Paul di Resta believes it was “worth putting that time” into his three-year LMP2 spell with United Autosports that built towards his signing with Peugeot for Le Mans Hypercar.
The Scottish ex-Formula 1 and DTM driver was named earlier this month as one of Peugeot’s recruits for its return to endurance racing after a decade out.
Di Resta made his prototype racing debut with United Autosports in 2018, at the start of a year that would see his long-term manufacturer partner Mercedes leave the DTM series for Formula E, alongside the emergence of the Le Mans Hypercar concept.
The 2010 DTM champion represented United in different competitions over the next three years including the Asian Le Mans Series, which he won with Phil Hanson in 2018-19, and the FIA World Endurance Championship which he joined last season.
United won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with di Resta, Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque, while di Resta was also key to the team’s WEC title. Speaking after his signing with Peugeot, di Resta told Sportscar365 that he feels his period in LMP2 represented an important time.
“You’re only as good as your last result,” he said. “I didn’t do many races last year but every race we went to, I qualified well and on pole.
“I broke the LMP2 record during qualifying at Le Mans last year during the hours of daylight.
“It was nice to get that done and convert that into a race win. All those little things. It was definitely worth putting that time into that, but I had a lot of fun along the way.
“United is a great family team and I’ve got a lot of respect for Zak Brown and Richard Dean. All the people that run that team. And I hope that I can still be a part of that doing some stuff this year, absolutely.”
Di Resta explained that he “loved every minute” of his LMP2 run despite it taking some time to adapt to the formula from his individual-focused roles in F1 and the DTM.
“I always found it quite hard in P2,” said the three-season Force India driver. “And I think it’s because of where I was in my professional life at the time, that you weren’t top class and you weren’t racing against top guys, and you had a gent in the car.
“When I was on the podium, it was very different to what it could have been if it was all with the weight of a manufacturer behind you. Having said that, I still loved absolutely every minute of it.
“It’s very hard to get that across, what I mean by that. But when you’re in the prime of your career, I was using P2 as a prop-up to the DTM program. That was my priority because it was my bread and butter.
“That was when it got very different. When I got a glimpse that Aston Martin were coming in – I had good connections with Aston through the [2019 R-Motorsport] DTM program and Mercedes – so I was speaking to them about that. And then Peugeot announced they were coming in.
“I was just very happy to be a part of the conversation when it did come up, and then eventually secure the drive.”
When asked if there was a specific point during his LMP2 spell that might have won Peugeot over, di Resta identified his 3:24.528 lap time to score pole at Le Mans.
“I honestly think it was probably Le Mans qualifying,” he said.
“People can easily look at P2 and say there’s a gentleman driver in there, but it was a punch-up qualifying. You had JEV in there who is probably the most highly respected driver within the Le Mans group. So it was a good fight with him.
“Nyck de Vries is obviously fairly well-known. And various other people down the way.
“That was the most fun I had during last year, getting those two laps done, because both were probably good enough for pole position.”
Di Resta, who took his first tour of Peugeot’s Versailles-Satory WEC headquarters this week, added that he’s been impressed by the manufacturer’s attitude as it gears up for its endurance racing return.
“For Peugeot, coming back to Le Mans is such a key moment for them,” said di Resta. It’s such a key moment for the championship, to get a name like that coming back.
“And they committed early, before a lot of people did. They could have very easily waited for Audi, Porsche and even Ferrari, before they came in. But they’ve gone in with this. They mean business.”
Di Resta Hopeful of More United Outings
Despite not being named in United Autosports’ full-season LMP2 lineups for the WEC and the European Le Mans Series, di Resta is still keen to drive for the team this year.
Di Resta’s former co-drivers Albuquerque and Hanson were both retained to United’s WEC squad for 2021, but Hanson’s promotion to FIA Gold classification prompted the team to bring in a new designated Silver-rated driver in Fabio Scherer.
A free seat might spring up for the 6 Hours of Fuji, should Albuquerque need to focus on his IMSA drive with Wayne Taylor Racing which has an event on the same weekend.
“I think all I can say is that there’s intent from me to try and make it happen, and a very strong intent from them to make it happen,” said di Resta.
“We’re trying to get something. They’re working away on various different bits and pieces. It was a shame that they nearly had another program across the line that didn’t happen, but that is the nature of where the world is at the moment.
“They’re very good about how they go about their racing. I think that’s only a credit to what they’ve achieved over the last couple of years. It was nice to be a part of that.”
Di Resta added that Peugeot hasn’t demanded him to obtain a prototype racing drive in 2021, in parallel to his LMH development work.
“I’m not going to forget how to drive a car, I’m 34-years old,” he said.
“I’m not just going to drive any car, at the same time. One thing when I met the guys here, they were very keen for me to keen racing, but it wasn’t an absolute criteria.
“That’s nice from that side, because there’s no pressure from either side. If I get something at the right time then I’ll go and do it. It’ll be in the right circumstances.”