Tough time for local teams at Le Mans

Murphy Prototypes retired their Oreca 03-Nissan from the Le Mans 24-Hour Race. Picture by James Beckett
Murphy Prototypes retired their Oreca 03-Nissan from the Le Mans 24-Hour Race. Picture by James Beckett

The Brackley-based Murphy Prototypes and Silverstone’s Ram Racing suffered mixed fortunes during last weekend’s Le Mans 24-Hour Race.

Contesting the LMP2 class with an Oreca 03-Nissan, the Greg Murphy owned Murphy Prototypes team arrived for the 82nd-running of the world’s most famous endurance race full of confidence.

With a strong driver line-up, consisting of former F1 racer, Karun Chandhok, Rodolfo Gonzalez and Nathanael Berthon, the team produced a strong qualifying performance to start sixth in class.

Berthon took the start at 3pm on Saturday and a good opening stint put the car into contention for class honours, only for problems to strike shortly afterwards. A heavy rainstorm swept across the circuit and the number 48 Hertz Car Sales-supported car, now with Chandhok at the wheel, fell victim to the conditions.

Chandhok spun the car exiting Tetre Rouge and was collected by the Greaves Motorsport car. Both cars were badly damaged but Chandhok was able to return to the pits so repairs could be carried out.

He said: “The rain was so bad and all of a sudden my car was like a canoe. It just lifted off the track due to the volume of water and sent me spinning. I could do nothing to stop it.”

Lengthy repairs ruled the car’s chances of winning prizes out, and when the Oreca returned to the track, it was more to allow the team to gain exposure than anything else. Gonzalez lapped quickly during the night, but while Berthon was at the wheel in the small hours, the car stopped. Stranded out on the track, and unable to return to the pits, the car was eliminated.

Greg Murphy said: “To end the way that it did was a huge disappointment. We really believe that we could have won LMP2 with the pace that we showed during the week.

“Karun was caught out by the monsoon conditions and had a big accident, which effectively ended our race. If we are invited back again next year we will be a stronger team for this experience.”

Making their Le Mans 24-Hour Race debut, Ram Racing had two Ferrari 458 Italia cars entered. The team’s lead car, the number 52 LM GTE-Pro class machine, was driven by Matt Griffin, Alvaro Parente and Federico Leo, while the 53 LM GTE-Am car was raced by Archie Hamilton, Mark Patterson and Johnny Mowlem.

The number 52 car suffered problems from the start of the week, and having suffered with numerous problems the Italian car exited the race during the 17th hour.

The number 53 car also suffered early problems, notably gearbox failure, and a long pit visit ruled the car out of finishing on the podium.

However, a determined push by the Silverstone team kept the car running and it did reach the chequered flag at 3pm on Sunday – albeit somewhat off the pace.

Archie Hamilton said: “It was quite difficult during the race as all the LMP1 Audis and Porsches were battling for position so it was important to stay out of the way. We were starting to lay down some really good times on the soft tyres and began to feel we were making progress.

“To finish the race is something that was important to the team as it’s their first Le Mans. We’ve achieved that so I’m happy to have been part. A big thanks to all the team for all the hard work they have put in this week. If we hadn’t had so much gearbox drama our finishing position would have been better.” CB/JB.