.
// LMP2 IDEC SPORT – DELAGE #48 / 24 Heures du Mans: Present in the most competitive category of the field, with 24 LMP2s competing for victory. This makes it the class with the most competitors.
// LMP3 #17 / Road to Le Mans: Two races, on Thursday June 8 from 18h30 to 19h25 and from 11h30 to 12h25 on Friday June 9.
5: the number of drivers.
// At the wheel of the #48 ORECA IDEC SPORT LMP2 with Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Laurents Hörr.
// Aboard the #17 LMP3, with Patrice Lafargue and Dino Lunardi.
An interview with Nicolas Minassian, Team Manager of the IDEC SPORT team, just a few days before the Centenary edition of the event.
Nicolas Minassian is a former Peugeot driver who took the start of Le Mans 17 times. His vast experience – whether in driving, technique or management – makes him an ultra-versatile sports director and a valuable asset for the entire team and its drivers.
2023, the centenary year, what are the ambitions of the IDEC SPORT team?
NM: “It’s a special edition and we’re very happy to have been selected, it’s a great recognition for the IDEC SPORT team. What’s more, we have a partnership with Delage which emphasises the history of this magnificent race. Le Mans is still the most prestigious race in the world, and you have to take it with a lot of respect because it’s never the same. However, this is the team’s 7th participation and our experience gives us higher objectives. Both in the Road to Le Mans and the 24H race. These are endurance races where you need to have as few technical problems as possible if you want to expect a result. We don’t put a number or a place on the result; just that we all do the best possible job together, the drivers and the team, and the result will follow.”
How have you prepared your two crews for this major event of the season?
NM: “We have 5 drivers who know this race well, all with experience of the circuit, so changing habits isn’t really good because each driver needs to feel comfortable and serene. Physically they’ve prepared themselves, and technically we’ve communicated well to give them as much information as possible before the race. They can’t wait to get to Le Mans and start driving. As the IMOLA meeting was cancelled, we set up a test run on the Paul Ricard circuit, where we recently established the permanent base camp for the IDEC SPORT team. This enabled us to set up the technical specifications of our Oreca in ‘Le Mans’ configuration and give the drivers a bit of practice. Paul and Paul-Loup know each other very well, having already done Le Mans six times together. For Laurents, this will be his first appearance with us and his second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We have a great line-up of solid, fast and experienced drivers. In the Le Mans Cup, Patrice and Dino will be taking part in the Road to Le Mans for the second time together, after a great first race in Barcelona. After a long month of May, they’re ready to get back behind the wheel of the #17 LMP3 Ligier with two races on the big 24 Hours circuit”.
What’s the job of a Team Principal with less than 10 days to go?
NM: “10 days before is to feel that there is less and less work to do in preparation. That means we’re on schedule and ready. I set the pace, I make sure that the team is confident, that the preparation objective is met and executed as planned.”
What is the job of a Team Principal during the race?
NM: “I’ve got a great team with experienced people whom I trust. My role is to anticipate possible problems and to sound the alarm if necessary. With my experience, I give my support to the drivers on a regular basis, I keep them informed of how the race is going, and the same goes for the team. Having driven makes me understand the drivers’ needs better, and also the strategy at certain times.”
When are your drivers going to enter a bubble where nothing and nobody, apart from you perhaps, will be able to get in?
NM: “It’s a gradual process. We’re at Le Mans for almost two weeks. At the beginning, there’s the excitement of being there and experiencing this extraordinary moment, which you have to balance with managing your physical condition so as not to lose too much energy. From the moment the test session starts, the pressure is on. The drivers get into their zone, as does the team. They get into their routine and focus on the race and the work to be as prepared as possible.”
Physically and mentally, what does Le Mans mean for a driver in LMP2 and on the Road to Le Mans?
NM: “In Road to Le Mans, we’re more into a sprint format, two 55-minute races with two drivers, so it’s intense but short with a long circuit, so they don’t have much time. In the 24 Hours, fatigue is managed over more than a week, with a lot of teamwork, and you have to find the right rhythm to feel confident before the race. It’s a race that demands more mentally than physically. Can you describe a perfect lap on the Le Mans circuit? Or can you tell us about the pitfalls and things to watch out for? NM: “The circuit has become easier with the safety improvements that have been made over the last few years, but it’s still not an easy circuit to master. A perfect lap is when you can let go and attack with confidence, lap after lap. But be warned, Le Mans is different every time you go out. The track changes. Always wanting to go faster without leaving the slightest margin often ends in an accident or a mistake. The S’s in the forest, the two chicanes, Mulsanne, Indianapolis, Arnage, Porsches, the Ford chicane, all these bends must be respected regularly on every lap. You can be the fastest, but if it’s just for one lap, there’s not much point…. “
What about the competition?
NM: “The P2 category is the most competitive, with the same car for everyone, professional teams and strong crews.
We, IDEC SPORT, are also a strong contender for the competition. It’s up to us to run the perfect race, because the details make all the difference…”.
Your best memory of Le Mans?
NM: “I hope it’s this year.”
// On Tuesday 6 June, the engines will remain silent. Spectators with a ticket will be able to enter the pit lane for a signing session and obtain cards signed by Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Laurents Hörr, from 2pm to 3pm.
// On Wednesday 7 June, the 13.626km circuit will be very busy and IDEC SPORT will be on the alert with the Road to Le Mans runs in addition to the Le Mans 24 Hours. The 24H competitors will set off for two practice sessions (from 2pm to 5pm and from 10pm to midnight), interspersed with a qualifying session (from 7pm to 8pm).
// On Thursday 8 June, free practice sessions 3 and 4 (3pm-6pm and 10pm-11pm) will give the drivers a final opportunity to fine-tune their skills. Pole position will be decided over half an hour during the Hyperpole (8-8.30pm).
Paul-Loup Chatin set the fastest time in 2018. A feat which could be repeated this year in the most competitive field of the season.
// On Friday June 9, only the #17 LMP3 will be running in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, but the atmosphere in the city centre will also be hot during the traditional drivers’ parade, a moment of communion with the public. This moment is part of the magic of the Le Mans 24 Hours and is free of charge. The parade departs from Place de la République at 2pm. Come one, come all to cheer on the IDEC SPORT drivers.
// Saturday 10 June, D-Day! After 15 minutes on track at midday for the drivers who will be taking the start, the ceremonial start of the 91st edition of the 24H du Mans will take place. The cars will line up in a row before the grid walk (13:50-15:00), the last opportunity to get up close to the drivers and their cars. After the arrival of the tricolour flag, the Marseillaise and a flyover by the French Patrol, the start will be given at
the start will be given at 4pm.
The #48 IDEC SPORT LMP2, decked out in its blue DELAGE livery, Paul, Paul-Loup, Laurents, the mechanics and the engineers will then be at 100% for 24 hours.