HISTORIC FIRST POINT FOR HK LE MANS TEAM
Matthew Marsh and Darryl O'Young were celebrating in Germany on Sunday after claiming a slice of Hong Kong motor racing history.
The Noble Group-GruppeM Racing co-drivers piloted their Porsche GT3 RSR to eighth place in their class at the 1,000km of Nurburgring - and in doing so claimed the SAR's first ever point in Europe's elite sports car competition, the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES).
The duo overcame a crash involving O'Young shortly before the halfway point in the six-hour race to register their first finish on their third outing in the series.
"This is a huge step for us," said Marsh. "We've shown all along that we're competitive and up with the pace, but we'd been held back by a bit of bad luck in the first two races. Our goal here was to finish - and we've achieved that."
O'Young added: "We're progressing all the time. It's great to register our first finish and our first point, but we're still slightly disappointed because, without the crash, we could have finished second. Next time out, we'll definitely be targeting a podium finish."
The pair started seventh on the grid out of 15 cars in their GT2 class. Marsh took the wheel for the first 80 minutes and by the time O'Young took over they were in fourth place.
But the team had a setback when O'Young, running eighth at the time, collided with a backmarker, damaging the Porsche's front left suspension. The car was in the pits for 25 minutes while mechanics repaired it and the team dropped to last place.
"It was an error of judgment on my part," said O'Young. "I went to overtake, locked up and we came together. But the guys did a great job fixing the car so quickly. The main problem after that was the handling because the car's set-up was badly affected. From then on, we simply had to nurse it around and make sure we finished."
The duo each took another turn behind the wheel, using their skill and experience to pick their way through the field to eighth place in their class and 28th overall.
It was third time lucky for Marsh and O'Young. In their first outing, at Monza in July, a puncture ended their race early while a broken gearbox meant they also failed to finish at Silverstone last month.
Noble Group-GruppeM Racing are bidding to become the first Hong Kong team to take part in the world's greatest endurance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours. They are competing in the LMES - a series of six-hour races at some of Europe's top tracks - in an effort to secure an invitation to Le Mans in June next year.
The team's next LMES event will be in Istanbul, Turkey, on November 13. Before that, they are hopeful of taking part in the three-hour FIA GT Championship race at Zhuhai on October 23.
Marsh added: "We're looking forward to Istanbul and, if logistics allow, we'll be at Zhuhai as well. It would be great if we could race in our own backyard and give Hong Kong fans the chance to see us in action. But one thing is certain - wherever we race next, we'll be going for a top-three finish."
Victory in the GT2 class at Nurburgring went to Sebah Automotive's Marc Lieb and Xavier Pompidou in a Porsche 996 GT3 RSR.
The overall race winners were the Zytek Engineering team of Hayanari Shimoda and Tom Chilton, piloting a Zytek 04S in the top class, Prototype 1. It was a remarkable win for the pair - despite being fastest in practice, they had to start from the back of the 44-car grid due to a technical infringement.