Audi's Oliver Jarvis admits he has best chance of winning Le Mans at fifth time of asking

Jarvis is feeling confident ahead of this weekend's racing. Credit: Audi Motorsport

By David Hobbs

When qualifying at Le Mans begins on Wednesday it will signal the countdown to one British driver's best opportunity yet of winning the 24 Hours.

Oliver Jarvis has returned to Le Mans this year for the fifth time, the fourth with Audi and the first as a fully paid-up factory driver with the German marque's sportscar programme. Having already been on the podium twice, Jarvis's timing couldn't be better.

However, the 31-year-old from Cambridgeshire goes into the race - the third event in this year's World Endurance Championship - having endured a difficult start to the season. Not only have last year's newcomers Porsche and more regular rivals Toyota upped the ante, but bad luck has hit Jarvis and his two team-mates Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi.

Fifth at Silverstone and seventh at Spa were not disasters but Jarvis knows that were it not for some electrical and bodywork gremlins on the R18 e-tron quattro, results could have been better and the trio would be in a much stronger position in the WEC standings going into a race that offers double championship points.

"It's been a frustrating start but you have to take the positives that the car is very quick," Jarvis told ITV Sport.

"Audi have made a huge step forward from last year. I'd like to think we've got all our bad luck out of the way before the big one.

"This is definitely my best chance so far to win Le Mans. Every year I've been involved I think we've had an improved chance but this year with Loic and Lucas and being part of the full time programme, it's just that added extra."

Both WEC races were won by Audi's sister car driven by the three-time Le Mans winners Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer, who gave perfect demonstrations of how Audi are once again the team to beat after what was by their standards an incredibly poor year in 2014, victory at Le Mans notwithstanding.

However, Jarvis stressed that Toyota and Porsche are by no means out of contention for Le Mans honours.

Jarvis reckons this year is his best chance to win Le Mans. Credit: Audi Motorsport

"Our competition look extremely strong and have taken a huge step forward this year.

"It's going to be a fascinating race. Performance certainly will play a part but I think it will come down to many other factors as well.

"One of those is reliability. To win Le Mans nowadays you have to have almost a perfect race and reliability is key to that. With the competition so high, drivers and teams will be pushing to the limit even more, so I think we will see some driver errors.

"Reliability and staying out of trouble are going to be key. It's going to be so close and will come down to who makes the least mistakes over the 24 hours."

In terms of performance, reigning world champions Toyota surprised many observers by not fully capitalising on last year's domination although Jarvis does not believe that Le Mans will thus be purely a fight between Audi and Porsche.

Jarvis feels no extra pressure in replacing Tom Kristensen. Credit: Audi Motorsport

"No, I expect Toyota to be right up there. They were a bit quiet in the pre-test but as we've seen from previous races they tend to be a little bit subdued in the testing itself. And from what I understand when they change to their race supercapacitors they will be much stronger, so I think it will be wrong to discount them.

"Also, from previous experience they're very good with their tyre wear and tyre degradation, so whilst they may not be a factor in pure lap time I would expect them to be a factor over the course of the 24 hours. Porsche do look extremely strong, but while a lot of eyes are focused on them at the moment it would be wrong to discount Toyota."

Jarvis' promotion to the full Audi WEC team came as a result of the legendary Tom Kristensen's retirement after a career that netted a record nine Le Mans victories and the deserved moniker of "Mr Le Mans". Jarvis feels no extra pressure in replacing Kristensen - there's always pressure - but knows how significant winning just one 24 Hours could prove to be.

Jarvis admits it Credit: PA

"It would be a dream, it would be by far the greatest achievement in my career and for me it could be life-changing. It's such a big race and has such huge importance that it's not just about the win it's about what it could do for your career afterwards."

To provide a final insight into what victory might mean, Jarvis namechecked the last English driver to win overall victory at Le Mans - Bentley boy Guy Smith in 2003.

"I picked up a magazine the other day and there was an article about Guy. Just to show you the importance of Le Mans, we're talking 12 years ago and yet it's still such a huge win for him and carries so much importance that people are talking about it today.

"That just gives you an idea of what Le Mans means."