Paving the way with his 2016 exploit, Sausset is eager to encourage other disabled drivers to take up the challenge to complete the race in the Innovative Car class. The ACO supports the initiative, postponed a year due to the pandemic. “Our focus has not changed since the outset. The goal is the same as any other team: to reach the finish line and enjoy the race,” says Sausset. "We approach the race with the same professionalism, always bearing in mind that we are here to pass on a message – that being disabled doesn’t stop you doing the same things as everyone else. It’s an accomplishment just to be on the starting grid.”
Association SRT41’s car is an LMP2-class Oreca 07-Gibson adapted to accommodate its two paraplegic drivers Takuma Aoki and Nigel Bailly. The accelerator is behind the steering wheel and the brakes are actioned by pushing a lever. A trigger on the same lever enables gear changes - a similar system to the one used by Alessandro Zanardi at the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona. Aoki and Bailly will share the car with Matthieu Lahaye who replaces Pierre Sancinéna who recently sustained an injury.
Perseverance is the name of the game
In preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team took part in two European Le Mans Series rounds, the 4 Hours of Barcelona and the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. “We feel well-prepared. Oreca and Graff have done a good job on the car and the drivers are comfortable with it. We have improved both on track and on pit-stops”, enthuses Sausset.
Driver changeovers, an integral part of the race for all teams, are particularly time-sensitive. “We will lose time on the changeovers but we have managed to speed up the process. A driver change currently takes 2 minutes 20 seconds. At Le Mans, that’s half a lap every time."
Sausset finds managing a team more stressful than being at the wheel. “I prefer the stress of being in the cockpit because when someone else is driving, I feel powerless. All the same, it’s great that we were able to get this project off the ground. It shows that with perseverance, you can achieve your aim. I am delighted for these drivers, and I hope they will enjoy every second because this week is going to fly by."
A crew with two of three disabled drivers shows that the 24 Hours of Le Mans is open to all. “I showed the way in 2016. This is another milestone and I hope that there will be more. We need to see disabled drivers in races across the board”, urges Sausset.
PHOTO: Frédéric Sausset with drivers Nigel Bailly, Takuma Aoki, Matthieu Lahaye and Pierre Sancinéna.