Romain, is it true that you nearly ended up driving for Peugeot at Pikes Peak?
Not quite. Last year, after the race, Peugeot’s boss Bruno Famin sent me a few text messages about Pikes Peak: he’s a brilliant guy who I’ve known for a few years through endurance racing, although I never drove for Peugeot. Then I was able to give Peugeot a few bits of advice and help, although as a Porsche factory driver it was never really going to happen that I would drive for Peugeot. I was actually resigned to not doing Pikes Peak at all this year, but then out of the blue Norma contacted me – it’s a small French company that build prototypes – to ask if I wanted to do Pikes Peak.
I was able to give Peugeot a few bits of advice and help.
How were you able to help Peugeot at the beginning?
Just little things: I was able to give them my videos from last year, for example. When you’re here for three weeks, with testing and the race, you end up knowing the course pretty well and there are bits of knowledge you can pass on. I’m always happy to be fair play and share information, because look at the car and driver that Peugeot has turned up with! And I say that in the happiest possible way: I look on them with admiration rather than jealousy. I’m very happy for the fans too: they’ll get to see a real car this year. They liked my Porsche last year, but that was basically just a modified road car…
You’ve won Le Mans, nearly won Pikes Peak, and you’ve been in the top 20 in the WRC on Rallye de France: are you one of the most versatile drivers out there?
I just have a passion for cars and racing. In the end, endurance racing is my job while Pikes Peak and rallying is my hobby – and I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to indulge in my hobby like this. When I’m driving for fun, I’m not the sort of driver who says I have to have the best car, tyres, equipment, and so on, it’s just for enjoyment. When I’m racing on a circuit I feel I have to win but at Pikes Peak I don’t feel that. I don’t know if I am more versatile than the others or not, but it’s just that there are so many different things I really enjoy doing.
Endurance racing is my job while Pikes Peak and rallying is my hobby.
So you’re testing the Norma at Pikes Peak and then you’re going to jump into a Porsche 991 RSR at Le Mans, and you’ve also been testing Porsche’s new LMP1 prototype at the same time. Isn’t that a bit disorientating?
Yes, probably! It’s certainly going to be a big difference coming from doing 300kph at Le Mans to twisting my way through the trees at Pikes Peak. I’ve not driven the Norma much though, which in this situation – as I’m focussing on Le Mans – is actually an advantage. Here at Pikes Peak we’ll go gently and stay safe, that’s the main thing. Le Mans is dangerous, but Pikes Peak is very, very dangerous. It’s important never to forget that.
So what’s your schedule been like around the Le Mans weekend?
Hectic. I went to Colorado just to do one or two runs with the Norma during the tests, to re-familiarise myself with the track. Then, straight after Le Mans, I’m going to get a plane back to America that same evening from Paris. At least I should sleep well…