Interview: Alex Premat at 24 Hours of Le Mans
Las Vegas, NV –EXR Series Team Manager, Alex Premat, drove in 24 hours Le Mans on his way to winning the 2008 Le Mans Series Drivers Championship with Audi Sport Team Joest in the famous Audi R10 TDI LMP1 race car. In light of the running of the 84th 24 hours of Le Mans, we thought we’d ask Alex several questions about his experience driving in the world’s most famous endurance race.
- As a racer, what did it mean to you to drive in the most respected endurance race in the world? Le Mans is one of the most exciting events in the world for me, not only from a driver’s point of view, but also as a Frenchman. Le Mans is a challenge like no other but with so many fans here; it’s easy to get lost in the moment! It’s a challenge too because that track really takes everything out of your body. Each year you come, you feel a bit like Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans. It is a special race, a very heroic one, and racing Le Mans in the past few years has become ultra-competitive.
- How many hours did you spend in the car during the 24 hour race? There are 3 drivers per car, and each will drive for about 8 hours. The longest stint I did was 4 hours at the start of the race dealing with morning mist, the sun in my eyes, and slippery conditions. During Le Mans you have two goals; be the quickest and bring the beast to your team mates, no matter what!
- Was there a moment where you felt tired or is it a complete adrenaline rush? Morning Sunrise is the difficult part of the 24h of Le mans, the race already started 16 hours ago, Drivers, engineers, cars are getting exhausted, 6am at the Le Mans it’s the hardest racing ever, the morning mist, fresh conditions, 10degres, lot of debris on the track from previous crashes, no room for mistake, of course when you are jumping out of the car, the adrenaline is still on your body, you cannot have a power nap, because you want to see your car running well, it’s a fight against the others competitors and the hours left.
- What was the fastest speed you reached on the Mulsanne Straight? LMP1 cars go like a rocket, my fastest speed was at Indianapolis, 353kmh (219mph), the previous year was 351Kmh (218mph) with the Audi R10 TDI. The straights are so long, and you’re moving so fast but at the same time you’re watching everything, looking ahead, and anticipating the next move. You might believe that you have time to think but really you need to stay focused because even though you are driving at 280kmh (173mph), you feel very slow when you get passed so it’s best to always observe who is in your mirrors.
- What is the most challenging part of the 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe? So the trick is to really stay focused. That was always the toughest part for me. You have so much time on the straights but only one point to brake at, and if you miss it, you go straight into a tire wall or worse. If you’re lucky you don’t crash but that’s the risk of miss the brake point. I like the last part of the Porsche Curves because it’s so intense and is the fastest part on the race track.
- What was your best moment from the race? Probably winning the drivers’ championship in 2008, but the full week is incredible; starting with the scrutineering of the cars to the 2nd qualifying at night, the parade in town with all the fans and of course the race itself. The entire event is magical both for the drivers and the fans! “la Magie du Mans”