Felix Rosenqvist believes his varied program in different series will ease his learning curve on the eve of his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut with Dragonspeed in the No. 21 Oreca 07 Gibson.
Since winning the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and his second Macau Grand Prix title in 2015, the Swede has competed in a diverse range of championships including DTM, Indy Lights, Japanese Super Formula and the Blancpain GT Series, producing a star drive in the latter to finish second in the Total 24 Hours of Spa despite a five-minute penalty for a non-conforming engine mapping.
Rosenqvist also won his first Formula E race in Berlin last Saturday, and was only denied a victory sweep over the weekend by a penalty for an unsafe release on Sunday.
Joining Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman in the only all-rookie line-up in the Le Mans field, Rosenqvist is not underestimating the challenge and said he was “thankful” for his previous experiences, which ensured he was well-prepared.
“I had a bit of a reputation that I was only a Formula 3 driver, that I was only quick because I was there for a long time,” Rosenqvist told Sportscar365.
“So I wanted to prove to people that it wasn’t the case and last year I took every opportunity I had. This weekend is one of those weekends that I can be really thankful for having done that.
“It’s probably one of the more difficult tasks I have been given because you don’t really have any rhythm, it’s like coming to the Bus Stop at Spa every minute.
“To have [the Spa 24] behind me is something that really gives me more confidence. I remember I was very nervous and I think if I would go here for the first time for a 24, I would be even more nervous because this is so much quicker.
“But I feel really good having done that and especially for the night for the tiredness, to have done that once before is a big thing.”
While Hanley is a newcomer to Le Mans, Rosenqvist said the Briton has been a useful reference point given his experience in the car this season in the ELMS, while the addition of team sporting director Nicolas Minassian, a veteran of 17 Le Mans starts, has helped him gain confidence.
“[Minassian] has been very helpful since day one. He’s always there to help us with any weird questions, he’s been through it and I have a lot of respect for that,” he said.
“I’m learning quite a lot from Ben because he’s been in the car, he knows the tires and he’s a very good driver. At the moment I think he’s at a slightly higher level, but that’s just what you need when you need to is to have someone pushing you.”
Electrical gremlins during the week have cost Dragonspeed valuable setup time on the team’s first appearance at Le Mans and limited Rosenqvist to the 16th-fastest time in qualifying, four seconds off LMP2 pace-setter Alex Lynn in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca.
Rosenqvist is cautious about his prospects for the race and admits the team’s biggest priority is to learn more for next year.
“It’s very hard to say because I think the field is the strongest it’s ever been and we see a lot of very strong line-ups, so it’s not going to be easy. I think the main key is going to be to just survive,” he said.
“We have to be realistic and I don’t really have any expectations, except from giving what I can do. I think people underestimate how difficult it is to do this race for the first time and when these guys come back next year, they will have that calm and confidence, so we just have to get through this one and take any good result that we can get.
“If you don’t have any damages and stay clean, you will automatically be let’s say top eight in class and then I would say if we can be top five then that will be something really, really good.”