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Jonny Adam on ‘that’ winning lap at Le Mans
We speak to Aston's Le Mans winning driver about his epic battle to the flag against the Corvette
If you haven’t seen or heard about the dash to the flag after 24 hours of wheel to wheel racing in the Le Mans GTE Pro category, frankly, where have you been? Scotland’s Jonny Adam drove the wheels off his Vantage GTE to overtake Jordan Taylor’s Corvette not once, but twice in the final two laps – eventually sealing a memorably victory. Here’s what was going through his head, while the world watched in disbelief.
“Strategy wise we were fighting the Corvette for quite a few hours, so we knew it was going to be close. We knew it was going to be tight on fuel, too, and we needed a splash - but then Corvette, Ford and Porsche had to do the same. As soon as the Corvette boxed, we boxed last minute, too, to cover them and it was massively close on the pit exit.
“The word from the radio was, right, that’s the leader in front of you, if you want to win Le Mans, you have to get by so it’s up to you to make that happen. The key was to not make any mistakes and wait for the opportunity and the opportunity came later than I thought. He was weak in a few corners towards the end of the stint and I knew my opportunity would be there. My move into Arnage was pretty much a last-minute decision, but he was a bit weak under braking there two laps earlier. I also knew if you go off line there it’s hard to get the thing slowed down.
“It could have gone either way, and I nearly got it done, but he got the overlap on the exit. There was a small bit of contact, nothing that caused his puncture later on, but it meant he pulled out five or six car lengths. In my head I didn’t want to let people down, I never thought it was over. I knew there were two laps left and I needed to get back onto his back bumper. He made a big error coming into the Mulsanne chicane with a big big lock up and my experience told me that when you have a lock up, your confidence goes for the next corner – you always brake a good 10m to 15m earlier.
“I knew he was struggling to slow the car down with the flat spot he had, so I managed to claw right up to the back of him. Through the Porsche curves, I noticed that his front left tyre was starting to fall apart a bit, and I knew that was my chance to pounce – but where? I didn’t want to do it into the Ford Chicane where it’s tight on the entry, but I’d already pulled a move earlier at the exit of that chicane. As soon as I go the run out of the chicane, the chance was there and I took it.
“The coolest thing was it was right in front of the grandstand audience – to see them all stand on their feet and cheer and the pit wall was going crazy – that will live with me for a long time. I thought that was it, I’d finished the race, but it came through the radio that I had one more lap to go. I was expecting another attack from the Corvette, but then he had his puncture so it was all about cruising home – it was one of the slowest laps I’d driven all weekend, but it didn’t matter.
“To win Le Mans is special, but it’s a massive team effort. We win and lose as a team, and to have our sister car come alongside us as we crossed the line was really special. Ten years we’ve waited to win that race, the biggest race for me in the world. When I was chasing the leader down, I was thinking I just can’t finish second – people don’t remember runners up at Le Mans. But I wanted to race fair and hard – that’s the spirit of Le Mans, to race hard and fair and race for 24 hours to see who conquers.
“We wanted this, we really really wanted this win. Two hours after the race, people were still welling up because of what we achieved. That’s how much goes in to Le Mans and a world championship. That was the stint of my life, the race of my life. I want to win it again, I want to win the WEC world championship, but that will go down in my head as the best racing point of my career for sure. Yesterday it hit home just how much this team means to me, and results like that don’t come often, so when you get them you just have to celebrate and enjoy the moment. Next year we’ll be coming back and fighting harder than ever to win it again.”