Clairay the Champion! The facts are very simple: all that was needed was for the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette to be classified in the Nurburgring 1000 km or for no GT1 car to do so for Yann Clairay, Patrice Goueslard and their team to win the...
Clairay the Champion!
The facts are very simple: all that was needed was for the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette to be classified in the Nurburgring 1000 km or for no GT1 car to do so for Yann Clairay, Patrice Goueslard and their team to win the title outright. The situation became more complicated when No. 72 came into the pits with an engine problem when it was leading the field comfortably after 4 hours of racing. Happily, it was able to complete a final lap on seven cylinders, which assured it of the crown for 2009.
It was a new-look Nurburgring circuit which awaited the Le Mans Series drivers at the start. The Grand Prix circuit layout is unchanged but new improvements have been introduced this year: a huge engineering shopping gallery, a collection of restaurants, hotels and theme bars and a leisure park including a roller coaster ride skirting the main straight in front of the stands on which you go from 0 to 217kph in 2 seconds! For Yann and his team, however, the aim was to win a title and, if possible, extend the series of wins which began at Spa and Portimao.
The three practice sessions went off without a hitch, even if the Larbre Competition's Saleen proved to be marginally quicker when their best driver was at the wheel. This initial verdict was confirmed in the timed tests. However, the overall strength of the Luc Alphand Aventures crew made it the bookies' favourite.
In the warm up, Yann was hit by a Lola-Aston Martin LMP1 as it came out of a fast turn; however, the damage was limited to a torn off wing for the Corvette. Yann and Laurent Groppi respectively were given the job of driving the two top GT1 steeds for the start of the race. Although they've been rivals in Formula Renault in the past, present circumstances did not lend themselves to a wheel to wheel battle between them. Yann keeps the Saleen in his sights throughout his stint at the wheel, with the gap fluctuating between 3 and 5 seconds depending on what was happening around him. At the two-hour mark the positions were reversed. The Corvette then managed to get away and by the time Yann handed over to Julien Jousse for the second time No. 72 held a 5 lap lead. However, hopes of celebrating victory and an early title took a mighty blow about an hour away from the finish. Julien suddenly lost 40% of power coming out of Mercedes Arena. He managed to limp into the pits, where a serious engine problem was diagnosed.
Calculations showed that the 137 laps completed represented exactly 70% of the distance required for classification - however, you've got to cross the finishing line! The team's engineers managed to isolate the faulty cylinder and Patrice Goueslard, the most experienced of the three drivers, completed a lap to end all laps just a few seconds before this 1000 km race drew to a close. Yann, Julien and Patrice thus achieved podium places and, more importantly, bagged the points for coming home in 2nd place that meant that the Le Mans Series GT1 title for 2009 was theirs.
"My aim for the season has been achieved and even exceeded if we take into account our 2nd place in the Le Mans 24 Hours race behind the works-entered Corvette" Yann said after the race. "I'm fully aware of the starting numbers for the Le Mans Series. However, we've always had stiff competition. I should like to congratulate the team, which has always given a good account of itself despite the problems. 2009 will remain for me a good sporting season and I hope that these results will augur well for 2010."
Although the title's won, participation in the Silverstone 1000 km on 13 September remains on the cards.