Franck Montagny and his teammates Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin were dominating the Le Mans 24 Hours until their No. 2 Peugeot suffered an engine failure.
Immediately after the race, Montagny told AUTOSPORT how disappointing that moment had been, but why he was still deeply proud of Peugeot's efforts this week.
Q. How do you feel after running so strongly for so long?
Franck Montagny: I don't know. It's hard to describe. For a long time, Stephane and Nicolas and I had wanted to work together, and it happened this year. We were so sure about ourselves, so prepared and so ready. We were just happy to work together, everything went well, all the preparation between all of us and the team was just great, no problems at all. The mechanics did a fantastic job all the time.
The race started, it was alright, we pushed at the beginning to get the lead quickly, and afterwards it just stopped suddenly. We were just cruising since seven hours.
Q. Were you taking it easy at the time?
FM: We were like five seconds off what we could have done if we'd pushed hard. But that wasn't the point, the point was to go to the end, take care of the mechanics, and unfortunately it didn't work.
Q. Three of the Peugeots had similar engine problems, did you know it was coming for the others?
FM: No, you can't see anything. And even if you know it's coming, what can you do? Even if you push it's still going to be the same, because the pressure's still going to be the same inside the engine. That's what I asked straight away: 'Is there anything I could've done to save the engine?' They said there was nothing. You could've done all the mapping you want, and for this problem it would've been the same.
Q. It must really hurt, because you were the quickest car all weekend...
FM: Yeah, and we were not really pushing, we were very focused on the targets, not on qualifying. We just focused on one point, which was the win. We were just so relaxed and peaceful working together. I could sleep very easily this week, and during the race too. I was just checking the lap times and everything we'd said before was done, no problem at all. It was just great.
Q. How good was the car, the best you've had here?
FM: As good as 2008. But not because of the car, just because of the change of tarmac, the change of tyres, all of that made the car feel good. The only difference was in 2008 the car was two years old, now it's four. Which is a massive difference. It's very hard to make progress year after year, you reach the limit. You can't find 10 percent each time.
Q. But the car seems to have a high limit, because the pace keeps getting better...
FM: I agree, I agree. That's why I'm sad on one side because I'm sad for myself and my crew, but on the other side I'm very proud to be part of this team because it's such a good one. I enjoy it a lot. The work done is good, they're good guys.
Q. How much more do you want to win next year after this disappointment?
FM: I've come here for 10 years and it goes fast. Three times in a row I put the car in first position and something happened. It has to stop one day.