HONG KONG PAIR CONFIDENT OF LE MANS INVITATION Hong Kong duo Matthew Marsh and Darryl O'Young are confident they have done enough to merit an invitation to next year's Le Mans 24 Hours after an encouraging performance in their final race of 2005...
HONG KONG PAIR CONFIDENT OF LE MANS INVITATION
Hong Kong duo Matthew Marsh and Darryl O'Young are confident they have done enough to merit an invitation to next year's Le Mans 24 Hours after an encouraging performance in their final race of 2005 at Zhuhai today (Sunday).
The Noble Group-GruppeM Racing co-drivers finished fourth in their class - and 10th overall - in the FIA GT Championship at the southern China track.
"We have shown we are competitive and that is the most important part of the Le Mans equation," said Marsh. "The other key point is that we would be the first ever entry from Hong Kong - in fact, the first entry from Asia apart from Japanese teams - so we would certainly bring something different to the party.
"These factors will be taken into account when the Le Mans organisers begin sending out invitations in January. We think we've got a good chance."
With cars for Sunday's race divided into GT1 and GT2, the Hong Kong pair qualified fifth in the GT2 class to start 15th overall on the grid in their bauhinia-emblazoned Porsche GT3 RSR.
After Marsh completed the first 80 minutes, O'Young took over behind the wheel for the remainder of the 500km (three hours) race.
O'Young experienced a dramatic moment on the penultimate lap when his brakes failed, causing him to career off into the gravel trap. He was towed out and completed the race at cruising speed, secure in the knowledge that the mishap had made no difference to the team's fourth placing.
"We're a bit disappointed not to be on the podium in what is effectively our home race," said O'Young. "We were within 10 seconds of the third-placed car for much of the race.
"But we've got to be positive. It was a good performance by the team and the experience will serve us well in the future."
Sunday's race was Noble Group-GruppeM Racing's fourth outing this year but their first in Asia.
After a high profile launch in June, they competed in three 1,000km races in Europe as part of the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES).
After bad luck dogged their first two outings at Monza and Silverstone, causing early retirements, they scored Hong Kong's first ever LMES point when finishing eighth in their GT2 class at Nurburgring on September 4.
Sunday's event saw Marsh and O'Young switching competition from the LMES to the FIA GT Championship, an 11-race series that takes place throughout Europe and Asia.
Anthony Kumpen, Bert Longin and Mike Hezemans, driving a GT1-class Corvette C5R, won Sunday's race. Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller in a Porsche 996 were first home in the GT2 category and seventh overall.