In the first part of a two-part feature, British racer Martin Plowman looks back at his winning debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours – starting with the run-up to the start of the French endurance classic...
It's two weeks after Le Mans and my LMP2 victory is only just starting to settle in.
To be honest, I'm still trying to digest all of the emotions from my first 24 Hours of Le Mans. I knew it would be physically challenging but it was more mentally draining than anything I've experienced before. I feel like I've been through every spectrum of emotion, from the lowest lows to the highest highs, right alongside my OAK Racing team and teammates Bertrand Baguette and Ricardo Gonzalez.
The response from fans across both sides of the Atlantic has been unbelievable. I've replied to nearly everyone who texted me or messaged me on Twitter, but I'm still going through the hundreds of Facebook posts. It was pretty special to have people like Bobby Rahal, Arie Luyendyk and guys I've always looked up to reach out and say well done.
Since I started karting, I've dreamt of winning Le Mans - along with the Indy 500 - so taking the LMP2 class title is undoubtedly the biggest achievement of my career so far. If I'm honest, it's not something I thought I'd be able to accomplish at this stage of my career. A few years ago I was focused on racing solely in IndyCar, but my path was forged in a completely different direction.
When all the doors seemed to close on IndyCar, one opened in sportscars and the next thing I know I'm driving in one of the world's biggest races. I have always followed the opportunities presented to me and they have always turned out to be blessings.
I joined OAK Racing in the Morgan-Nissan for the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship and our focus has always been on winning Le Mans. Team President, Jacques Nicolet's passion founded the team and it's always been his ambition to win Le Mans. It's what we've been working towards all year.
Leading up to Le Mans, our first two races at Silverstone and Spa were blighted by bad luck and we were never really able to show our full potential. We didn't get the results we had hoped for. A few weeks before Le Mans, we tested our Le Mans aero package at Magny Cours; it went well and gave us renewed confidence, a strong belief in ourselves and in each other.
Making my Le Mans debut was a big deal for me, and a long trip away from my US home. I knew Le Mans was a massive event, but I never knew how big until I first set foot in the paddock. It was already packed with transporters, motorhomes and all kinds of mega-structures; it was more like a bustling city than a race paddock.
The build up of publicity to Le Mans was intense, but my biggest highlight was my first Drivers Parade – the sheer size of the crowd blew me away. Five minutes into it my team-mates and I decided to get out of the car to sign some autographs and meet the fans, but that turned out to be a big mistake. The car had to move on, and I didn't get back in, so I walked the entire route and got to the end 50 minutes after the car!