Ahead of his first public LMP1 run tomorrow at the official Le Mans Test Day, 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button acknowledged the testing process leading up to the 24-hour race was long, but “necessary” to conquer one of the world’s most prestigious races.
Prior to the Test Day, Button’s only LMP1 running came in a private test at Magny Cours following the season opener at Spa, where he tested not only the BR1 for the first time but an LMP1 car.
Speaking to RACER, Button — who will share the No. 11 BR1 AER with Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin for the remaining WEC rounds of the 2018/19 season — admitted he still has a lot to learn, making tomorrow crucial in getting up to speed, as well as readying to qualify for the event itself.
“As I’m a rookie I have to do my 10 laps to qualify,” he noted. “From what I hear the circuit is pretty green, so it’s just about getting laps in and getting my 10 laps done.
“It’s a long process, but like this with all big events,” he continued. “The build-up is so long and you just want to get in the car. But it’s all necessary.”
In addition to his WEC program, Button is racing in Super GT with Team Kunimitsu, and currently leads the points standings. The transition from GT500 to LMP1 is proving to be a challenge, one of the key differences coming in the pit stops.
“We’ve been doing lots of driver changes; it’s much faster now with refueling and tire changes being at the same time,” he said.
“Super GT pit stops are much easier, because it’s like a DTM car. You have to jump over the carbon fiber moncoque, but it’s easier to get in, and you have more time. With this, you have to be quick — one slip up and you can lose time. It’s tough, it’s been good to get practice in.”
While it looks like his chances of winning the 24 Hours outright are slim with SMP Racing, Button is excited about the battle between the privateer LMP1 teams this month at La Sarthe.
is focusing on what should be a very competitive race between the five non-Hybrid teams in the 10-car LMP1 field.
“Obviously our aim is to challenge for the win, that’s always the aim in motor racing,” he said. “But it is very tough for us, you could say this is Toyota’s race to lose. It’s a shame, but it’s a 24-hour race, and you never know what’s going to happen.
“There should be good competition from the privateers though; the Rebellion R-13 looks reasonably competitive, but it’s hard to know as it’s a very different circuit to Spa. We should have a good race, and who knows how far we will be off Toyota.
“It’s such a different experience and different circuit to anywhere else.”