RGR Sport by Morand has made an encouraging start to life in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but the real acid test for the LMP2 point leaders comes today as the 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway.
Bruno Senna, Filipe Albuquerque and team-owner Ricardo Gonzalez drove their Ligier JS P2 Nissan to a debut victory at the season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone, but fell agonizingly short of the podium at Spa when Roberto Merhi’s Manor Oreca 05 Nissan stole third on the final lap.
It was an especially dejecting result given that RGR had occupied a comfortable second place until a late safety car eradicated their margin over the Pipo Derani-driven ESM Ligier Nissan, which managed to leapfrog Albuquerque in the pits by not changing tyres.
As Senna knows well, such disappointments are par for the course at Le Mans.
In three previous starts, the Brazilian has only seen the checkered flag once, finishing 29 laps down on the leader with Aston Martin Racing in 2014 and retiring from the lead in 2013 when Fred Makowiecki crashed on the Mulsanne Straight.
However, despite nosing into the tire-barrier at Indianapolis in Wednesday’s free practice session, Senna is confident that RGR is capable of delivering a result in a fiercely competitive LMP2 class that occupies over a third of the 60-car field and features ten former winners, including Gonzalez.
“We know that it’s going to be pretty tough – with 23 cars in the field we know that there’s going to be lots of contenders, so you just have to keep your nose clean, not make mistakes and be really consistent,” Senna told Sportscar365.
“I think we have a really good line-up in that sense; since Silverstone we’ve been probably the most consistent of everybody and everything has been working well.
“As much as everyone has experience, it was still a brand new team that was put together and they’re doing a really good job to make sure everything is well-prepared.”
For Senna, who remains a part of the McLaren GT factory driver pool despite his busy schedule in the WEC and in Formula E, Le Mans represents something of a return to his roots as the 32-year-old makes a first appearance in a prototype class at Le Mans since 2009.
The Oreca 01 AIM LMP1 car Senna shared with Stephane Ortelli and Tiago Monteiro had an incident-filled race and was eventually retired during the night in order to save parts for their sister car, which eventually finished fifth.
“It’s fantastic to be back in a prototype, they are so much more fun to drive than the GTs,” he added. “Every time I go to a new track, it takes me a few laps to believe in the downforce of the car.
“When I went to Silverstone, it took me a little while to get up to speed on the fast corners and here especially because the consequences of making a mistake are so high, but I’m sure by the race I will be ready to go.
“Of course Ricardo didn’t hire me to be slower than him, so I need to beat the boss, but that’s not so easy at the moment because he’s going pretty fast!”