Reigning World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier finished his first ever 24 Hours of Le Mans in 13th place overall, taking ninth in the second-tier LMP2 class for Richard Mille Racing.
Ogier, along with team-mates Charles Milesi and Lilou Wadoux, had been running on the fringes of the top three in class in the first few hours of the prestigious race, but for a dangerous entry to the pit lane earning the #1 Oreca-Gibson a stop-go penalty.
It was Ogier who was driving when this happened and the eight-time World Rally champion was quick to own up to what he called “my mistake”.
“My first-night stint at Le Mans was very nice,” said Ogier at half distance.
“We increased our pace a bit compared to Saturday afternoon, so we’re heading in the right direction. The traffic is sometimes frustrating as it’s difficult to get a clear lap.
“I managed to take care of my tires, which was maybe one of my weak points in the first two rounds of the season.
“So far, the assessment is pretty good, but it’s a shame we got this penalty from my first triple stint with my mistake at the pitlane entry.
“If not for that, we would have had a great first half of the race, but there is still a long way to go.”
Ogier was back in the car at 5am and climbed up to 10th place in class which gradually became ninth at the finish.
The team finished three laps down on the winning LMP2 Jota entry of Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa and Will Stevens.
“I’m really happy that we’re at the end of the race and in the top 10,” Ogier assessed at the end of the 24 hours.
“It’s a good result for us which rewards the efforts we made all together as a team. I really enjoyed it and there’s a lot of positives to take.”
This was undoubtedly Ogier’s best circuit racing showing, and by a margin. Although this was his third endurance race outing this year, the previous two could hardly be considered ‘conventional’.
A late-race Florida thunderstorm forced a premature end to the Sebring 12 Hours while a similar downpour interrupted the Spa-Francorchamps six hours. Therefore, Le Mans represented the first proper event of Ogier’s sportscar career, and he looked every bit the circuit racer throughout.
That the #1 Richard Mille Racing Oreca ran almost anonymously was no bad thing as many others – including the leading two in LMP2 who clashed at the very start of the race – hit trouble.
Coming into the weekend, Ogier stressed he was eager to learn while making the finish. De facto team leader Milesi was the quickest driver but that was to be expected.
Ogier was lapping competitively against the rival LMP2 cars during his daylight running in the race and his night-time triple stint was everything the team could have asked for.
Consistency and a trouble free run before handing over to Wadoux showed just why he was recruited.
It certainly didn’t look like Ogier was a sportscar rookie.
Ogier’s next World Endurance Championship event will be at Monza – a venue he won his two world titles with Toyota at – on July 10.
He will however be back in World Rally Championship action two weeks earlier when he looks to defend his Safari Rally Kenya victory and claim his first WRC win in a hybrid Rally1 car.