Nicolas Lapierre has confessed that notwithstanding the troubles encountered by Team Oreca-Matmut during the 79th edition of the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours earlier this month, fifth position was the maximum the French outfit could have achieved in any case.
Lapierre shared the #10, 2010-spec Peugeot 908 HDi FAP with team-mates and countrymen Olivier Panis and Loïc Duval at La Sarthe, and although the car was palpably not a match in outright performance terms for the three factory 908s and the trio of even faster Audi R18 TDis, the all-French crewed Oreca looked to be in solid form during the opening hours of the race.
None of its three drivers put so much as a wheel out-of-place to keep the diesel contender on the lead lap throughout the first five hours and ready to pick up the pieces should any of the works entries run into difficulties. And then, approaching the midway stage, everything changed.
“It wasn't a trouble-free race,” Lapierre candidly conceded, speaking to Crash.net
. “Everything was perfect until the night, when we had a little crash and from then, things only got worse-and-worse and it was a very, very tough race. Maybe we lost some confidence, we had a starter issue and we made the wrong choice on the tyres.
“I think the car was on average between two-and-three seconds slower than the factory cars, which was less than we had expected and less than during qualifying. We were quite pleased about that, but we still couldn't follow their race.
“At the end of the day, I think it would have been difficult – even with a perfect race – to do better than this. Fifth was the best we could have achieved, so we cannot have any regrets.”
Admitting that although understandably 'a bit disappointed', he was nonetheless 'very happy' to have been the driver to take the chequered flag inside the car at the end of 24 gruelling and punishing hours, the former GP2 Series race-winner reflected in conclusion that the only thing for it will be to come back next year and try all over again.
“Definitely, that's the plan,” he affirmed. “Oreca wants to get on this podium, and I think the team has the ability to do it, so we will come back and fight again.”