Last weekend was my biggest win to date - first overall at the inaugural Le Mans Classic. The race is a celebration of the Le Mans challenge with cars from 1925-1975. All the winning cars and the top drivers that have participated in the event were present and the event itself was presented in such a large scale.
That is one of the reasons that the win is a big deal here in France... the actual circuit for the big Le Mans 24hr endurance race every June is mostly on public roads. Thus, it is opened only on one weekend in June every year. Then, all the big names (manufacturers and drivers alike) try to make the pre-qualifying cut and earn a slot on the grid.
To be at Le Mans was one of my dreams since I was a child, so the chance to be at the Classic takes me closer to that and allows me the unique opportunity to 'learn' the circuit and gain valuable track time. It is a dream come true to be here and win on my first time and that is making the news all over France. One of the headlines in the sports sections had the translation read 'Premiere Filipino' and a quote from the team that I was '...one of the best drivers they had seen'.
I co-drove a 1966 Porsche 906 Carrera 6 with Thierry Perrier and ran for the same team that will prepare the 2000 Porsche 996 GT3RS that I am running at Miami on October 5-6. The 906 is like a big go-kart with a 200hp flat-6 engine and racing at 250kph down the long Mulsanne straight is truly a test of confidence and resolve. But a big rush nonetheless. And all around the circuit, the people cheer you on. You drive back into the paddock to a wave of applause from the crowd and it is a tremendous show of appreciation.
During the race, I felt firsthand the depth of experience that the team had (12-times at Le Mans) and realized that this was the key ingredient to success at the 24hr race. Their organization and timing were impecable and they had so much personal knowledge of the circuit. This is the right team to be with if we are chasing the top prize next June. Of course then it will be much more difficult, but not as daunting anymore. The circuit is a challenge because it requires so much precision, and nowhere I have been (except probably Spa-Francorchamps), puts so much importance on preparation to maintain speed throughout the lap.
Then, to stand on the podium down at the pitlane lined with people was breathtaking. For Thierry Perrier, it was a dream come true on a different level as he had seen this car racing at this circuit when he was a child and instantly got hooked on the dream of Le Mans. To come back in the same car and win it was a big moment for him. For me, hearing the announcer say that it was my first time and my first 1st place was a prophesy of things to come.
I have pictures of the event for you. The poduim shot is of me, Jean Paul Richard (team principal in green Castrol cap), Thierry Perrier (in red Castrol cap), Hans Huggenholtz (team mate who raced a 1920's Bugatti), and his crew member.
The next is of the team at the box after the awarding ceremonies. There will be many pictures of this in the future as the world press had a field day with this arrangement. All our trophies are at the front and the roof of the 906.
I have more stories and photos to share with the MSCC when I get back. Thanks for the support and the prayers.
At the driver sign-on on Friday, the FIA stewards were so pleased to see an Asian on the list. It felt good to be able to say I was a Filipino. At the post-podium interviews, it was even better to say it and watch their looks of amazement and disbelief. Bet they didn't expect that to happen at Le Mans last Sunday.