A stop and go costs HPVR the title!
The two Formula Le Mans had a superb race and just missed out on the title. They finished second and third in the Silverstone 1000 kms, and the much-sought after crown escaped the team by just 12 seconds.
The weekend got off to a great start. From Friday onwards, the two HPVR cars were always at the front in the category. Charlie Hollings set a superb pole position in 1m 56.968s to reward the team's efforts, some 4/10s quicker than his nearest rivals. The cherry on the cake was the fact that Zacchia in the second car set the second-quickest time in the session, only 0.1s behind the Englishman!
It looked like the team had all the aces to score a good result, especially as the technical problems that had hindered HPVR since Spa had been resolved. Steve Zacchia in no. 47 and Charlie Hollings in no.48 did the first stints. Steve stormed away leaving his rivals trailing in his wake. No.48 followed in his footsteps and took second place. But the team's chances of a double were ruined by an unforeseen hitch. On several occasions the drivers had to go outside the track limits, and each car was given a 1-second stop and go penalty. Apart from this penalty and a problem with the power steering on no.47, the two HPVR FLMs met with no other problems during the race. No.47 driven by Steve Zacchia and Olivier Lombard finished second in front of no.48 in the hands of Nico Verdonck-Christophe Pillon-Charlie Hollings.
Despite the team's bitter disappointment at losing the title, it has had a great season and proved that it is among the best in the category. The Swiss outfit is now looking to the Zhuhai round and its 2011 programme.
Olivier Lombard, no.47 driver: "Steve made a great start and took the lead by the end of lap 2. We had some problems with the power steering, which wasn't working any more. We held the lead throughout almost the whole race until 20 minutes from the end. We had already been shown a black and white flag as we had overshot the track limits. The second time it happened we were penalized, but it wasn't our fault as a car pushed us off the track. The Stewards were very severe and penalized us with a one-second stop & go. The battle with the DAMS car was so close that it lost us the race by twelve seconds.
"Of course, it's very annoying but that's part of racing. Our two cars were on the podium. Personally speaking, it felt like I was in the FLM for a long time as I'd never done such a long stint before, but it was a good one. It allowed me to gather a lot of experience for next year: that's the most important thing."
Nico Verdonck, driver in the no.48 car: "I had a great race and I enjoyed myself. Charlie controlled the race very well; then came the black and white flag. He did a great job. Christophe was shown the same flag. A lot of drivers had that problem, but the stewards did not penalize everybody equally: it's a pity. It would have been difficult to bag first place with that penalty, but I'd like to say to Christophe that he drove very well. It's his best race of the season. The car was running perfectly and the whole team did a really great job. It's a pity we couldn't have had this type of race before Silverstone as we ran into technical problems, and there was also our setback in Hungary. Today, we showed that we had the potential. I hope to continue with the team in the future."
Benoît Morand, Team Principal: "Both cars ran very well. We did a good job and the team had a great race like the drivers. We were the quickest in the pit stops. We just had a small power steering problem on no.47, nothing serious. Our team strategies were right and we didn't make any mistakes. We received a first black and white flag and we warned everybody; then came the second and we were hit with a stop and go.
"Of course I'm disappointed. We had the title won as we were leading and our rivals were fourth. After the season that we've had it's frustrating, but that's racing. We've lost the title by two points, and don't forget that on the Paul Ricard circuit we lost third place because of a starter problem. "On the positive side, Olivier has been a real success as he did a great triple stint. Steve made a fantastic start to the race and showed that he's a leader. Christophe did a great job here after his mistake in Budapest. Nico also did what was expected of him, and our new driver, Charlie Hollings, filled his role perfectly.
It was our first season in endurance; we've learned a lot and the whole team's done a fantastic job. So overall, we`re satisfied and also our weekend went off without any mechanical problems. Now, we're looking ahead to Zhuhai at the end of the year and also to our LM P1 hybrid programme."