News
03.07.2011

Saturday's events from Imola, revealed...

During the last Free Practice session on Saturday morning, the team’s lead driver Phil Keen was aboard the no.92 Oreca FLM09 prototype carrying out runs in preparation for qualifying. On the car’s 23rd lap and with less than ten minutes of the session remaining, Phil was en-route to the pits for a driver change when he was forced to run wide at the exit of the Villeneuve chicane after passing a slower LMP2 prototype. 
Phil used all of the curb but ran onto the astro turf – which was still damp from the early morning showers. With little run off area, the car hit the safety barrier. The damage was heavy; the whole of the front right corner had been torn away, but the mechanics hoped that the repairs would be mostly outer panel work and suspension. However, soon enough the worst was apparent. The car had endured a severe impact. After inspection it was the general idea that racing the car would be possible. However Team Manager Neil Garner decided against this and to not go ahead and continue, on grounds of safety.
Total disappointment and frustration were omnipresent in the moods of all in the no.92 garage. The weekend had gotten off to a great start, everyone confident that winning the race was achievable.
Neil and Technical Director Mike Sweeney discussed how to proceed and what was to be done with the various parts of the car, but before long an idea developed. The guys asked the team at Oreca if a spare tub for the FLM09 would be available, either from the manufacturer or another way; so ready to help, they hurried to try and find a new chassis.
Boutsen Energy Racing were the people to save the day for British team. With great help from Oreca, the LMP2 team arranged for a new chassis to be brought from their headquarters in Belgium some 1200km away from Imola. Was it a mad decision? The deal would have meant that the transporter would arrive at 2am, leaving the team just 6 hours to rebuild the car through the night. Confident and just too passionate about motor racing, not a minute was lost. The mechanics set to immediately, raring to go, stripping the entire car to be ready for the arrival of the new monocoque. A tense atmosphere set in, as everyone had suddenly become excited looking at the task ahead.
It was at 5 o’clock that the bad news came. With the car already completely dismantled by the team’s highly experienced crew and preparations for new parts and race strategy going well, the stewards announced to Neil that if the team managed to rebuild the Oreca 09, it would not be allowed to race due to a technicality.
For the second time of the afternoon, everyone was saddened and disheartened at the fact of not going racing; the news had surprised the whole team.
All the same, this weekend’s events served the team well for experience. The focus has already shifted to testing the rebuilt car in advance of the next round of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone early in September, where the team will be at its home event, on a circuit the drivers and technical staff know extremely well and have a very good record of success.
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