Thomas Laurent: "I had the opportunity to test Toyota's future Hypercar on a simulator"
Thomas Laurent (21 years old with three participations in the 24 Hours) is representing the Signatech Alpine Elf team in the 2019-2020 FIA WEC season. The 2017 Le Mans winner in the LMP2 class takes stock of his season so far and talks about his role as reserve driver for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.
Four races on the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship calendar are already a done deal. What are your thoughts on the season so far with your new team, Signatech Alpine Elf?
"The season is going well even if our results aren't quite at the level we'd hoped. We started strong, finishing second at the 4 Hours of Silverstone, but that's our only podium finish so far. We have a cohesive, competitive driver line-up and the car is reliable. We've had no technical problems, but we did have trouble finding the right set-up early in the season. But, progress has been made now that we've gotten our bearings working through the season. We had a great pace at Bahrain but until now the competition has been superior."
Signatech Alpine Elf is the defending FIA Endurance LMP2 Teams Trophy champion. Does that change how it approaches races?
"It can sometimes add pressure, but I don't feel that within the team. I think the level in the LMP2 class of the FIA WEC has really risen the last few years. There may be less cars, but those in the top 5 can all take the title. So you have to go after them. We all compete with pretty much the same weapons, so it's really the drivers and the team that make the difference."
""I sincerely hope to become an official Toyota driver because that is my goal.""
Thomas Laurent, Signatech Alpine Elf
You will be participating in the 2020 European Le Mans Series at the wheel of Graff Racing's ORECA 07-Gibson with teammates James Allen and Alexandre Cougnaud. What are you looking for in terms of results?
"My goal is to make my mark. I need to stand out. I'm a reserve driver for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, I know they're looking at all of my results, and my sponsors also need promoting. I made the decision two years ago to take on a second sporting program in addition to the FIA WEC. The ELMS is the ideal championship for that. Our driver line-up is very strong but we also need to pay attention to the competition. I'll be reuniting with my engineer from 2017, Greg Wheeler, with whom I won the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year in the LMP2 class. We worked extremely well together so I'm really happy."
As you've said, you're a TOYOTA GAZOO Racing reserve driver, and in that role you took part in the FIA WEC Rookie Test in Bahrain with the marque last December. How did it go?
"The objective was to get behind the wheel to do as many kilometers as possible and get used to the hybrid system. I still don't know what 2020 and 2021 will bring. I sincerely hope to become an official Toyota driver because that is my goal. I had the opportunity to test Toyota's future Hypercar on a simulator. Even though it was just a simulator session, I tried to give them the best data feedback I could and they appreciated it. I know they listen to me. I still haven't seen what the car will look like."
What do you think of the ACO and the IMSA's recent announcement?
"I think their convergence is a wonderful idea. We don't have all of the technical details yet, but on paper it's very interesting to ally the IMSA with the FIA WEC as the two championships can help each other. It could bring back the big manufacturers particularly to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and that's fantastic."
Laurent will take the start in the next round of the FIA WEC on 22-23 February at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. Click for the provisional entry list for the fifth race of the 2019-2020 season.
24 HOURS CENTENARY – THE LE MANS EXCEPTION ┃ In the wake of director James Mangold's presentation of "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" at the Cannes Film Festival, this year's Centenary running of the race offers a flashback of his preceding movie, "Le Mans '66" ("Ford v Ferrari").