24 Hours of Le Mans team members are a mixed bunch, but amateurs and team managers alike have all worked their way up the endurance racing ladder to reach the classic French race. Today, the spotlight is on Paul Lafargue, who in a few short years has become one of the most solid competitors in LMP2. Still not widely known by the public, this year he hopes to change that by winning Le Mans.
TEAM: IDEC SPORT Racing
CAR AND DRIVERS: #28 ORECA 07-Gibson driven by Paul-Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue and Richard Bradley
The son of driver and entrepreneur Patrice Lafargue who created the IDEC Group, Paul has always been passionate about auto racing. "My father raced, still does, and even my great-grandfather had a love for cars. We went to F1 Grand Prix when I was little, those were wonderful times. In 2011, I started out as a driver in CN proto with Palmy without going into karting first because my studies were the priority. After that, I did part of a season in VdeV with Ruffier, still in CN and also in GT3. The weekends were fun! And it was on...".
In 2015 with IDEC SPORT Racing, a team created on the basis of Ruffier Racing, Lafargue really got his stride, winning as often in Challenge Endurance Proto as in Challenge Endurance GT/Tourism. He was everywhere in 2016: VdeV, 24H Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup and European Le Mans Series and in 2017 took his rookie start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. "It was the year of the new generation LMP2 and the scenery flew by incredibly fast in the Mulsanne Straight. I made mistakes in the free practice, including an incident in the Arnage corner during the warm-up." He finished 12th and was a contender for the win the next year before a gearbox problem forced his ORECA 07-Gibson to retire. Progressing at the same pace as IDEC SPORT Racing was developing, Lafargue ended the 2018 season with two podiums at the 4 Hours of Monza and 4 Hours of Silverstone in the ELMS. In 2019, he won the 4 Hours of Silverstone and 4 Hours of Portimão, winning the title with teammates Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas.
After a difficult 2019 24 Hours riddled with mechanical troubles, the French driver dreams of winning in LMP2 this year, even though he is rather discreet on the subject. "I don't want to jinx myself. We were close to winning in 2018, yet had that problem. If someone told me today that by the end of the race I'd be on the podium, I would be ecstatic. We'll see at dawn after a longer night than previous years. If we are still in it, with the race finishing at 14:30 we will still have the time to think about a strategy. This running in September brings unknowns, like more significant temp variations between the day and night, more uncertain weather conditions, etc. We'll have to be vigilant!" If mistakes can be avoided and the mechanical cooperates, the #28 ORECA 07-Gibson has a real chance.