Jean-Eric Vergne is relishing the opportunity to make a switch to endurance racing, as the ex-Formula 1 driver joins CEFC Manor TRS Racing’s LMP2 program in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
After leaving Formula 1 in 2014, the Frenchman has focused his racing efforts on Formula E in recent years, before pursuing a move to endurance racing.
He’s joined Tor Graves and Jonathan Hirschi in the No. 24 Manor Oreca 07 Gibson and heads into his second race of the season this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
“I’m really pleased to be joining this championship, with a great team in Manor,” Vergne told Sportscar365.
“It’s a beginning for me and a new era, learning something different. It’s something I’ve definitely been looking forward to.
“I think I’m in a good position to learn about endurance racing and that’s what I will do this year, I will learn.”
He says the one of the main difficulties in adjusting to endurance racing so far has been proving himself outside of the F1 bubble and showing that he can be a team player.
“My main goal is to gain a lot of experience, and to prove myself,” he said. “Teams in endurance racing can be a little bit afraid of taking Formula 1 drivers thinking that they’re not going to play the game.
“I think the main thing for me is to learn and prove that I can [be a] good team player.
“That’s what I’m here for, to learn and prove I can switch from a category where I needed to be absolutely the best, think only of myself, try and win and take pole position.
“Here, it’s all about the car and the other drivers in your team. It’s not all about you.”
Vergne also explained the importance of leaving the F1 paddock and pursuing drives elsewhere, saying that ultimately he wants to start a new chapter of his career.
“There are two sorts of drivers who exit F1,” he said.
“There are the ones who believe they can still be racing in F1 and stick around the paddock forever and never actually get a drive or get a poor drive, or there are those who say, ‘OK, it’s over, and let’s move on.’
“I want to move on.”
He was quick to praise the new-for-2017 Oreca, despite not being able to complete much testing with the team prior to last month’s Six Hours of Silverstone, where he recorded a sixth place finish in class.
Nevertheless, the 27-year-old believes the team will be able to work hard in order to reach the front of the highly-competitive LMP2 class.
“The car is pretty good, I have to say,” he said. “It’s a really nice car. Obviously the format is different with sharing the car with other drivers.
“It’s something new for me but it’s the same for everybody and you have to get used to it. As we lack a huge amount of testing we’re quite far off the pace but we’re going to catch up.
“We’ve got some catch-up to do but we’re going to work hard with the team to try and get closer to the top guys.”