How did your first two races in the World Endurance Championship go?
"Let's not forget I am a newcomer to this championship, just like my teammate Gustavo Menezes. After the Prologue at the Circuit Paul Ricard, we wanted to do well at Silverstone. We finished fourth even though 12 minutes from the checkered flag we were still in the third position. We were disappointed because we were looking for a podium finish and even the win. At Spa, we won namely thanks to Nicolas (Lapierre, editor's note) who worked really hard at the end. We are currently second in the standings of the FIA Endurance LM P2 Drivers Trophy heading into Le Mans."
What do you still have to learn in endurance?
"I still need to improve in traffic. Last year, in GT (the Monaco native raced with WRT in an Audi R8 LMS in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, editor's note), it was different because it's all the same cars, there is not much difference in speed. Now, with the GTs, either you take more risks and chance contact, or you remain calm, wait for an opportunity to overtake and you lose seconds. One must really find a good middle ground. I still need to work on that."
As you said, you are debuting in LM P2. What can a driver such as Nicolas Lapierre offer you?
"What Nicolas brings is enormous. He has his work cut out for him because Gustavo is also debuting (smiles). Nicolas is humble and has all the qualities of a champion. He takes time to explain, he always asks how we're feeling and also helps us with the overtaking we can do. With his experience, he knows exactly how to manage a weekend for example. He gives a good amount of advice. I am a pretty reserved person, and sometime he even comes to me to advise me. It's very lucky for me to have him."
What were you feeling after first getting behind the wheel of an LM P2?
"In terms of what I felt, LM P2s are closer to the GP2s (he spent three seasons in the GP2 Series, editor's note) that I drove in the past. There as well, there are a lot of aerodynamics in the straights. I'm happy to have that back. The LM P2s are like single-seaters, you must be tough, alert and in good physical condition."
You are about to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 18th and 19th for the first time. How do you approach this race?
"I admit that for now I haven't thought about it much (this interview was conducted at Spa-Francorchamps in early May, editor's note). That's just as well because if you think too much about it, you put pressure on yourself. I am taking it like a wonderful experience. In the world of motorsports, there is F1 and there is Le Mans. Also, I race for Alpine, a French marque, so I'm thinking about the atmosphere, it's going to be huge. It's going to go fast and I will try to enjoy these moments. I am really looking forward to being there, just like the first time I did Monaco in GP2, at home."
What are you goals for this race at Le Mans?
"It's going to be an incredible race, very tight since the level of the LM P2 field is quite high. Now the 24 Hours of Le Mans has became a real sprint race. A result at Le Mans is hard to get since a great deal of factors come into accont. We will be very thorough but there is the unexpected that one cannot control. Of course we are going after the win but in my opinion, generally speaking, it is easier to win the championship than to do something at Le Mans. So much can happen like rain at Arnage and a dry track at the Tertre Rouge."
David Bristol / ACO - Translation by Nikki Ehrhardt / ACO
PHOTO: STAVELOT (LIEGE PROVINCE, BELGIUM), SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS CIRCUIT, FIA WEC, WEC 6 HOURS OF SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, SATURDAY MAY 7 2016, AUTOGRAPH SESSION. Stéphane Richelmi will be among many debuting this year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.