Nico Lapierre says he’s “more prepared” for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in his LMP2 return, as the Frenchman looks to continue his undefeated win streak in the cost-capped prototype ranks.
Lapierre, who was part of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s three-car LMP1 effort last year, is back with his full-season FIA World Endurance Championship squad, Signatech Alpine, after his two-race program with the Japanese manufacturer.
He expects this year’s race to be considerably more straightforward, after a mixed program between two classes last year.
“It was not easy, for sure,” Lapierre told Sportscar365. “Switching from one to the other was not easy and those cars are very different to drive, LMP1 hybrid and LMP2.
“It’s easier to not switch between the two.
“Now I come back here and I do the full season with [Signatech], so I come more prepared so it is much easier for me on the driving side.
“I’ll try to help my teammates and the team as much as possible. I could spend a lot more time with them so on my side, it’s much easier than last year, for sure.”
Lapierre, who scored a third place overall finish in 2014 at the wheel of a Toyota TS040 Hybrid, has seven previous Le Mans starts in LMP1.
However, his two LMP2 class wins in 2015-16 with KCMG and Signatech, respectively, in as many race starts in the category, puts Lapierre undefeated in the class.
“LMP1 is always the category you want to be in, and winning Le Mans overall is always a dream for me but in the end, the racing is more exciting in LMP2,” he said.
“This year, LMP1 is just a few cars and on the paper, if it’s a clean race, only two cars can win the race.
“Obviously here is a lot more open and it will be stronger, for sure. I’m very happy to be here.”
With a 20-car field in LMP2, Lapierre believes the battle to be wide open, with his Alpine A470 Gibson in the mix for top class honors.
“Five or six cars can win this race but I’m pretty sure we are one of them,” he said. “In terms of pure performance, I think for sure we’re going to be in the top three or around there.
“We know that the No. 26 G-Drive has been quite fast since the beginning of the year but we saw some good pace from the Test Day as well, from the data that we have collected so we should be there.
“All three drivers were very close as well. We’re going to be very competitive.”