Jean-Eric Vergne says securing his first class win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans ticks off one of his two goals for the season and comes at the highlight of his racing career.
The Frenchman combined with Andrea Pizzitola and Roman Rusinov to take the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson to a commanding LMP2 win after leading more than 23 hours of the race.
Coupled with his current lead in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship standings, the 28-year-old says he is at the best moment of his 12-year career so far.
“This year is my best year in my career, that’s for sure,” he told Sportscar365. “I work very hard and I had a very down period where I struggled a lot in my career and personal life.
“Today, I feel one billion times better and I can see it in the results.
“I’m at the best point of my career by far and it just keeps improving with the success I’m having.
“There were two things I wanted to win this year, it was Le Mans and Formula E. To have done Le Mans already, we’ve moved some pressure off my shoulders and I’ll take Formula E very easily.”
He started the race from third in class and described his difficult first lap which was hampered by his Formula E teammate Andre Lotterer losing the nose of his Rebellion R13 Gibson LMP1 car at the Dunlop chicane.
“[Lotterer] went very slow in a straight line and I was on the left and all the LMP2s on the right just passed me,” Vergne recalled.
“It was a train so I could never jump inside and try to overtake Andre so I lost six or seven positions.
“I got them back between the first and second stint. I did four stints in a row and then I pulled a gap of one minute something, when I gave the car back.”
His opening quadruple stint lasted two-and-a-half hours before he handed the car over to his co-drivers.
After building up a sizeable lead at the front of the LMP2 field, the team then proceeded to drive more cautiously to avoid taking risks, according to Vergne.
“When you have a two-lap advantage, basically I just drove like my grandmother to bring the car back home,” he explained.
“Obviously, you want to set the fastest time and stuff like this, which is easily possible, but the main target was to win Le Mans today.
“I took it easy and zero risks in the traffic with the GTs. We were not in a rush anyway and not trying to catch someone.
“The race we had today was our race to lose, not to win.”
It marked the first Le Mans win for the Russian-backed operation, as well as for TDS Racing.
John Dagys contributed to this report