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Gounon Looking to Be “Like A Sponge” for Hypercar Debut

Jules Gounon looks ahead to unexpected FIA WEC debut with Alpine in Imola…

Photo: Alpine

Jules Gounon is looking to “learn as quick as possible” as he steps into Alpine’s Hypercar lineup in the FIA World Endurance Championship at the 6 Hours of Imola to replace Ferdinand Habsburg.

The Andorran driver and GT3 regular will pilot the No. 35 Alpine A424 in Sunday’s six-hour race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, driving alongside Charles Milesi and Paul-Loup Chatin.

Gounon, in his capacity as Alpine’s reserve driver, has been called up to race at Imola in place of Ferdinand Habsburg after the Austrian suffered a back injury in a crash in testing at Motorland Aragon in March.

With the call-up, Gounon will both be making his WEC debut as well as his first start behind the wheel of a prototype after building a substantial track record in GT3 competition around the globe.

“For sure I didn’t want to go in the car [due to] an injury of another driver, so my first thought would be for Ferdinand to hope that he’s going to recover as soon as possible,” Gounon told Sportscar365.

“I would have never expected to be called already. The preparation was very short and it was [not] expected, so it was not like if I was going to get ready to drive here. So I’m excited and at the same time I want to learn as quick as possible.

“I have a lot of things to learn. It’s going to be my first race in a prototype. I did only a total of maybe three test days in a prototype.

“So I come very humble, try to learn as quick as possible, try to be like a sponge and learn from my teammates that come from a lot of LMP experience.”

While Friday’s opening Free Practice session will be Gounon’s first competitive session at the wheel of the ORECA-chassised prototype, he noted that he has consciously requested his team not to give him a greater amount of seat time compared to Milesi and Chatin.

“My wish to my engineer was also to not make a whole plan around me, because then you don’t get the same running and knowledge to your teammates, and you make the whole team weaker. That’s not what I want.

“So actually in FP1, I’m driving third and with the old tires to try to get a bit of knowledge of the track in the prototype.

“And then I need to get some cold tire learning in the second session. But to be honest, they are treating it the same way that they would treat it with three current drivers.”

Gounon added that he is “not thinking about a result at all” for his debut outing and is instead focused on delivering the best result possible given the circumstances.

“I’m thinking about when you give your best and you have no regrets, you can’t be disappointed,” he said.

“That’s what I’m driving for and I just want to give my best to the team, trying to serve Ferdinand as good as I can with the little preparation I had, and enjoy.

“Normally when you also enjoy driving a nice car like the A424, sometimes a good result comes with it.

“But to be honest, there’s at least on my side, no result at all that I’m looking [for]. I’m just looking to do a good job, learn fast and try to drive good. “

Wendl: Mercedes-AMG “Can Also Benefit” from Gounon’s Hypercar Experience

Gounon was originally scheduled to compete with Climax Racing in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS season opener at Sepang before being called up by Alpine.

Instead, he will be replaced in Malaysia by Estonian racer and ADAC GT Masters winner Ralf Aron.

Stefan Wendl, Mercedes-AMG’s Head of Customer Racing, provided background into the marque’s decision to allow Gounon to race in Italy, stating that his newly gained prototype experience will also be helpful.

“As a reserve driver for the Alpine Endurance Team, Jules’ part also includes to step in if one of the regular drivers is not able to take part in a race,” Wendl said.

“As Jules is contesting the season as a Mercedes-AMG Performance Driver, the final decision to release him is on us.

“However, this is a huge opportunity for Jules, from which we can also benefit in GT racing.

“That’s why we have decided together with our customer team Climax to release him for the WEC race in Imola and to provide a suitable replacement for the GT World Challenge Asia.

“We wish Jules every success in this task and Ferdinand von Habsburg a speedy recovery at this point.”

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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