Gounon's fear of flying moment in Bathurst win
Jules Gounon says a tense run to the flag at the Bathurst 12 Hour reminded him of his fear of flying.
The Frenchman survived a testing double stint in the #7 entry to deliver Bentley its first Bathurst triumph, including an unexpected puncture, thunderstorms circling the circuit, and a stubborn challenge from Mercedes driver Raffaele Marciello.
However it wasn't just external factors Gounon had to deal with. He says that once Marciello was out of contention due to a late puncture a whole new pressure settled in – the pressure of suddenly not needing to drive on the limit.
"It was kind of a relief, but also really intense because suddenly I had a 55s lead," he told Motorsport.com. "And suddenly I was listening to every noise of the car, which you don't normally do.
"It was like in a plane; I'm scared of planes and I was like 'what's happening, what's happening?' It was really intense.
"The team was saying 'slow down, slow down, we don't want to take any risk on the tyres'. That was even, for me, harder than driving on the limit, because you're so scared of anything [happening] because you're at the door of such a big win."
By that stage Gounon had already survived a tyre scare of his own, his second-last stint cut short by a failure on Conrod Straight right when he'd been trying to gap Marciello.
Thankfully the proximity to pit entry meant he could fire straight into the lane and still emerge in front of the GruppeM Mercedes, however he admits he thought his chances of victory were over on the spot.
"I was talking to the team to try and jump Marciello, because he was quite fast on the straight, I couldn't pass him," Gounon explained.
"So we were talking about what to do. I said if they do tyres, we'll do a double stint on these tyres, and if they don't do tyres [we will]. And as I finished talking I had the puncture.
"I boxed, and I still had five or six laps to go in that stint. I thought the race was over for us... not over, but the lead was over.
"Obviously my team did an amazing job. We put on four new tyres and I pushed flat out, the maximum I could do. I tried to create a gap to Marciello, which I did, and then Marciello had the puncture."
As for the ongoing threat of rain, Gounon reckons the fact that it started to bucket down the second he crossed the line simply shows that the racing gods were smiling on the lead Continental.
"I saw some drops on the windshield and I was like 'oh no'," he said. "We are always saying Bentley brings the thunder, and I was like 'not this time, please'.
"The team said it should only be a few drops, it could be tight for the end of the race, it could be raining a lot or not.
"I crossed the line and the rain came. It was one of those days when the racing goes with you."
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