Race Report

It was an interesting experience for Neil Garner Motorsport's first race in the Le Mans Series championship today. After qualifying 3rd on the grid (16th overall) yesterday, the team made some modifications in the evening, which appeared to improve the car's times in the warm up. The car managed a time of 1min53.4secs, faster than the time for pole in qualifying. This performance put the team in good spirits for the race.

Phil Keen was to take the first stint of the race for Neil Garner Motorsport; the car was brought to an extremely busy grid and the team prepared for the start. After a stressful formation lap, it was clear that there happened to be confusion between the clerk of the course and the race director: the safety car was kept out, to do another formation lap, whilst the lights behind went green, meaning that the second half of the grid thought the race had started. This chaos resulted in collisions between all except one Porsche team, who Phil narrowly avoided being only just in front. Debris flew all over the track, and the safety car slowed right down to give the marshals time to clear the mess.

The next lap revealed green flags, and Phil launched the car into 13th place (2nd in class). Two laps later, the front leading Formula Le Mans car had been overtaken, making the team 1st. The race continued in a similar style, with places swapping constantly. The car gained two places through pit stops of other teams, pushing us into the top 10; comfortably ahead of the other Oreca 09's, and chasing the LMP2 Oreca ahead. Many pitstops from different teams, including refueling for the Neil Garner Motorsport car, changed the order in our favour putting us 9th.

Further on, John Hartshorn entered the car for the first driver change. This went smoothly, only losing 3 places, one including the no.91 Formula Le Mans car. John avoided a spin, but the arrival of the RLR LMP2 and the FLM behind was quick.

The car was called into the pits for refueling, and the first disaster of the race was discovered. As the mechanic was about to send the car back on track, a broken wheel cover (louver) was noticed on the front left hand side of the car. Unable to remove it quickly, the team lost enormous amounts of time in the pits, and set us back to 21st place (4th in class) before releasing the car back into the race. Everyone was surprised at how the race had turned around, or, more upside down, in less than 10 minutes.

The addition of traffic didn't help John to catch up the runners in front, although the car gained a place through a pit stop. Following this spot of luck, the no. 93 Oreca 09 of Genoa completed a slow lap, before pulling into the pits to fix their problem. This worked well for John, and took another place. It was but minutes later that the timing sheets showed us the worst news yet: the car had received a black flag with an orange circle, meaning the car had to pit immediately due to a serious fault. On it's arrival in the box, the problem was not directly visible; but traces of fuel could be seen. The prototype was brought into the garage and the mechanics found that the 'o' ring inside the vent for the fuel had broken, meaning that the car was leaking fuel.

To not waste time doing another stop for a driver change, it was decided that Steve was to take to the wheel, for his first stint in the race. Only a few laps later, an unknown incident at turn 3 triggered the safety car once again, so Steve returned to the pits for fuel. By now, the car was in an unfortunate 25th place.

Twenty minutes later, one of the Formula Le Mans teams had problems, which granted us 3rd place in class; but about the same time, Steve was called into the pits again to let John have a second run; this was because his stint had been cut short earlier, due to the fuel problem. The Oreca prototype was kept in the same position for a long time. John drove consistently although couldn't reach the cars ahead because of the too large distances between the runners.

Half an hour before the end, Steve regained the driving seat, but by then the race had settled down and no more real passes were being made. An Aston Martin had some trouble, giving us a place (24th).

The end came quickly afterwards; Steve drove to the finishing line, which was followed by team celebrations, and the podium.

Back in the garage, Neil Garner, team manager shared his thoughts on the events during the race: "We've had a great first race in Le Mans Series; although we still need to improve, the unfortunate problems were out of the team's control. In a way, we prefer this to happen now, at our first race, so in case of reoccurrence; we know how to solve matters quickly."

As to the first half of the race: "We've hopefully indicated that we have good pace; especially with the times set in the warm up session. We have showed our position and our capacity to win; it was such a shame when lost the lead in the Formula Le Mans class, especially as we were 9th overall."

In addition: "We were extremely disappointed with the problem concerning the fuel filler- this cost us a win. We've definitely learned a lot this weekend, so we're going to come back even stronger next time. Let's not forget though that a 3rd place for a new team isn't a bad resultů"

Finally: "We've loved coming to Paul Ricard, this is our third time now. We're more than pleased to be taking part in the Le Mans Series; the organisation of the event is great and everyone has been really welcoming, which is important for a new team. Now we're looking forward to Spa in a months' time." Neil Garner Motorsport will be present at Spa Francorchamps on the weekend of the 7th

<   All News
<< Back to the homepage