Silverstone: Saulnier Racing race report

Brave Saulnier Racing miss out on third in LMP2 championship in LMS finale A hub carrier failure ended Saulnier Racing's hopes of securing third place in the LMP2 teams' championship at the final round of the Le Mans Series despite a...

Brave Saulnier Racing miss out on third in LMP2 championship in LMS finale

A hub carrier failure ended Saulnier Racing's hopes of securing third place in the LMP2 teams' championship at the final round of the Le Mans Series despite a brave performance at Silverstone. Yet the team can look back on their season with huge pride after a string of impressive displays.

Using the brand new Pescarolo-Judd LMP2 chassis, the French squad have performed beyond expectations, holding third behind the all-conquering Porsche RS Spyder teams of Van Merksteijn Motorsport and Team Essex ahead of the race. A class podium at the Le Mans 24 Hours and a second place finish at the Nurburgring 1000kms were also memorable highlights.

Having qualifying 24th on the grid and 11th in class at Silverstone, young French drivers Matthieu Lahaye and Pierre Ragues in the LMP2 car battled their way through the field during the first half of the race. Strong stints from both men and fine pit work by the team helped them climb to 12th overall, fourth in class and to the brink of a second successive podium. Unfortunately, as Lahaye closed in on the third-placed Embassy Racing WF0 at the mid-race point, a hub carrier broke during a scheduled pit stop. Despite a fine job by the Saulnier Racing mechanics to fix the problem, the team lost over 20 minutes in the pit garage, along with all hopes of defending their third place in the championship, and dropped down the order.

Rejoining well down the field, more quick times from Lahaye and Ragues saw the pair fight back once more to 16th overall and ninth-in-class at the chequered flag, but finished just outside the points.

Matthieu Lahaye said: "I have some mixed feelings after the race. While I am sad that we had the problem with the hub carrier and to have missed out on third in the championship, I am immensely proud of the team. I don't think we dared dream that we could have had such a fine season. Even to finish fourth in the standings, not to mention our podium at Le Mans, is something we never expected."

Pierre Ragues said: "Overall it was a strong race for Matthieu and I. Neither of us knew this circuit before this weekend and we had very little dry running in practice, so to fight up to fourth was very satisfying. It is a shame that we had the mechanical problem, but it's the first one we've had all year, which in endurance racing is not bad. I think we've both shown that we deserve to be here and I hope we can return next year to beat our competitors."

Meanwhile, Saulnier Racing's #4 Pescarolo 01-Judd, driven by gentlemen drivers Jacques Nicolet and Richard Hein, achieved their target of a top- ten class finish in the premier LMP1 category.

Starting 14th in class and 24th overall, Nicolet, Hein and the car all proved to be reliable and consistent throughout the race to come home 16th and ninth in LMP1.

Jacques Nicolet said: "I think we've driven a good race and 16th overall is our best result of the season. It's great to end the year on a positive note and I also won the CER race on Saturday so it has been a weekend to remember!"

Richard Hein said: "It was a very difficult race because there were lots of accidents and people making mistakes, so I am delighted with a top-ten finish. Jacques is not just the boss of Saulnier Racing, but also the heart of the team and to finish the season like this alongside him is fantastic."

Team Principal Francois Sicard said: "We would have liked to have finished on the podium again but overall this has been a very good season for Saulnier Racing. The two youngsters in the LMP2 car, both of whom are sportscar rookies, have performed fantastically and made no mistakes all year. The gentlemen drivers in the LMP1 car have also enjoyed their season. We have proved our reliability and performance and so have our drivers. We must now develop the car to improve still further but this year has been a very solid first step. The work for 2009 starts now."

-credit: sr

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Series ELMS