Unfortunately as no. 29 was running in seventh place and about to score its first points in the championship, it stopped on the circuit out of fuel 90 minutes from the chequered flag!
It looked like Pegasus Racing was all set to kick off the 2014 season in style on its return to the European endurance elite. The meeting began under blue skies in Britain that matched the blue on the bodywork of the Alsatian team’s Morgan-Nissan LM P2, which did not run into any problems prior to the race. The car was quick and its drivers Jonathan Coleman, Niki Leutwiler and Julien Schell were very happy with it. Unfortunately as no. 29 was running in seventh place and about to score its first points in the championship, it stopped on the circuit out of fuel 90 minutes from the chequered flag!
The first round of the European Le Mans Series attracted a field of 38 cars consisting of GTs and LM P2 prototypes that combined both quality and quantity. In free practice the Pegasus Racing team continued to get to grips with its Morgan-Nissan LM P2 two weeks after the official tests on the Paul Ricard circuit. “We found the right setup for all three of us,” said Julien Schell. “Our pace was pretty good compared to our knowledge of the car taking into account the fact that we had all already raced in the Le Mans Series, although not as often and not as recently as the majority of our rivals. As a result we didn’t put on soft tyres at the end of the session just to make the headlines in the press releases.”
The team decided to entrust local lad Jonathan Coleman with the job of qualifying the Morgan-Nissan. “It’s great to be involved in this new adventure with Pegasus Racing,“ said the Englishman from North Somerset. “The team’s making its comeback to LM P2; we’re all learning about the new car and progressing step by step. Being asked to do the qualifying and getting the best out of the new tyres was a new and enriching experience for me at this level in the ELMS. The track conditions were ideal with only the prototypes running. Of course, as it was the first time there are things we can improve.”
The 4-hour race was on Saturday afternoon. Schell made a circumspect start and it was soon obvious that the no. 29 Morgan-Nissan LM P2 was on the pace. In the final quarter of his first stint he passed the Alpine-Signatech, the reigning ELMS champion, to take eighth spot. After the first round of refuelling stops, he rejoined without shodding new tyres and for a few laps he was in front of the future winner lapping in the same times as the front-runners.
Niki Leutwiler then got into the car and did an excellent stint until the Morgan-Nissan ran out of fuel and stopped on the side of the track. “The radio was on the blink throughout my stint,” explained the Swiss driver. “On the other hand I’m happy with our lap times. We weren’t far off and I wasn’t expecting to be so close so soon given the fact that we’re still learning about the car and the tyres.”
Would the Pegasus Racing Morgan-Nissan have held on to seventh place till the finish? Despite the very disappointing retirement Schell sees only the positive side of the first race. “Silverstone confirmed that the Morgan was the right choice. It’s a quick, reliable car. We had just a touch of understeer at the end of the stint depending on the temperature of the tyres. We’ll also have to work on driver changes given the difference in sizes: installing the seats cost us time.”
Pegasus Racing will head for Imola, the second race in the 2014 ELMS on 17-18 May, in this positive frame of mind. The team took part in a round of the 2011 Le Mans Series on the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit finishing second in the Formula Le Mans category – the only race they didn’t win that year!