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Leo Roussel: “My Goal is to Remain in LMP2”

In his second full ELMS season, the Frenchman discusses his background, his time with Pegasus and his hopes for 2017

Leo, can you tell us about your early days in competition?
“I drove my first go-kart when I was four and then started competing when I was seven. I did fairly well at the time. Then, in 2012, I started driving Formula Renaults. Like many other drivers at the time, I was thinking about Formula One in the long run, but without being too obsessed about it.”

That is a rather unusual approach. Why was that?
“My uncle [Patrice Roussel] is team manager of an endurance team [Team Extrême Limite] and also an ex-Le Mans/ELMS and Grand-Am driver. Needless to say, our conversations at home were more about 24-hour races than single-seaters. On top of that, I always attended Le Mans as a spectator before driving there.

“In the end, I think my heart was just more devoted to endurance racing. My time in single seaters did not last long, as I started racing CN prototypes with Team Extrême Limite in the VdeV Championship in 2013. I had a real blast in that championship and never looked back.”

In 2014, you got your first drive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the age of 18. What are your memories of that event?
“It was amazing to have such an opportunity with Pegasus Racing, a real dream-come-true moment for me. It started off on a stressful note, as I hit the wall pretty hard during practice in order to avoid DiGrassi’s Audi. We had better luck during the race and we eventually saw the chequered flag on Sunday. It was probably the most emotional moment of my career.”

leo-roussel-le-mans-2016

Ever since that race, you have remained with Pegasus Racing. Tell us a little more about them.
“It is a small team with very competent, rigorous, serious and passionate people. The team manager Julien Schell has always been a great coach. In 2015, I also had the immense opportunity to drive alongside David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung. I really learned a great deal from them. We raced together in Le Mans that year, and we again saw the chequered flag.”

You did Le Mans again this year and are also competing in the ELMS championship, as the most experienced driver in the line-up. How does that feel?
“Le Mans was a real tough race for us this year. We fought hard, but unfortunately we didn’t see the chequered flag. I am indeed the most experienced driver on that car. I feel quite responsible for my two rookie team-mates. They tend to ask me a lot of questions about how to handle our race weekends and about how our car behaves. I try to support them.”

After a difficult 2016 season, what are your plans for 2017?
“I am in talks with two or three LMP2 teams right now. My goal is to remain in LMP2 and live off my driving. But don’t get me wrong: if a professional LMP3 team made me a decent offer, I would not say no!”