Next June, and for its third season of existence, Sébastien Loeb Racing will be on the starting grid of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time. After German driver René Rast, the Alsace-based team now confirms Laurens Vanthoor at the wheel of the ORECA 03 LM P2. The young Belgian driver, racing for Audi Sport customer racing in GT, will discover the legendary race in La Sarthe.
Dominique Heintz : « Young, talented and ambitious, Laurens has the perfect profile ! »
22 years old Laurens Vanthoor has already demonstrated his pace. Having started out in go-kart, he won the ATS Formel 3 Cup in 2009, before finishing second at the Macao Grand Prix the following year. Coming twice 6th of the F3 Euro Series championship, cumulating nine podiums in total, he then discovered GT with much success. Three wins at the GT1 World Championship and one victory at the 24 Hours of Zolder in 2012, then the title in the 2013 FIA GT Series and Audi Sport customer racing driver, he will take his first steps at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Sébastien Loeb Racing and the ORECA 03.
« Laurens’s performances have not gone unnoticed those last couple of years and we clearly observed them last year when fighting against him in the FIA GT Series » says Dominique Heintz. « He is young, talented and ambitious. He has the perfect profile. Just like René, he embodies the team’s values. They know each other quite well, they both have an experience of 24-hour races, and they have been teammates before. That was an important factor for us. We will have a lot to discover at Le Mans and we will do it all together. With young, but particularly motivated, team and drivers. »
Laurens Vanthoor : « This is a new chapter… »
Laurens, what does this first participation at the 24 Hours of Le Mans mean to you ?
« Le Mans is one of the most important motorsport races in the world. Since I have been a GT driver, I have taken part in several endurance races, like Spa and the Nürburgring, but Le Mans is even bigger than that. Participating in this race has been one of my objectives. I have been working for it for several years and I am happy to now achieve it. It is a very important event for me, and also for my future. Being at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been always a dream. It is a unique race. I am going to drive a new car and to open a new chapter. That is very exciting ! »
What do you know about Sébastien Loeb Racing ?
« I know the team because I saw them in action in the FIA GT. I noticed then how professional the team was. They want to do things seriously. I met Léo Thomas, technical director of the team, during a session in a simulator before the championship’s final in 2013. From that point, we started exchanging and things got set up. The team is very serious and wants to fight for the first places. That suits me well. »
You also already know your future teammate René Rast…
« Yes that’s right, I know him very well. We are colleagues, we have competed together on several occasions, including at the 24 Hours of Spa, and this year at the 12 Hours of Bathurst. It was funny to realise there that we had the same idea in mind about doing Le Mans. We are good friends, we know what the other wants, and we have gained experience together… Those are important things. It’s a very positive news to come together again on this project. »
You are a young driver, just like René, and the team is also quite young. Is that something you appreciate ?
« I think it is a good thing. The team, René or I, have all showed what we are capable of in other disciplines. We may not have the experience of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but we will perhaps have a slightly different vision and that can be interesting. We are young and I think we will work well together. We share the same final ambition at the end of the day : we want to get a good result. »
It will be your first time driving a LM P2. What do you feel ?
« I have done four years of F3, so I am familiar with downforce cars. I also did a session with an ORECA-FLM 09 (LM PC) a couple of years ago. Many people have said to me that the F3 is not so different from an LM P2. I am looking forward to discovering the ORECA 03 and I genuinely think that I am going to enjoy it a lot ! I am more excited than worried. »
In 2013 you were the FIA GT Series’ champion with Stéphane Ortelli, who has already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Will he have a role to play ?
« We have competed together during two years and he is one of my best friends. He is an honest guy, always trying to help. We have already talked about the 24 Hours of Le Mans and I will also be on the starting grid thanks to him. He has much advice to give me. He has been driving in every discipline and I have already learnt a lot from him in GT. He has already won Le Mans and he knows what needs to be done. He is a perfect coach. »
Franck Tiné appointed Sporting Director
With a full season coming up, Sébastien Loeb Racing has decided to develop its staff. Franck Tiné has been named Sporting Director. He will be working under the guidance of Dominique Heintz, Team Principal who will be joined by Sébastien Loeb at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and alongside Léo Thomas, Technical Director.
Founder of LAP Sport Management, Franck Tiné has started in Asia before focusing his activities on the European championships. He has recently collaborated with Sunred’s squad not only in the Seat Leon Super Copa, but also at the WTCC and in GT. Last year he was the BMW Sports Trophy Team India’s team manager and will be in charge of all Sébastien Loeb Racing’s sports activities.
Alongside its « endurance » programme, Sébastien Loeb Racing will also take part in the Porsche Carrera Cup France as well as in the French GT Championship with two Audi R8 LMS ultra. Moreover, the team will be lining-up the ORECA 03 in the European Le Mans Series. Referring to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and as a final touch, the prototype will be racing under the n°24 and will be displaying the message #LM24dreamer.
(Photo: Sébastien Loeb Racing)