Ant D’s Stars of Le Mans
Who are Anthony Davidson's stars of the 90th Le Mans 24 Hours?.....
WEC co-commentator, 2014 WEC champion and all-round endurance racing expert, Anthony Davidson, spent some of the last week recalling the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours and to figure out who his stars of the biggest endurance race in the world were this year.
He picks his stand-out performers once again and also name checks other heroes in the 90th running of the great race earlier this month.
Hypercar – Brendon Hartley
“Mike Conway, I thought was impeccable all weekend. I know he wasn't the one that qualified the car, but he certainly had the speed every time he was in that No.7 Toyota as far as I could see.
“I find it really hard to choose between Brendon (Hartley) and Mike. I think I just have to give it to Brendon, because not only did he win the race, but he also got the Hyperpole as well, and he did it over the qualifying master of Le Mans, Kamui (Kobayashi).
“I feel that along with Mike, Brendon was always quick in the car, and he did the job he needed to do.
“Mike, I think ultimately looked like he always had the edge over the sister car when he was out on track at the same time, and he didn't make any mistakes, whereas lots of other drivers in that category did make mistakes.
“I think looking at it now, I just lean a little more towards Brendon for the job that he did in quali and race. But for me Mike was a very close second indeed.”
LMGTE Pro – Kevin Estre
“Nick Tandy was again quick, and it looked like that car (No.64 Corvette) should have won. Nick got that amazing pole position too, so he has to be mentioned again here.
“But once the Corvette had lost so much track time because of the brake problem it just looked like Kevin Estre was in the zone for Porsche.
“I didn't see any mistakes from him when I was watching, and I feel that he deserved to win it really.
“He had a bit of a bit of a scrappy Spa last month with that first lap incident that affected the No.91 car, so to come back from that was impressive. He was really flying and back to his best.
“I just think Estre was very professional. I obviously felt really sorry for him that the work he did was not rewarded really and the race win was taken away from him with the problems that they had with the puncture.”
“Again, there were some great performances, and it is super close but for me Estre stood out again, even though he only got fourth placed points in the end.”
LMP2 – Roberto Gonzalez
“Last year, I shared the car with Antonio (Felix da Costa), and he was flying around that track, and also Will (Stevens) was too in the Panis Racing car.
“When I hung the helmet up after Bahrain, I did say to Roberto (Gonzalez) and Antonio, that for me there are very few drivers that I would just lean to straight away, so I said, 'if you want to win Le Mans, and if that's your target, you need to get Will (Stevens).’
“I know how much Le Mans means to Roberto, that’s why I felt so awful about what I did last year when I spun off on slicks in the damp.
“So, I suggested Will and I just left it there. I said, that's what I would do if I were you and that's who I would replace myself with, if you want to win Le Mans.
“I just think ultimately, the right decision was made, and they've now got the first place trophy sitting there, which is fantastic for them all and I was so pleased to see them achieve it.
“In saying that, there are numerous pro drivers in that category that I could choose as a stand-out driver. Obviously, Antonio and Will are right up there as top of my pick in terms of the job they did.
“Nyck de Vries as well. He’s another one who stands out after he jumped in at the last minute and he goes and does the fastest 20 laps of the race on average. That was another amazing standout performance but that's what you've come to expect from drivers like him.
“So, I'm thinking about it in a different way, and my choice for the LMP2 category is actually Roberto Gonzalez. That’s because this category is all about the Am drivers really and it should be.
“To hand the car over in the lead after the job that Will and Antonio had been doing to stretch out this huge advantage over the competition, and then to jump in as a silver driver and to soak-up all that pressure like he did is mega impressive.
“To not make any mistakes, to deliver that kind of performance very competitively is great because I know that many drivers would have thrown that away especially having to deal with all that pressure.
“You could throw it all away in an instant, because of being too nervous. tripping over traffic, locking up going off the track, which we saw so many people do. Roberto didn't, he kept the speed, he kept it safe, he kept it consistent, and made his overtakes clean.
“Roberto is never happy with his own performance, but he should be because I think he pulled out the bag there and did an amazing job.”
LMGTE Am – Ben Keating
“A bit like LMP2 I’m going to choose a bronze categorised driver and again its Ben Keating because he always stands out to me.
“He's very good and he stood out again, as he did in Sebring too. He's done it once again, here in Le Mans, just every time I looked at the time screens he was there being strong and consistent.
“For a bronze driver he's hard to beat, you know, and he’s a really nice guy too who is always smiling which I really like.
“Thomas Merrill caught the eye again in the WeatherTech Porsche and I thought he and his teammates (Cooper MacNeil and Julien Andlauer) were really quick all through the race. It looked like at one stage they had the race wrapped up but then they had that slow lap and lost momentum.”