Signature Plus: Vanina Ickx On the road to Le Mans

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Before tackling the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans behind the wheel of the Team Signature-Plus Lola-Aston Martin, Vanina Ickx started her season with the first round of the Le Mans Series at the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit. With her two new teammates, Franck Mailleux and Pierre Ragues, she garnered sixth place overall in a race that proved to be a good learning experience and promising for the future. Time for the debrief…

Vanina, how were you before the first event of the season?
“Since Le Mans, I hadn’t run during a whole race weekend, which is quite a bit different from a shakedown or testing. The tension is not the same. The team buzzing, the mechanics working, the sound of the engine warming up… it’s a little something that lights a spark in your eye or in your heart. Friday, before the first practice session, mine is beating fast: I’m excited to get out there. The questions multiply and they will only find their answers when I get in the car.”

Did you answer these questions Friday evening? Saturday evening?
“Oddly enough, I always need two runs to find a rythym. I have to drive once, get out of the car, then get back in to really get the feelings. I drove once on Friday, then Saturday morning with used rubber since our priority was working with tyre wear. By Saturday I had gotten to grips with the track but it wasn’t translating entirely on the time sheet. So yes, there remain a small question mark.”

Then comes race day, and the tension builds.
“On the grid, the tension builds mostly for Franck, who is getting ready to take the start. I’ve still got some time before my stint so I’m alright (laughs)! However when it is time to take the wheel, you have butterflies in your stomach, like an artist before a live performance. It was more intense at the Castellet because I am still discovering a new environment: the Lola-Aston Martin, with Team Signature-Plus, having to perform… Despite more than 10 seasons in auto racing, the power is still impressive. This car is so incredible. To have 700 horsepower at my back gives me chills!”

You then complete a constant double stint at the end of which you are still in the top five. Something the team must be satisfied with..
“That’s the most important thing. I couldn’t always see my lap times and I wasn’t sure if my performance was good. And then, Philippe Sinault smiles and taps me on the shoulder as I get out of the car. It was a good reward. It’s important to me to feel like I can contribute to the team. This feeling, this moment, was the best of the weekend.”

What is the final word on this weekend, the first step toward Le Mans?
“I answers a lot of my questions: the heat, the physical, the tyre wear over a stint, etc. I am therefore satisfied. Everyone was able to gain experience with the car and get to grips with it, me especially. We leave with a clear idea of what needs to be done before the next race: we’re in the big league and the smallest detail counts. After this positive race, I’m even more excited about Spa! At a home race, it will be special, of course…”

Next event for Vanina will be the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps from May 7-9...
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