Le Mans champion and Porsche factory driver Laurens Vanthoor spared some time for us at the end of his season to chat about his dreams in the upcoming new LMDh class in 2023, endurance racing, and who among the gentleman driver field stands out to him.
I need to ask – please tell us if your pair of VANDEL’s have already tasted your brand new GT3 touring.
Yes, I've tried the shoes, and given that the car’s a manual, it comes in handy to have some good shoes. Definitely a good combination for me!
Lauren's Porsche GT3 Touring
Moving on, congrats on the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship! How do you see the future with a championship in the bag – what’s next for you in 2022?
Thank you! My plans will be revealed soon by Porsche. We decide on my program together, but one thing I can say is that this was my last full year in America. In the near future, my focus will probably be on Europe again. I enjoyed traveling to America a lot – it was something I really liked. The atmosphere and the way the races are held is something I appreciated being a part of. In the end, I’ve won two championships, and I would still like to win Daytona, but it feels like it's time for me to catch something new.
Some years ago, LMP1 was really close for you, and 2023 is the LMDh year – is LMDh still a goal of yours?
Yes, LMDh is definitely my main priority for the future. It's always been my dream to be part of it, and in the past, it didn't really work out due to the circumstances when I was with Audi. It was one of the reasons why I went with Porsche because the opportunity vanished.
However, with all the brands coming up to be a part of, LMDh is going to be a new golden era, and I want to be involved in the future – we'll see it soon. But that's definitely a dream for the end of my career.
You’ve won both LeMans and Nurburgring 24. LeMans has the story and worldwide impact, but “the green hell” is the most ludicrous place to race I know of. At VANDEL, we believe the latter doesn’t get all the recognition it deserves. What are your thoughts on the level of attention the best 24-hour races get?
For me, there are four big 24-hour races in the world: Le Mans, Nurburgring, Daytona, and Spa. They all have their own characteristics and difficulties. Definitely the most iconic and special in the world is Le Mans, as everyone knows, and it’s also the most valuable when it comes to winning records. However, the most difficult one by far is the 24 hours in “the green hell” simply because of the combination of the track itself, the changing weather conditions, and how many cars there are. It’s a really difficult race and it’s really easy to make mistakes. On top of that, it’s probably the most competitive one because there are so many cars in the same class and so many skilled drivers. We also have Daytona, which is a typical American race with a unique atmosphere, and that makes it really special. My big dream is to win all four of them, and I’m currently only missing Daytona! I hope that by the end of my career, I can tick that box – it would be a real dream come true.
The "pink pig" winning Le Mans 24
You’ve driven cars with memorable liveries. If you had to choose just one, which would be?
Whoa! There have been so many! I mean, the pink pig from LeMans was super special and memorable, but then Mobil 1 was also very special because I’ve always loved the GT1 cars from 1998, so that was unique. Then obviously, you know, traveling to the US to drive the “Coca Cola Car” and winning the championship was also pretty special. You also have the Brumos as well! It's really difficult to choose, almost impossible, but Mobil 1 stands out, as it carries a lot of memories from when I was young.
On being a Porsche factory driver, besides the amazing road car perks, how much SIM time do you have available at the factory? Porsche's facilities are absolutely remarkable.
Time with Porsche’s SIM has been a little short lately because of COVID. That’s definitely something we normally do a lot of in preparation for racing and tests. The team is pushing the facilities even further, and it helps to have a very big setup and a strong team behind it.
Nevertheless, I'm personally not the biggest fan in the world of SIM. I see it as part of the job preparation, given that it's helpful for a certain number of things. However, it's dangerous to take it just as is – it’s still not the real world. Maybe in 100 years, things will be different, but you need to be careful not to get carried away with SIM preparation, especially now with cars getting more technologically advanced. For example, for me, it makes a huge difference to be prepared on that side of things.
You have also shared your home SIM setup – how much time do you spend at home on the SIM?
I do spend some time in the winter and especially when I drive in new cars or on new tracks. But it's not something I do daily or even weekly, to be honest. I’m lucky that racing is my main job – it’s what I love, so when I’m at home, I try to do different things so as not to think about racing 24/7.
Lauren's SIM setup by SimTag
Pascal Zurlinden recently announced that he was stepping down as Motorsport Director. Can you comment on your time with him?
The time I had with Pascal was pretty amazing. I had a good relationship with him well before he became Porsche’s director and became, let's say, a boss. It’s a shame to see him go, but I’m sure he has valid reasons for doing so. I'm still in contact with him, and who knows – maybe in the future, our paths will cross again.
To begin closing our interview, you’ve shared a drive with many talented teammates. Who has impacted you the most and why?
Yeah, I’ve shared time with a lot of great teammates. There’s always something to learn from everybody. I don't have one specific role model – I always see things in other drivers that I think make them strong, and these skills are what I try to learn from.
René Rast was definitely somebody who made me work a lot to be better, and I did manage to get a lot better because of him since I had to work to be quick. The same goes for when I was driving with Kevin Estre, Nick Tandy, or Earl Bamber. They’re all very talented and experienced drivers, and it's good to share a drive with them because they make you work harder and try to learn new things. Thanks to those guys, I've gotten better.
Laurens and Earl won the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship together in 2019
At VANDEL, we’re inspired by the Gentleman Driver spirit. Among the current bronze drivers/gentleman drivers from recent years, is there anyone you’d like to call out who has caught your eye and why?
One gentleman driver who always stands out for me is Enzo Eda – a fairly laid-back guy, supernaturally talented, and a very, very fun driver to be with. Obviously he’s also from Belgium, and he won a sprint championship as a gentleman. So he's definitely very talented, a raw talent, and you know, he just does it for fun. I’ve always had very enjoyable times with him.