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One of the few benefits of growing old and grey is sometimes you meet someone and think hey I know you, yes that sounds familiar, and  yes I love that too.

Friday at Silverstone we sat down with Jonathan Coleman (JC) or Jono, previously a recent regular at Pegasus Racing and now part of the driver line-up at SO24! (that is S-O twenty-four!) by Lombard Racing, team principal Jean Lombard and fellow drivers Vincent Capillaire and Olivier Lombard. A predominantly French team from beautiful La Sarthe. Jono picks up his story –

JC – When I was a kid (age11-12), I think my parents brought me a copy of the 1993 Le Mans 24-hour race, Peugeot won, and I just remember that being just an awesome race, then when I got into racing I was realistic enough to understand that there are not many people that get to Formula 1, so endurance racing was my primary interest.  I started in Radicals and then through various things including VdeV racing with Nigel Greensall, but always with the goal to do this.  I had an opportunity in 2004 to race the TVR Tuscan at the Le Mans Test Day which was quite an experience because I only had 15-20 laps of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in a GT car and then off to Le Mans, aged 22!  So that was quite an eye opening experience. I could have done the race, but I was doing British GT in the TVR at the time and we struggled to get that to complete a one-hour race.  Budget was tight at the time, and it just did not make sense.

Since then the business at Howards Group has expanded and now allows us to come and do this. In 2008 the draw of the family business was strong, and also I needed to know more about it for the security of the family. Hence racing took a back seat for a while. I picked up again with the Speed EuroSeries in 2011 and then European Le Mans Series in 2014 with the Pegasus Racing Morgan-Judd.  Last year (2015) I wanted to do Le Mans, but Julien  Schell (Principal at Pegasus) had a deal with David Cheng which ruled me out.  Also I had an issue simply fitting into the Morgan,  Jono is 1m90 tall, and to turn in a tight right I needed to do it one handed!  Julien knew Vincent Capillaire (at SO24! by Lombard Racing) and was looking for a decent bronze driver, they spoke, and a deal was done.

SCG – So that brings us neatly to 2016 and the European Le Mans Prologue

JC – The car had never run before the Prologue, and whilst the SO24 by Lombard Racing Team has good experience in it everything needed to gel, people working together etc.. It was great to see the team click, the car was reliable, ran faultlessly for the two-days, everybody got good mileage in the car, and for me I got a race simulation stint on the second morning and was finding time as I went.

No 22 So24 ! by Lombard Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd, Silverstone ELMS, 2016

SCG – OnRoak seem to have a tremendous capacity for producing a very solid and capable machine given the numbers of LMP2 and LMP3 cars in the 2016 ELMS-field.  You have the Judd engine which is a departure from the majority, any reason for that.

JC – The decision was already made before I arrived. I believe there may have been a supply issue with the Nissan engine, but I don’t think this was the reason the team chose it. The Judd is a very different engine to the Nissan. You have to remember the Judd is a Race-winning engine with the likes of Morand. It has to be revved a lot harder, when I first went out at Ricard, I was changing gear like I would in the Nissan and the dash-lights were not even lighting up! Just listen for it on Saturday.  I love a car that still sounds lika a proper racing car of old… The Judd produces its power at the top end, whereas the Nissan has more torque.  Little between them though.

SCG – You are running Dunlop rubber. How was the wet Free Practice 1 today?

JC – Interesting! Throughout my racing the rain has never worried me, and I’ve always gone quite well in the wet. Weirdly its been years, 2009 since I last drove in the rain, and we have a few bits to try this afternoon. I only tend to get mileage at race meetings, and nowadays I’m classified as the ‘Gentleman Driver’ with a Bronze ranking.  I want the team to be happy with what I am doing and I want to compare favourably with the other ‘Gentlemen’ drivers.  I could go and find a championship where I could do very well, but I choose to push myself and be up against the best around.

Many in this series are able to drive regularly through the week, they get in and are immediately ‘fully lit’. For me I don’t drive from one month to another it takes a little time to adjust. Another great benefit at So24 is the data and video that we review, I get to a level, and then look to the data and video with Vincent, Olivier, Frank (our engineer and Antoine (data chief) to find a little more here and there.

It is difficult on days like today when conditions are changing to draw a direct comparison, but I get graphs with speed and steering angle, throttle and brake inputs which in conjunction with video you can piece together a physical picture of precisely what you are doing in the car, which then allows for those small adaptations that incrementally add up to going quicker.

The Dunlops felt fine in the wet, times were ok, probably more to come from both me and the car. I drove the Michelins last year, but never in the wet, so can’t draw a direct comparison.

SCG – The 2016 European Le Mans Series has over 40-cars on the grid with just 9-GTs, so greater than 30 prototypes, the So24 by Lombard Racing #22 was placed 10th overall but LMP3s edging up behind. Where do the respective cars make their laps?

JC – Its tricky to get a comparison at this stage, very much set-up driven, in the dry I’d expect its on the brakes. The LMP2 has a higher top end (more power), but the LMP3 has less frontal area, so the extra downforce of the larger car gives better confidence into high speed corners and on the brakes. Of course in the wet that all gets compr0mised.

SCG – We await a dry session..

JC – What is interesting about the LMP3s is how much they have come on over the last year. They appear to have unlocked some speed over the winter.

SCG – We assume Le Mans 2016 is in your schedule with SO24 by Lombard Racing?

JC – Yes I’m 33, and I don’t want to get old and end up in my rocker and think I just didn’t get up and do it when I had the opportunity! If I’m lucky enough to have grand-kids, I don’t want to say I could have done it, I need to do it! With a French team I fully expect it to be a busy and amazing week.

SCG – Thanks Jono, that is the sort of heart and soul passion we at SportsCarGlobal love to follow and write about. We wish you every luck and will join you in every step of the journey!

Footnote – At the conclusion of Free Practice 2 the So24! by Lombard Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd was 7th with a 1:52.356. Fastest in session is the #46 Oreca 05