24h Le Mans
Pierre Ragues (Signatech Alpine Elf): "The LMP2 season is going to be fantastic"
Pierre Ragues (35 years old) took the start in this year's running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and now represents Signatech Alpine Elf in the current FIA World Endurance Championship season. With 12 participations in the race to his credit, he is excited to continue competing in the LMP2 class.
You participated in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans with Duqueine Engineering, the team's first involvement in the race. What are your thoughts on that first outing?
"I was impressed with the team's level of preparation given they'd only recently gotten involved in the LMP2 class. Also, we had Romain Dumas (19 participations in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including two overall wins, Ed.) leading the charge. He worked tirelessly with the members of the team to help them understand the race ahead of time. Remember that Duqueine Engineering was not on the initial entry list. Despite that, the team continued to work in case it could take the start and that's what ended up happening."
You finished 12th overall and seventh in LMP2 with teammates Nicolas Jamin and Romain Dumas. Just 40 minutes from the chequered flag, your car suffered a broken rod clip. What do you remember about that moment?
"The start of the race had already been complicated given that we anticipated a pit stop after 30 minutes to adjust our strategy because we were stuck in traffic, and then we had a flat tyre on a new set. We did a slowed lap of the circuit and plummeted in the classification. We had climbed back and were fighting for fifth place in LMP2 when we suffered another blow 40 minutes from the finish with that broken rod clip. It was very challenging. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is magical but also cruel at times. We say it every year, the race chooses its winner. When you're competitive, it's a hard pill to swallow."
For this new FIA WEC season, you've rejoined Signatech Alpine Elf, a team you were a member of in 2013 and 2017. Was it important to be a part of a team familiar to you?
"I've always had a good relationship with Philippe Sinault's team. We won the LMP2 class in the European Le Mans Series together in 2013, so that created a bond between us. When Philippe called me this summer to ask me to join Signatech Alpine Elf, I jumped at the chance. It's magical to be back with this team again. I understand it very well and since 2017 the team has really structured itself to become a major contender in LMP2. It's obvious we are the favourites and we're going to do everything we can to keep the FIA Endurance LMP2 Teams Trophy."
Three races in, you are currently third in the FIA Endurance LMP2 Teams Trophy standings. What are you thoughts on the beginning of your season?
"We've had a difficult early season. We did a great race at the 4 Hours of Silverstone (second in LMP2, Ed.). The Asian campaign was not quite as successful. We found it challenging to find the right set-up at atypical circuits. In light of that, we are very pleased to be in third place. It can happen to any team. We are all fully committed to improving. Next week I plan on spending time with the team to learn more. Signatech Alpine Elf may be a major contender in LMP2, but you have to know how to stay on your toes in order to win the next rounds of the championship."
Can we expect to see you at the next running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 13-14 June 2020?
"Signatech Alpine Elf won the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2019, 2018 and 2016. You can count on us. A lot of teams are getting better and better in the FIA WEC and the ELMS. G-Drive Racing will once again be a big rival, IDEC SPORT Racing is pushing quite hard and I think Duqueine will be one to watch since it is now more experienced. The LMP2 season is going to be fantastic and I am very happy to be a part of it."
PHOTO: Pierre Ragues, a Signatech Alpine Elf driver in the FIA WEC, at the screening of the official 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans film.