DOUBLE PODIUM FINISH FOR CREATION
Fielding two cars for the first time ever, the Bicester-based Creation team brought both of their CA06/H cars home to a formation finish in 2nd and 3rd places in the latest round of the 2006 Le Mans Series. Nicolas Minassian and Kevin McGarrity claimed the second step of the podium while Jamie Campbell-Walter, Felipe Ortiz and Beppe Gabbiani were a delighted third. JC-W also twice set the fastest lap of the race -- his quickest time of 1:21.527 being posted in the 5th of the six hour race.
Despite having said before the race that they were fed up with finishing 2nd and 3rd, it was a great result for the team and it has proved to the sportscar world without doubt that the team is capable of fielding both fast and reliable endurance cars. That elusive win will come to Creation, but it wasn't to be today.
Under some welcome late summer sunshine, it became apparent that the Creation cars would not be able to match the winning Pescarolo in pit strategy due to the fact that each of Creation's pit stops required a tyre change whilst Pescarolo were -- thanks to their wider wheels -- able to double stint their tyres. Despite leading in the early stages of the race, the nr.9 car was hampered by a slow pit stop in the second hour due to a right rear brake disc problem, and a stop/go penalty picked up by Beppe Gabbiani. The Italian was one of three cars to be awarded a penalty all within a short time for passing under yellow flags.
Team Principal Ian Bickerton summed up his feelings on the outcome of the race. "My emotions are two-fold really. On the one hand I do feel by now that we really should have won a race but, on the other, it's been a massive achievement this weekend running two cars and the new (nr.10) car ran faultlessly first time out. All the drivers did a great job and it goes without saying the team did a great job too.
"But really, when you bear in mind we have the Michelin tyre -- the best racing tyre in the world, there's no doubt about that -- and the S2 Judd engine which is the best gasoline engine in the world -- we ought to come 2nd and 3rd. Having said that, it's a great result for the team because we are still running on the little wheels (18"). Fair play to Henri Pescarolo though, his car is unbeatable at the moment. The crew he has in the car is fantastic but we're close and getting closer."
These feelings were echoed by Team Founder Michael Jankowski. "First time out with two cars and to come 2nd and 3rd is really not bad. There's only one place better you can get to, which is what we wanted, so I guess the question is WHEN??? It's definitely the case that we struggle with the tyres all the time, but that was our decision [to run with the smaller wheels] at the beginning of the year. We had a few ups and down throughout the day but all the drivers did an excellent job and the second car, which had never run before yesterday, took second in the race so you can't beat that."
The second-placed car will leave shortly after this race for the USA where it will be entered into the prestigious Petit Le Mans event and the final round of the ALMS at Laguna Seca. The driver line-up for these races is yet to be confirmed.
Nicolas Minassian (F), car 10 -- 2nd: "It was brilliant. I enjoyed very much driving with Kevin and was really happy as well that Jamie got the chance to drive in an LMS race this year because he deserved it and proved it with his fastest lap of the race. To have a 2-3 is great. At one point, when we were running 1-2, I was really excited in the car and could see Jamie in the other car and could feel what I am sure everyone else was feeling. It was a bit difficult with the performance of the car sometimes over the weekend and we had to fight to find a set up which would work, but overall it was brilliant. Well done to Creation for putting it all together."
Kevin McGarrity (GB), car 10 -- 2nd: "I'm just overjoyed to come here and I can't believe the job the guys have done to get two cars out and have the two of them run with no major problems. I'm happy to have joined the team and drive with Nic, and I am overwhelmed for Michael and Ian and for the whole team who have put so much into this. The car was good during the race; not the best the handling could have been, but we did the best we could with it and we couldn't have had a better result today than two cars on the podium."
Jamie Campbell-Walter (GB), car 9 -- 3rd: "It's a really good feeling. I've done Le Mans in the car with Felipe and Beppe and now come here with no testing or practice and we've got a podium result. We've been quick all weekend, and I've really enjoyed it. Nic and I have been pushing really hard this year for us to drive together and now, with a couple of races in America coming up, I think I've staked my claim to have a seat out there."
Beppe Gabbiani (I), car 9 -- 3rd: "Jamie did most of the hard work because I am old now and I just drove for one hour! Before this weekend, Donington was the only circuit where I had never got a podium so I am very happy and this is a great result for me. We are looking forward to Jarama now; we have shown we are competitive for a win."
Felipe Ortiz (CH), car 9 -- 3rd: "I would like to congratulate Jamie for the very good job he did, he was very quick, lapping a lot of the time in the 1:21s and l:22s. Beppe and I are very proud to be part of the Creation team today -- the only team with two extremely reliable cars. My stint was in the middle of the race, and I did about an hour and ten minutes or something. I ran with a very lean [engine] map in order to stay as long on the track, and it was problem free. I had a bit of traffic, but nothing too bad, though some of the GT1s are not very co-operative. Apart from that it was a trouble free race for me. It was a bit frustrating to lose the time in the pits and behind the safety car, but third is still a good finish for us."