Three-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Memo Rojas is making his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut this weekend in the No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Ligier JS P2 Nissan and is coming back “home” to do it.
The Mexican native and four-time GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Champion lived in Le Mans for a year just over a decade ago.
His apartment was just a short walk from the Place de Republique in downtown Le Mans where Rojas, co-drivers Julien Canal and Nathanael Berthon and the Greaves team took part in the traditional scrutineering on Sunday.
“It’s funny, because I actually lived in Le Mans for one year about 10 years ago when I was in open wheel racing trying to get to Formula 1,” Rojas told Sportscar365.
“I drove for the French team DAMS that is based in Le Mans. My apartment was just one block away from here.”
Despite the local familiarity, Rojas had never driven a lap around Circuit de la Sarthe until the official Le Mans pre-race test on June 5.
When he lived in Le Mans in 2004, Rojas was focused on an open-wheel career, racing with DAMS in the Renault Eurocup World Series.
“I know the town really well but I never raced here,” Rojas said. “I never even drove on the Bugatti circuit, never went around the Le Mans track because I was driving open wheel racing, but this race has always been on the bucket list.
“After winning Daytona a few times I knew Le Mans had to be on the list eventually and it’s becoming true this week.”
Rojas’ Le Mans debut complements his first full year in 2016 in the European Le Mans Series after racing the last nine years in GRAND-AM and IMSA competition in the U.S.
“First of all, I am so happy to be driving for Greaves Motorsport in the ELMS,” he said. “It’s a big challenge and big experience coming to Europe after so many years of racing successfully in North America.
“Obviously, the top of the year is Le Mans, I’m very excited to be here right now and look forward to it.”
Rojas and the Greaves team, the reigning ELMS champions, have been a competitive combination in this year’s first two races but are still looking for a good finish.
A late-race mechanical issue foiled a podium run at the Silverstone opener while an early contact incident knocked the No. 41 car from winning contention at Imola.
“We were running second in the first race in Silverstone and had a mechanical failure,” Rojas said.
“The second race we were hit on the second lap, we probably had a top three finish as well there, so it’s been unlucky but the performance has been there.”
Le Mans is not usually a race competitors target to bring a bit of good fortune to a racing season, but Rojas is typically optimistic for a good result this weekend.
“I think we are going to do well,” he said. “Why not? Le Mans is not part of the ELMS championship so for us it’s all or nothing. We want to win the race.”
A Le Mans victory would add to an impressive racing resume Rojas has amassed since debuting in Daytona Prototype competition in 2007.
He and co-driver Scott Pruett won the 2008 championship and then ripped off three straight titles from 2010 to 2012, all with Chip Ganassi Racing.
In addition to the trio of Rolex 24 overall wins in 2008, 2011 and 2013, Rojas was also part of Ganassi’s winning effort in 2014 at Sebring, the first Mexican driver to score an overall win in the legendary 12-hour race.