October 13, 2002 Road Atlanta, GA -- Milka Duno's hopes for a good result at the Audi presents Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Saturday we're not to be realized due to a few unforeseen mechanical malfunctions. Duno had won the Petit in 2001 in...
October 13, 2002 Road Atlanta, GA -- Milka Duno's hopes for a good result at the Audi presents Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Saturday we're not to be realized due to a few unforeseen mechanical malfunctions.
Duno had won the Petit in 2001 in the 675 class, with teammates John Graham and Scott Maxwell, and came into the race week here at Road Atlanta with hopes that she would experience a good result this year as well.
Duno and teammates Christian Vann from England and Xavier Pompidou from France safely piloted the #27 Chamberlain Dome S-101/Judd through the Test, Practice, Qualifying and Warm-Up Sessions with nary a problem -- and absolutely no indicator of the trouble that would befall them on race day. The drivers and the team we're pleased with the improvements made through each session and awoke race day morning with a quiet confidence that they had made the necessary preparations for a good race result.
Vann was selected to start the multi-colored prototype and at 12:05pm EST -- a mere 35 minutes from the start of the race -- he had to bring the car behind the wall with a lost clutch -- a minimum 2-hour repair under the best of circumstances. This sole event would place the team so many laps behind that it would be impossible to realize their shared hopes for a good result. Nonetheless, the British crew didn't lose even a fraction of their resolve and made the repairs quickly and efficiently. Once the car was again back on track it ran perfectly -- giving both the team and the drivers a bit of bittersweet emotion: sweet - because the car was performing so well, bitter -- that the clutch problem placed a near-perfect car severely out of contention. But the team's troubles were not yet over. With only an hour or so before race end the driveshaft broke. With so little time left in the race, and so far behind, this is where most teams would call it a day - but not Chamberlain, or his crew, or the drivers. Replace the driveshaft they did and they got the car back out -- with only minutes to spare -- and took the checkered flag.
"I'd like to say it was a wonderful day -- but it wasn't," said team owner Hugh Chamberlain. "I will tell you that we've got some bloody good mechanics here on this team. They changed the clutch in a time that was surprising even to me. We started the race with a sensible plan. We knew that we weren't going to win unless certain cars fell off. Someone with another one of the prototype teams said to me that both of their cars ran perfectly all day, never having any problem whatsoever, with everything going like clockwork -- and they still finished the race four laps down. That can give you an idea of the level of competition that what we're up against."
"We had a problem with the clutch pretty much right at the start which took us a couple of hours to sort out -- it was very difficult to replace as it had welded itself together. Then we ran very well for a stretch of five hours or so and about an hour from the end the driveshaft broke. We had to build a driveshaft here in the paddock -- with all the ends on it and bits and pieces. To do that in fifty minutes is a hell of an achievement. I'm lucky to have such a good crew -- they really are a great bunch of guys. It doesn't make it any easier, but hell, these things happen. On another day we might just as well go 24-hours straight with no problems at all. That was not the case today."
"I'm always very excited to race at Road Atlanta," said Duno. "I really like the track and I was fortunate to win here last year. I must say, when the car was on the track it ran perfectly. It is very sad that our effort was affected by mechanical troubles that are impossible to foresee. The Chamberlain team is very dedicated and rarely have I seen a harder working crew. I really enjoyed racing again with them and Christian and with Xavier as well! We really gave it our best effort this weekend -- but luck was not on our side."
"It was a very long day -- and I have a lot of mixed emotions really," said Vann. "I think we did score a moral victory in that we had every single problem you could imagine that were absolutely no one's fault - but are due to parts that break from time to time. Unfortunately for us they all broke on the wrong day -- race day. The crew worked relentlessly to get the car back out quickly each time -- which they did. Under the circumstances I'm absolutely ecstatic that we took the checkered flag. It was a very difficult day for everybody. When the car was running -- it ran perfectly. It's a shame but these things happen to every team -- no team is immune. It does not matter how many millions of dollars you might spend -- things break. No reason for it. It's just bad luck. We had our share of bad luck today, but we made it to the finish!"
"I feel that we are all disappointed by the result," said Pompidou. "The car was running fantastic and trouble-free for all the pre-race sessions. Unfortunately these things happen in racing. Today all these problems happened during the race which caused us to lose a serious amount of time -- like the clutch going away. Then our driveshaft went away as well. We are very happy though that we got the checkered flag. All the mechanics worked so hard to achieve the final flag and that they did. I'm really happy to race in the Dome because it is one of the most efficient cars I've ever driven. I hope to drive it again."
For more information on Milka Duno, please visit her website at www.milkaduno.com.