Nico Lapierre has praised Signatech Alpine Matmut’s ability to achieve both of its ambitious targets in the 24 Hours of Le Mans despite a mid-race setback, going on to win the LMP2 class and championship.
Lapierre, along with co-drivers Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet, claimed his second consecutive LMP2 victory at Le Mans on Sunday while also securing the FIA World Endurance Championship class title.
While the last few hours of the race appeared fairly straightforward for the No. 36 Alpine A470 Gibson, the team spent much of the race before that trailing G-Drive Racing.
“We knew we had two targets this weekend and it was hard to manage the two of them in the same time, especially at the beginning of the race when we started,” Lapierre told Sportscar365.
“We were fighting with G-Drive and thinking if it’s worth it to go for it, and potentially lose the championship, but then in the end the car was good, the team was really strong.
“We thought, ‘Let’s go, and we’ll see what it brings us’. We had a really close battle, very nice, I really enjoyed it a lot, I have to say.”
Lapierre explained that a pair of safety car periods caught out Signatech, dropping it back two minutes and putting it on the back foot in its battle with G-Drive, until the Russian squad had a failure that sent it into the garage for 20 minutes.
“Then we were screwed by two safety cars in a row that put us back two minutes behind but we kept fighting and in the end they had the trouble,” he said.
“After the safety cars we knew we were a bit faster than them but we were catching second by second, it was a really tough battle. There was no way we could catch two minutes like this.
“We were a bit disappointed because this year there were supposed to be [fewer] safety cars to avoid this kind of situation.
“In the end, in about one and a half hours, we came from six seconds to two minutes behind them. It was a bit hard to accept. In the end, of course, when they retired, we knew it would make our life much easier.
“After this, we were feeling alone there and it was a bit hard to manage because we were pushing, pushing, and then we just had to finish the race for our two targets.”
When asked if the WEC title or individual Le Mans race win was more important, Lapierre explained that taking his fourth LMP2 win in five years at Circuit de la Sarthe was the highlight.
“It’s hard to balance and to realize, to be honest,” he said.
“When we won the race, I was just thinking about the race and then obviously I realized the championship is coming with the race.
“First of all, it’s the Le Mans win that is on the top of our mind.”
John Dagys contributed to this report.