Hugo de Sadeleer is ready to drive to the limit when he makes his European Le Mans Series debut in 2017 with United Autosports, a deal that will also provide him with an appearance in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag at the Autosport International Show, the nineteen-year-old Swiss driver feels ready to make the move to the LMP2 category, where he will race alongside Will Owen and a yet-to-be-confirmed third driver this year.
“I’m going to be presenting the new LMP2 car with United Autosports and I’ll be their driver for this year,” said de Sadeleer to The Checkered Flag at the Autosport International Show. “I’ll be doing ELMS and Le Mans.
“I did a LMP3 test with United and that went really well. It was really good and times were quicker than during the LMS season, I was confident with that and I did one test with Panis-Barthez Compétition, it was wet but it was in their LMP2 car, and I think the car is just incredible to drive, and the new one will be quite something.
“Now I’ve become a pro, when I get into a car I will drive it to the limit, no matter what kind of car it is.”
De Sadeleer moves to LMP2 having raced in Formula Renault 2.0 in the past two seasons, and he admits that whilst he would have liked to have stayed in the single seater scene, he knew there are too many stumbling blocks along the way to fulfil his ambition of racing in Formula 1.
“Of course, I’d like to do a race or two, maybe Pau and Monaco in two litres but for sure I’m looking forward, looking to a make a living, because clearly the last five GP2 winners haven’t made it to F1,” said de Sadeleer.
“I believe I could continue and win races in F3 or GP3 but it’s just not cost effective, and it’s much easier to get paid drives in LMP cars, I’ll be one of the youngest on the grid and hopefully I can do something worthwhile.
“I always had the direction for F1 but the problem is that you need so much luck, it’s so political, you need luck, the right timing and getting all those together is like winning the lottery, it’s almost impossible. I’ve [also] been looking into IndyCar, I did in USF2000 looking at the road to Indy, but again for a European it’s not that cost effective.”
2016 was a breakthrough season for the Swiss racer, with his maiden 2.0-litre victory coming at Spa-Francorchamps, and de Sadeleer admitted that his form improved once he found confidence behind the wheel.
“After I won that race, my confidence was so high,” admitted de Sadeleer. “It was on my father’s home track, because my father’s Belgian, so it meant a lot to the family and to me, and a lot of important people there. And the next day I almost won it again, so it was really special!
“Already in Monza in Eurocup I had started sixth and had made it to second in two of the races. I got hit out in one of the races, and Monza is really tricky because of the drafting, so I lost the guy in front of me and then Lando [Norris] was drafting and I couldn’t do anything about that.
“It was similar at Spa in the second race. I think the pace was there all year, but with a huge lack of confidence.”
De Sadeleer also felt that his Tech 1 Racing team took time to work out the individual needs of its four drivers, and when less compromises were made with regards to set-up in order to please each driver, the results began to come.
“At the beginning of the year the team were not working together,” reflected de Sadeleer. “Dorian [Boccolacci] was really quick in Motorland and I think the team focused on setting up the car for him, and we usually made compromises on set-up, so everyone was more or less running the same thing.
“As the season went by, the team really started listening to all the drivers, first we got more individual set-ups, things like that, and the mentality changed.”
De Sadeleer is ready to make his first attack on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2017, and revealed that it will only be his second visit to the legendary event, although he has been there for the classic event.
“I think it is on everybody’s bucket list,” said de Sadeleer. “I think I’ve only been one time to the 24 hours, but I usually go, since I was a boy to the Le Mans classic, and when I see those cars it’s really special to me, I see these beautiful machines and I cannot imagine how they used to drive them, and it will be really special to be part of the history.
“It will be my first 24 hour race, it will be very difficult for sure, but I’ve been training hard through the winter, and still planning on training really hard until the season starts, and we will see how it goes.”