Vergne: LMP2 "investment" has paid off with Peugeot seat

Jean-Eric Vergne says the "investment" of several years racing in the LMP2 ranks has paid off after being selected as one of Peugeot's drivers for the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship season.

shares
comments
Vergne: LMP2 "investment" has paid off with Peugeot seat

Ex-Formula 1 driver and two-time Formula E champion Vergne was one of the six drivers named by Peugeot for its two-car Le Mans Hypercar effort last week.

It marks a move up to the top class of sportscar racing for the Frenchman after four years in the LMP2 ranks, which began in 2017 with a season in the WEC with the Manor squad.

The Frenchman switched to G-Drive Racing for 2018, and won that year's Le Mans 24 Hours on the road alongside teammates Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola, only for the team to be disqualified for an illegal modification to the fuelling rig.

Having been rejected for a Toyota LMP1 seat after testing at Paul Ricard back in 2015, Vergne said he viewed dropping down to LMP2 - and initially not receiving a salary - as a price worth paying to secure his long-term future in endurance racing.

Read Also:

"When I left F1, I did a test for Toyota," Vergne told Motorsport.com. "I think when I did this test, in my head, I wasn't very strong mentally and I just wasn't in the right place at the right time.

"So it didn't happen, Toyota didn't hire me. I found myself without a drive; I still had Formula E, but for me, it was equally important being able to do Le Mans, it has always been a dream.

"I asked my manager Julian Jakobi to call absolutely everyone in LMP2. I wanted to stay in prototypes, I didn't want to go to GT, because I think afterwards it's difficult to get back to prototypes. He told me, 'Look, it's not the best team, it's not the best drive, but we've got an opportunity to drive at Manor'. I said, 'OK, perfect'.

"It was difficult: the team had no money, it didn't work well at all. We had an amateur teammate [Tor Graves] who was having fun but was extremely far in terms of lap time, so I knew I had no chance of getting a result. Above all, it wasn't a paid drive, I had to pay for everything like hotels, travelling, flights… but I saw it as an investment.

"That year, I think it was in Fuji, I met Roman Rusinov. We had dinner and I did a test for his G-Drive team at the end of the year, and it went very well. I learned a lot in this team. It was an investment.

"It was not easy thinking I was out of F1 and Toyota didn't want me. I hit rock bottom, and I needed to be calm in order to pick myself up.”

#26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson: Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne

#26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson: Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne

Photo by: G-Drive Racing

Vergne and G-Drive came close to winning Le Mans again in 2019 only to be delayed by the failure of what he described at the time as a "10 cent" piece, and electrical issues and a suspension problem restricted the squad to fifth place last year.

But the 30-year-old believes that his performances in the French classic, and in the ELMS, did not go unnoticed by those making the decisions at Peugeot.

"I think Peugeot - and everyone who watches the performances closely - see the stint average, the qualifying laps, they can really properly analyse how it's going," Vergne said.

"Every year I ranked among the best drivers in LMP2. Last year the performance was really good, I felt really good in the car.

"I have more and more confidence, I also enjoy driving at Le Mans, and on all the other circuits in the ELMS and WEC."

Related video

Champion returns with Dumas to contest Pikes Peak

Previous article

Champion returns with Dumas to contest Pikes Peak

Next article

Opinion: Why safety cars are an outdated institution

Opinion: Why safety cars are an outdated institution
Load comments

About this article

Series WEC
Drivers Jean-Eric Vergne
Author Jamie Klein
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger Prime

The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger

Toyota's new GR010 contender for the World Endurance Championship's Hypercar era has little in common with the LMP1 TS050 that preceded it. But within the confines of the scaled back new rules, its latest challenger will be no less formidable a prospect

WEC
Jan 22, 2021
The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC Prime

The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC

The system of success handicaps devised by the FIA World Endurance Championship to level the LMP1 playing field in the category's swansong season ended up having a counterproductive effect, as COVID cancellations also played in the champions' favour.

WEC
Dec 5, 2020
Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars Prime

Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars

OPINION: The news that Audi will return to Le Mans means we'll at last get to see the fight promised in 2012 against Peugeot and Toyota. It also gives LMDh a tangible form, which could open the floodgates for more like-minded marques to follow suit…

WEC
Dec 1, 2020
The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season Prime

The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season

It may have been missed amid the clamour over Lewis Hamilton's seventh F1 title, but Britain had another world champion crowned last weekend. Mike Conway's WEC crown raises an old conundrum - does title glory make up for the pain of Le Mans defeat?

WEC
Nov 19, 2020
The 10 greatest LMP1 races ranked Prime

The 10 greatest LMP1 races ranked

As the LMP1 class prepares to bow out of top-line sportscar racing at the World Endurance Championship season finale in Bahrain this weekend, Motorsport.com looks back over the past two decades to pick out the 10 of its best contests

Endurance
Nov 9, 2020
Why COVID-19 didn't stop Peugeot's Le Mans commitment Prime

Why COVID-19 didn't stop Peugeot's Le Mans commitment

When the global pandemic hit, Peugeot was given the perfect excuse to back out of its stated intention to return to Le Mans in 2022. That it hasn't done so is telling both of its unfinished business and the opportunities presented by the Hypercar rulebook

Le Mans
Oct 8, 2020