Writer Lucian Sonea sat down at the Le Mans Test day for an interview with Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer. The response from a young Andlauer was remarkably refreshing.
What was your target for today’s Le Mans Test Day?
Firstly, I’m very excited to have the chance to drive the RSR here at Le Mans. Today we tried different solutions and finally, we were rewarded with the best lap time of the day in the GTE class. I tried to find a pace and to pick it up all along the day and it seems that this was the right way to do it as we set the quickest time.
What is the most difficult thing at Le Mans for a rookie?
The biggest difference compared to the other series I have done has to do with traffic management. The traffic arrives much more quickly and you have to concentrate very hard with what is happening in front of you, but keeping an eye in your mirrors at the same time. Also, you have to manage a lot of things at the same time, but I am starting to realise that and to become more familiar with this new racing format.
What about your competitors in the GTE Class?
There are very competitive cars and drivers in our class, with a few Porsches, Ferraris and Aston Martins. We need to be consistent and avoid any mistakes during the race. We will use the remaining before and during practice, and we have the time to settle down and think about all this.
Today, I didn’t try to concentrate on the competitors, but mostly on my own work. I needed to work on myself first of all, rather than to spend time analysing the competitors. I am a rookie here at Le Mans and I have lots of things to discover: the track, the car, the environment, rather than looking at others.
What about the Porsche RSR?
Honestly, it is the car of my dreams. The car is a super performer and I would say that it is quite easy to drive, and you do not need to be aggressive. It is a car which will look after the driver if you look after the car. Then, I haven’t driven a car with big aerodynamics before, this is new for me. I did my first laps at Spa for the first round of the WEC, so I got used to it there. So, to say in only a few words: I love this car!
What about the team?
It is a new team for me. Despite my age I was welcomed into the team because I am just an 18-year old ‘kid’. The team is the most professional I have seen to date, and I am privileged to work in this environment. I need to listen to them; they have a lot of good and useful advice, and I will try to integrate and apply this advice in the quickest way possible, taking a step by step approach.
How do you feel about the race track?
I drove here a year ago during the Porsche Carrera Cup race, before the main 24 Hour race. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me back then because I made a mistake during qualifying and had to start the race from the back of the grid. Despite the fact that I knew the track, there is still a big difference between driving the Porsche Cup car and the Porsche RSR here.
Which is the section of the track that you found the scariest today?
The section where I was the most amazed was the entry of the Porsche corners. This is not very easy, but I think it is the same for any rookie driver at Le Mans. Also, the one which took me some time to get right was the ‘S de la Foret’ chicane (down the hill between the Dunlop Bridge and the Tertre Rouge corner). There, if we arrive at the entry (the left corner) too quickly, you can lose the apex and get out line for the right corner, and if you arrive too slowly and make you entry into the left hander too early, you can lose about 20km/h of speed and you therefore lose a lot of time.
Did you do laps on the simulator or did you look at onboard videos from Le Mans?
I don’t really use the simulator for development or to train, but rather to discover new tracks. I think I could never do 300 laps during a day on a simulator. But it is useful to learn some pointers from a new track and to get a feeling for the track.
Is the AOTECH (official Le Mans simulator) useful?
It is very useful to get used to the rules and procedures which are very specific here in Le Mans such as the Safety Car, slow zones, full course yellow etc. You could lose a lot of time (either by penalties or being too slow) if you don’t know these rules perfectly and how to manage them during your stint in the race. AOTECH is the best simulator when preparing for Le Mans.
You are a “sprinter” and used to 30 minute races in Carrera Cup or Supercup. How will you adapt to endurance racing?
One of my worries in endurance racing is the tyre management. During a sprint race you give all you can and you are very aggressive, while in endurance racing you have to be fast but also manage correctly your tires during one or two stints. Should you drive too aggressively, the tyres won’t last, that’s for sure. Therefore, you need to drive smoothly and it is something I’m getting used to.
Did you ask for some advice from the works drivers here in Le Mans?
Yes, I have been to speak with the ‘big boys’ and they have given me some advice and tricks about driving here in Le Mans and this has proved to be very useful.
What are your team instructions or orders?
The team orders are simple: drive as fast as possible with minimum risks. Then, it is the driver’s decision whether to attack or to slow down the pace sometimes, but we are mainly looking for consistency and performance, which I am also used to from sprint races.
What is your target at Le Mans?
Like any competitor, our target is to win. I think we have the speed to win, we have a good car and quick drivers, but Le Mans is so special, anything could happen during the race. Fortunately, this is my first race and therefore I have not had any (bad) surprises at Le Mans but I know from the experience of other’s what can happen during such a long race.
Written by: Lucian Sonea
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & John Mountney and Alexis Goure