HAS SATISFYING 'LONG' RUN AT PETIT LE MANS
BRASELTON, GA (4 OCTOBER, 2008) -- de Ferran Motorsports took on its longest race of the season today at Road Atlanta during the running of the 11th Petit Le Mans.
The first year American Le Mans Series team can now say "mission accomplished" as the team made it to the checkered flag of the classic 1,000-mile race with a fifth place finish in its LMP2 class and eighth in the overall results.
The beginning of the race was a little difficult for the team, as Gil de Ferran, who was first behind the wheel of the Panasonic-sponsored Acura ARX-01b, had to handle a car that lacked a little bit of downforce. In addition to this, the #66 machine suffered some damage to the rear of the car making it oversteer and causing de Ferran to spin on lap 58 while he was running in sixth place. With the yellow flag out, de Ferran made his way to the pits for repairs.
After the pit stop, the owner / driver of the de Ferran Motorsports car had fallen to 14th place overall and eighth in class, two laps down. By lap 126, de Ferran had made his way up to 12th overall when he handed the car over to Scott Dixon, who came in as an additional driver for the 10-hour event.
With the reigning Indy 500 champion behind the wheel, the team gained another two spots but due to problems restarting the car during pit stops, they lost another couple of laps to the leaders. Despite excellent lap times that were on par with the front-runners, Dixon was unable to get his laps back. Following his three-hour stint, the 2008 IndyCar Series Champion gave the car to de Ferran's young French star, Simon Pagenaud on lap 263. Pagenaud took his place behind the wheel with the team in tenth place overall and seventh in class.
Pagenaud, who, like Dixon, had to deal with reignighting problems after pit stops, also had to test his reflexes a couple of times, notably when he barely missed a three-car incident that happened with less than 50 laps to go. The Frenchman held on and made his way up to eighth place overall and fifth in his class by the time the checkered flag fell on the 1,000-mile race that took just a little over nine hours and 40 minutes to complete.
Next up for the de Ferran Motorsports team will be the 2008 Monterey Sports Car Championships at Laguna Seca October 16 through the 18.
GIL DE FERRAN
"We had a very difficult first stint due to two issues. We started the race with not quite enough downforce and the car was very, very difficult to drive early in the race. We also sustained some damage to the rear. I'm not sure where that came from because I don't recall hitting anything, but that really effected the balance of the car giving it too much oversteer. Eventually that caused me to spin. We lost two laps on that incident which is unfortunate. We repaired the car, changed the back end, and put some more downforce on the car and it was handling pretty well after that.
"I think, even if we had a lot of little problems, we leave this race with a good taste in our mouth. We had the pace later on in the race and we were running similar lap times to the leaders. However, we lost some more time because we were having issues starting the car in the pits. It wasn't a perfect race but the guys did a great job. This is our very first, true endurance race and we got to the end. I'm also very pleased to have had Scott on board for this race. He did a fantastic middle stint and so did Simon at the end."
"Gil handed the car over in perfect condition. We just had a few problems with restarting the car during the pit stops. On track the car was super fast, we passed a lot of people and could catch a lot of cars but it's very hard getting the laps back here. I had a ton of fun, the car was quick and I can't wait to do it again!
"(Final thoughts) It was a blast for me. I had a great time with the team and Gil and Simon. The team did very well, it was a tough day, especially for a team that is new to it. We're the only Acura team to finish, so kudos to everyone here. I think it's a great learning curve for this team to be part of this and the team has learned a lot this weekend that will help them in the future, I was happy to be part of it. I want to thank Gil for the chance to race with the de Ferran team. It was a fun time."
"It was hard to begin with. The Panasonic Acura car was a little edgy when I first got in but it got better and better. At the end in the dark it was really good and I really enjoyed it. The car was really reliable and that's thanks to the great job of the de Ferran crew. It's the first long race of the team and to be there at the end is a great achievement. Knowing that we only started at the end of April, it's a really good thing for everybody, I'm pretty sure everybody is going to leave with a big smile on their face.
"(About avoiding the three-car incident near the end) I was nearly in it! There were pieces flying, debris coming into the cockpit, hitting my helmet. I slowed the car down and tried to avoid everything. I don't know where it came from but I had reflexes I didn't even think I had! I was able to avoid the GT2 Porsche that was coming back on the track. It was instinct! I'm happy that I was able to finish the race for Acura and the team. Now we move on to Laguna and we will try to do even better."