LMP2 championship leader Thomas Laurent says “the pressure is not on us” despite having had its points advantage dwindle in recent races, as Jackie Chan DC Racing seeks the world title with only two rounds to go.
The 19-year-old Frenchman could become the youngest-ever WEC champion following a strong start to his WEC campaign with the Jota Sport-run squad.
Laurent and co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Ho-Pin Tung have scored three class wins this year, including a 2nd place overall finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but currently hold a 10-point lead in the LMP2 title race, an advantage that’s been cut in half two times in the last three races.
Clutch issues in Mexico, and maximum points for the title-contending No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson of Bruno Senna, Nico Prost and Julien Canal in last weekend’s Six Hours of Fuji has seen the Rebellion trio claw within striking distance heading into the home stretch.
“The challenge for now is to [remain] the leader of the championship for sure and stay first, for sure, until Bahrain,” Laurent told Sportscar365 in Fuji.
“It’s really exciting to be the leader for the moment. The pressure is not for us but for the other teams. The first target is to record points and podiums, and maybe [win] if we can.
“But [we can’t afford] any crashes or mistakes.”
It’s been a rapid ascension for Laurent, who only graduated from karting less than two years ago.
Having made his prototype debut in the 2015/16 Asian Le Mans Series, Laurent earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the European Le Mans Series the following year before returning to Asia in DC Racing’s LMP2 entry last season as a training ground for his entry into the world championship.
“The first year of my career in prototypes, I did LMP3 in Asia to prepare for the ELMS [the following year],” he said. “I did the same last year, in Asia and this year, WEC in LMP2.
“It was a challenge for me. For the moment, the challenge is quite good.”
The Silver-rated driver, who admitted he’s unlikely to retain his rating next year amid his standout performances in the WEC, said he’s hoping to catch the eye of manufacturers, on either side of the pond.
“It will be difficult next year but in a few years it would be nice [If I can] be a LMP1 driver in a factory. It could be nice,” Laurent said.
“It will be harder and harder for sure. But we have to fight and stay focused on [top-level] prototypes.
“My aim is to stay in prototype to prove that this kind of category. It can be a good one for the future.”
Laurent Tipped for Bahrain Rookie Test
The Frenchman is understood to be in contention for the Bahrain Rookie Test, set to take place the day after the season-ending race on Nov. 19.
It’s believed Laurent could take the wheel of Toyota’s TS050 Hybrid, which along with a Porsche 919 Hybrid and the championship-winning LMP2 and GTE-Pro entries, will be made available for up-and-coming drivers at the promoter’s selection.
The WEC is set to reveal the list of nominated drivers for the test next week.
“I would like to do it in a LMP1 car for sure,” Laurent said. “It’s the most interesting. To learn how they work and to get experience would be great.”
Laurent turned his first laps in a LMP2 car at last year’s Rookie Test, in Signatech Alpine’s class championship-winning entry.