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MINASSIAN: Le Mans Debrief

SMP Racing’s Nic Minassian files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

I always say the same thing but coming to Le Mans is always for sure the highlight of the year for me.

You train physically for months, test and develop your car, make every adjustment you think of to gain time in all areas. I do that for all races, but for Le Mans there is always more

This is the race that makes you want to be a driver forever!

But then again, Le Mans is a beast of a race, when you think you have cover all areas to avoid any possible problems.

Our Oreca Nissan package is proven and reliable and with the new aero kit, we knew we had what we needed to be at the right speed for the race.

The balance of the car was good too. We didn’t have the outright pace but on long runs, the pace was OK.

Wednesday practice went well. The setup was good and the pace was OK. We ended up third which was a good start, before qualifying.

But the first qualifying session was a different story. I got debris on my left-rear tire and just before braking in the Porsche Curves, the tire went bang and put me straight into the wall.

There was nothing I could have done and it resulted in a huge amount of work for the team.

They changed the tub and also prepared the car for the race with a new engine, gearbox and so on. This way, we wouldn’t have to do that all over again on Friday and it gave us more time to check for possible problems.

Thursday was good. We did some laps to check the car and get a feel. That was it as there was no point to take any risks.

Race day morning was another difficult time for the (sister) 27 car. This time Mika (Salo) had the same thing happen to him and got debris on the left-rear tire and bang went into the wall at the entry of the Porsche Curves.

The tub was OK but there was a lot of work to do. It wasn’t the situation you wanted to be in before the race! Mika hurt his back a bit but was OK to race.

By now, you’d be thinking that all of the s*** is behind you… But it wasn’t!

I had a good start and gained two positions. But five laps later, an alarm came on and I was into the pits.

First we thought it was a sensor but it later turned out that it was an engine issue. We had to retire.

I am disappointed, as well as the SMP Racing team, for having a very short Le Mans. That’s racing and you can’t control it all, I guess, even when you come with the best-prepared car to your abilities and have such a great team behind you.

There’s not much you can blame, really. You just need to positively look at what happened and make sure that problem doesn’t happen again in the future.

The No. 27 car had their problems too, again not to the fault of the team, just the consequences of the warmup tire debris problem.

Still, they finished the race and scored points in the championship and now SMP Racing is leading. So the focus is on keeping this position to the end.

Now my role shifts into helping SMP win the championship and that’s the goal for the rest of the year.

On a personal note, I was very happy that Ferrari won the GTE-Pro race and well done to them. It was a great battle.

Well done also to Jota and Audi. In he end, if you win, it’s because you did something better than the others… Or sometimes you do your best and the beast that is “Le Mans” decides otherwise!

Nic Minassian is a former Peugeot factory driver and prototype racing star, driving for SMP Racing in the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship. Minassian has made his name in both North America and around the world, with success in the ALMS, ELMS, FIA WEC and two overall podium finishes at Le Mans.

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