It’s been a mixed start to the 2016 season for Mathias Beche, who heads to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Thiriet by TDS Racing with just one goal.
Beche put the French squad in the best possible position coming into the Four Hours of Silverstone in April by topping every session in practice and qualifying, but a retirement just a few laps into the race denied the team a strong finish in the European Le Mans Series season-opener.
A month later, at the Four Hours of Imola, Beche and co-drivers Pierre Thiriet and Ryo Hirakawa found themselves off the pace in practice until they came through to win the race.
“I think [the win] was very important for the team because since the beginning of the year we have changed a lot of things,” Beche told Sportscar365. “It’s been a good result from all perspectives, [in terms of] setup and organization.
“Le Mans is the target and it has given us good momentum.
“For sure, we have to think about the ELMS championship because we want to win, but unfortunately it is very short and we had just one point at Silverstone with the pole.
“Personally, I’m a little bit frustrated by not having a [good] race at the beginning of the season at Silverstone, or at Imola because of the safety car.
“We were really struggling in Free Practice [at Imola] compared to Silverstone where we had the edge on the other cars. We were expecting to be seven or eight tenths slower in qualifying, and we finally managed to find the problem. That will be a good help for Le Mans.”
Beche is on loan from Rebellion Racing and as such he will complete the full ELMS season in TDS’ Oreca 05 Nissan.
He is set to return to Rebellion and LMP1 Privateer competition after Le Mans, for the Six Hours of Nürburgring and through to the end of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.
“After Le Mans I will do both championships,” he confirmed. “I could not do [WEC] before, because Nelson [Piquet Jr.] had to get used to the car and could not jump straight into an LMP1 car for Le Mans.
“I’m still a Rebellion driver, racing with TDS. I think it’s a great program for me because LMP1 Privateer is such a great category for learning the technical side and many other things.”
Rebellion has had a very strong start to the WEC season, and at both rounds so far – Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps – it has taken advantage of the hybrid LMP1 cars’ downfalls.
The No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Dominik Kraihamer, Alexandre Imperatori and Matheo Tuscher has finished third overall both times so far this season.
“It is well-deserved because we did some good work during the winter in testing and the whole team did a solid job during the races,” Beche said. “I was one of the main test drivers for them in the winter and it was very interesting.
“We got more mileage in the car so definitely better reliability, so that is good. On the other hand, the gap is still too big and a Porsche without hybrid should not be in front of a privateer that has all the power.
“I’m really happy for the team and it’s amazing to get an overall podium, but we have to be conscious that the gap is too big and you cannot say just yet that it’s nice to [get] a podium like this because there’s just too much a gap.
“If they want to attract more privateers, the key would be to be closer with cost-efficient regulations.”
Beche competed with Rebellion last year, and in fact it has been a few years since his last outing in an LMP2 car at La Sarthe.
“It was not an easy choice for me to come back in LMP2,” he admitted. “Rebellion really wanted to go into the category, and I proposed to do the partnership but my comfort is in LMP1.
“We have big expectations and we want to win the race, but on the other side we have to be conscious that it is very difficult, and the category is so dense that a small mistake puts you out of the game even if you have the performance.
“The thing is just to be conscious of what we have, and use that to be a little bit extra careful and use this speed as a gift and try to use the best of it.
“Then, we need a little bit of luck and that’s it. I’m coming back to LMP2 to win Le Mans. That is my target and the target of the whole team. We want to win.”