Thomas Laurent says his maiden outing in an LMP1 car during the FIA World Endurance Championship Rookie Test went some way to making up for his heartbreaking LMP2 title defeat in Saturday’s Bahrain finale.
The 19-year-old Frenchman has been one of the standout stars in the WEC this season, and looked poised to clinch the LMP2 title alongside Oliver Jarvis and Ho-Pin Tung for Jackie Chan DC Racing as the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson enjoyed a 40-second lead over the field with less than two hours remaining.
A fuel pickup issue on the car combined with some stunning strategy play from Vaillante Rebellion saw the No. 31 Oreca jump in front in the final hour, with Bruno Senna and Julien Canal sealing the title with victory by 10 seconds.
Laurent was seen to be in tears after the racing, having come so close to the title, but was left to compose himself and prepare for a Toyota LMP1 test on Sunday morning as a reward for his performances in LMP2 this season.
He completed 31 laps in the Toyota TS050 Hybrid, recording a fastest time of 1:43.360 to finish three-tenths of a second clear of two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso, who was driving the sister Toyota car.
“It’s a dream come true,” Laurent told Sportscar365. “I’m really happy about what I did this morning, to drive in an LMP1 car with Toyota. It was just a dream.
“I still can’t believe it. The car is just amazing, the downforce, the braking, the grip. All of this is just impressive.
“It was just amazing. When the boost arrives you pass the gear and it’s so fast. It’s just amazing. But when the boost goes off, it’s like an LMP2. After the fuel cuts, it’s like a GT.
“At the end I really enjoyed it, and I hope I will drive a prototype like that in the future for sure.”
When asked if it went some way to making up for the title defeat, Laurent said: “Yeah, it’s a shame it’s like that. It’s racing.
“We can’t do anything now. It’s happened. But we will come back stronger for next year, and we’ll see.
“We did a really good result in Le Mans. I think it’s the best part of the season. It’s a shame that we missed the championship for some points, but it’s like that.
“We won three races, and we did four podiums, so it’s quite a first season here. I really enjoyed it, we really performed.
“But Rebellion deserve it. They worked quite a lot after Le Mans. They made the difference since Mexico where we were out after the first stint.
“So it’s like that. It’s racing.”
Laurent was informed he had lapped three-tenths of a second quicker than the much-hyped Alonso, but the Frenchman laughed it off and did make too much of the advantage.
“They’re different cars. I spent a weekend on this track so maybe it’s the difference,” Laurent said.
“He comes from a single-seater, I’m in sports cars for two years now.
“So he will adapt quickly for sure.”
John Dagys contributed to this report