French drivers Dalmas and Bourdais in spotlight at LeMans
Yannick Dalmas has one major regret: that he never received a Rolex on the podium of Les 24 Heures du Mans. At the time of his four victories, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1999, the partnership between the prestigious Swiss watch company and the Le Mans circuit was not yet in existence.
Yannick is a great fan of Rolex watches, "I actually own more than fifty and I'd never let go of a single one. But I think the most beautiful of all is without a doubt the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona I bought for myself after my first win for Peugeot, and my Rolex Cosmograph Daytona from the 1980s that I got in the US while I was over there."
The four-time winner answered some questions about his presence at Les 24 Heures du Mans 2009:
Q1 How do you feel when you return to Le Mans?
It's an incredible pleasure. To come back to Le Mans for Eurosport is a new role for me and is like rediscovering the sensations of racing.
Q2 Do you feel the same pins and needles as you would to be racing?
If I were back behind the wheel I would be very excited. As that's not the case, I'll leave that nervous feeling to the others.
Q3 How close do you feel to the action?
This time I can review the action in comparison with my emotions and my personal experience with the big teams.
Q4 You will be able to pick up the details that might otherwise escape the viewers?
I will concentrate principally on the technical details, that's my mission.
Q5 What is your best memory?
That's difficult to say. To have won Le Mans four times is rather magic: In 1992 with Peugeot we were the favorites; in 1994 with Porsche it was a moving experience; in 1995 with McLaren-BMW we weren't fancied for the win in the prototypes and our victory was only more satisfying because of that; and in 1999 the win with BMW was a strategic success.
Q6 And what is your worst memory?
The failure in 1997 with Porsche is still a lump in my throat. I was leading with two hours to go and suddenly the car caught fire and I was finished.
Q7 Who is your favorite for 2009?
For Peugeot it's this year or never. They have to overcome the experience of Audi. It's a major test. A Peugeot car should be very competitive and it will be a very strategic race.
Q8 What is the most dangerous aspect of Les 24 Heures du Mans?
The rain is the most dangerous aspect, especially during the night but also with the humidity and fog that can occur it can be difficult.
Q9 Do you have a special anecdote?
In 1994 I was going through the last corner in my Porsche in front of the stands and my car broke down. The engine went out and I finished just by rolling to my garage on the car's momentum. I miraculously approached the line and the mechanics were allowed to push the car and that secured the victory.
Q10 Who in your opinion is the best 24 Heures du Mans driver?
I admire two: Jacky Ickx, in the first instance for his many successes, and today Tom Kristensen for his incredible record.
Ten questions for Sebastien Bourdais comparing the magic of F1 and Le Mans
Sebastien Bourdais is a Formula 1 Driver for Scuderia Toro Rosso and has participated in Les 24 Heures du Mans multiple times, helping his Peugeot team finish second in the 2007 edition of the race.
Q1 How did you discover the Le Mans 24 Hours race?
I was five years old and my parents had bought me to the circuit for the test sessions. That was in 1984 and I can always remember the noise, the spectacle, the amazing cars and I was hooked from then on.
Q2 For the 2009 edition are you dreaming of victory?
Of course! I am competing in the race for the seventh time. In 2007 I finished second with Peugeot with Lamy and Sarrazin and now the only thing that interests me is the first step of the podium.
Q3 Do you feel that you have a good chance of winning?
I feel confident that I can overcome the unexpected. If I succeed I won't be far off first place.
Q4 What are you most concerned about?
I'm most concerned about the weather forecast. In la Sarthe in June, the storms are frequent and violent. It's always necessary to be prepared for these difficult scenarios. Rain has always helped me actually, especially in 2007.
Q5 Who will be your main competition?
Audi, of course. It's a team with a lot of resources and they know how to make the most of them.
Q6 With Peugeot, are you well prepared?
Yes. We have worked hard and made a lot of good process since Sebring. We are feeling confident.
Q7 Le Mans and Formula 1, are they compatible?
My very participation in Le Mans is a positive thing. In fact, the only issue has to do with timing and dates. The transition between F1 and endurance is automatic for me. You just need to be physically fit.
Q8 How do you handle the lack of sleep?
It's not a problem at all. I sleep when I can but need to be ready at all times.
Q9 Are you superstitious?
If that's a reference to this being my seventh participation, I am a bit because the number seven is supposed to bring good luck!
Q10 What sensation of driving here do you remember the most?
When I was 20 I raced a GT2 Turbo on the Bugatti circuit at more than 300km/h in between Mulsanne and Arnage. It was an endless pleasure, quite a violent experience of which you never tire and it marks you for life. And the first lap on the big Le Mans circuit, I can remember it like it was yesterday.
Program brief: Les 24 Heures du Mans 2009
Free practice sessions took place last night and the final sessions will be held this evening. Friday night the Driver's Parade will be held in the city centre of Le Mans.
Les 24 Heures du Mans begins Saturday when the Rolex start clock strikes 15:00.
Rolex is the "Official Timekeeper" for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Le Mans Series. The new Asian Le Mans Series is set to launch this winter with events in Japan and China, and, in North America, Rolex has been the title sponsor for the Rolex 24 At Daytona since 1992.