David Brabham has revealed how close he came to being left on the sidelines at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours after deciding that he would rather hold out for a prototype ride than return to the GT1 class he had won for the previous two seasons.
Speaking to Crash.net radio
, the Australian enjoyed the fact that he had caught many people on the hop by being announced as part of Peugeot's squad for the 24 Hours, but admitted that, at the start of the year, he had nothing at all lined up for his favourite race of the season.
"We tried to keep it as quiet as possible, but I'm obviously delighted to be a part of the Peugeot programme for Le Mans," he said, "The last two years, I had a fantastic time with Aston Martin, winning the GT1 class, and this [deal] gives me a great shot at winning in the P1 class.
"After last year, I really thought I didn't want to do GT again, and really wanted to get in a prototype - even if it was a P2. I would have done that just to get back into a prototype. We don't know what Acura's plans are with regard to Le Mans, although we know it's on their wishlist, but it's important for me to be at Le Mans and, if I could be there in a prototype, that's good. So I'm obviously chuffed to be driving a car like the Peugeot, with the turbo-diesel engine which is extremely strong at Le Mans and gives me a great shot [of winning]. Of course, Peugeot is in the third year with this car, and that's always a good time to get involved with a programme, because they're absolutely ready to do the job."
It proved to be a chance remark at the first major event of the motorsport season that ultimately led to Brabham getting his wish fulfilled in the biggest possible way, with a rapid resolution that saw him ensconced in the cockpit of the 908 HDI FAP within a matter of weeks.
"It all kind of started at the Autosport
Show in Birmingham," he revealed, "I was interviewed on stage and they asked me about my plans for Le Mans. I said that I didn't have any plans, although I was free to do [the race]. Then I bumped into [Peugeot driver] Nicolas Minassian at our charity kart race and had a chat with him. When he asked me about Le Mans, in passing really. I said I'd like to do it - but I was never even thinking about being in the Peugeot car. We were just chatting.
"Then I flew, on the Sunday, to America for testing in the Acura and, on the Monday, I had two emails about opportunities to do Le Mans - and one was with Peugeot.
"When I looked at it, my first thought was 'how the hell am I going to pull this one off....', [but] I was very lucky in the sense that, when I was at the test, obviously [Patron Highcroft Racing boss] Duncan Dayton was there, but so too was Erik Berkman from HPD. So I forwarded the emails on to them and said 'look, here's two offers and I'd be keen to do them'.
"They had to give me the permission to do that, and Duncan said 'yes, absolutely, well done', while Erik said that he did not see an issue with it but had to talk to Acura and John Mendel. A couple of days later, they gave me the thumbs up to start negotiating, so it happened fairly quickly after that email to be honest. I flew to Paris, had a meeting with [Peugeot team boss] Serge [Saulnier], did the deal straight away and tested last week."