The Belgium Fans Cheer As Horag Racing Finishes Third in LMP2 Sunday in 1,000 Kilometers of Spa FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug. 19 - Belgium's Didier Theys and Eric van de Poele along with Fredy Lienhard from nearby Switzerland finished on the...
The Belgium Fans Cheer As Horag Racing Finishes Third in LMP2 Sunday in 1,000 Kilometers of Spa
FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug. 19 - Belgium's Didier Theys and Eric van de Poele along with Fredy Lienhard from nearby Switzerland finished on the podium in the 1,000 Kilometers of Spa much to the delight of the Belgium fans who attended the Le Mans Series race Sunday at the historic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps here.
Van de Poele, Lienhard and Theys' Lista Office and Lista-sponsored Lola B05/40 Lola No. 27 fielded by Switzerland's Horag Racing finished third in the LMP2 class in the 143-lap endurance race that attracted 11 cars in the LMP2 class and 50 in all.
The RML team of Thomas Erdos and Mike Newton finished third overall and won the LMP2 class with its MG Lola AER, completing 140 laps in all. The Quifel-ASM Team of Miguel Amaral, Miguel Angel de Castro and Angel Burgueno was fifth overall and second in LMP2 with its Lola AER with 137 laps in the books. Horag Racing was seventh overall and third in LMP2, finishing 136 laps. Fourth in class went to the Saulnier Racing Courage team, three laps further back.
Although it was in contention for a podium finish throughout the race, with about an hour to go in the six-hour event it looked like the Horag team was going to finish fourth in class and ninth overall. Shortly after that contact between the second- and third-place LMP2 cars on a restart worked in the Horag team's favor.
The third-place Barazi-Epsilon Zytek of Michael Vergers suffered front suspension damage in its tangle with the Quifel-ASM Lola, being driven by Burgueno at the time. Vergers tried to limp back to the pits but spun and finally gave up, vaulting Theys and the rest of the Horag team back into a podium position.
Until that contact by their rivals, the Horag team had been in fourth place at the four- and five-hour marks after running sixth at the end of hour one, fifth at the end of hour two and third at the end of hour three.
Lienhard actually had the car as high as second at one point, but before the late-race mishap by its rivals it looked like the Horag team would be fourth due to an earlier run-in with an errant Porsche and the whims of the weather.
The problem with the Porsche occurred in the Bus Stop on a restart on the overall leader's lap 88 while Theys was third. Horst Felbermayr Sr. hit Theys with his Porsche 996 GT3 RSR while Felbermayr was trying to regroup from a scuffle with the GPC Sport Ferrari of Gabrio Rosa a few yards earlier. Theys spun but quickly got going again, but that dropped the Belgium native who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. to fourth in class and ninth overall.
Rain also presented a problem. Theys pitted for intermediate tires around lap 101, but then the weather improved. When the sun broke through strongly again Theys needed to get rid of those Michelins as much as he'd wanted to pit for that particular compound earlier, but he and team owner Markus Hotz decided to wait to pit for slicks until they were within the fuel window to make it the rest of the distance.
Theys kept the car out of trouble and he made that stop on the leader's lap 120 while he was ninth overall and fourth in class. Things went better from that point on, although that pit stop was made under green and as it turned out a full-course yellow waved about seven minutes later when Jarek Janis' Spyker slammed into a tire wall. What's more, it started to sprinkle again, and moving up in the standings seemed remote with an hour to go because the top five LMP2 cars were all separated by a lap.
But the Horag team never gave up, the rain didn't get any worse, and their perseverance was rewarded with the podium finish at the end. To add an exclamation mark at the end of the event Theys posted the car's fastest lap of the race just seven laps before the checkered with a 2:13.152, topping the 2:13.916 that van de Poele posted on lap four.
The car was understeering in the preliminaries, and van de Poele qualified seventh in class and 18th overall with a 2:09.451 on Saturday. He drove the first two stints, and quickly had the car in the top five. The ex-Formula 1 star from Sart-Risbart, Belgium got fourth in class 43 laps into the event when the second-place Radical of Warren Hughes went off into a gravel trap. Van de Poele kept the pressure up, and he had the team on line for a podium when he pitted on lap 47 for Lienhard to take over, relinquishing the steering wheel with the car solidly in third in LMP2 and ninth overall.
Lienhard, of Niederteufen, Switzerland, kept the car in the top five throughout his 57-minute stint and actually had the car as high as it would go on Sunday when some pit stops pushed him to second around lap 70. He was still in second place in LMP2 when he pitted under a full-course yellow for debris to allow Theys to take over. Theys was eighth overall and third in LMP2 for the restart, but by that time the rain was starting to complicate things.
The Team Peugeot Total No. 8 of Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin won the race overall.
"I had a very good stint," Lienhard said afterwards. "It was a tough race, and that problem with the Porsche made it took like we wouldn't be on the podium. We changed tires due to the rain and then the sun came out, which also affected us. But I was very pleased with my stint. This is my last race I'll do at age 59; I'll be 60 at the next race, and I'm happy to still be able to race at this level."
The next Le Mans Series event is Sept. 14-16 at Silverstone, England; Lienhard will turn 60 that Friday, Sept. 14.
The series' season finale is scheduled for the Interlagos course in Sao Paulo, Brazil Nov. 9-11.
For more information see horag-racing.com and lemans-series.com.
Theys' post-race quote follows:
"The track is very fast and very technical, and we worked hard on our set-up right from the start. We haven't run the Lola here for the last two years, unlike some of our competitors, so they had a bit of an advantage on us in that regard. The set-up has to be perfect here.
"We started with the set-up we used at the Nurburgring. The car was understeering a lot on Friday, and still understeering some on Saturday. It was really nervous at high speed. We also had some problems with our fresh engine, so on Saturday night the team put the engine we'd used at the Nurburgring back in the car, along with a brand-new power steering unit since we were also having some problems with that.
"In the warm-up this morning we had an engine misfire, but that turned out to be a minor problem with the mapping that the team fixed. They also replaced the brand-new power steering unit they'd installed too. The team worked very hard all weekend; they deserved a podium finish.
"Eric started the race and did two stints, and he was able to get into fourth place quite easily. Fredy got in and did a stint and he also did a good job.
"I did my first stint, and I was just trying to be very conservative. Then the rain came; we had a big storm for 10 or 15 minutes, and I decided to put the intermediate tires on. The spray was very bad, but I knew if it stopped raining, this track dries very fast.
"We went around under yellow for about a half-hour and then about 10 minutes after the green, the track was drying out. We didn't want to pit again and lose track position, so we waited to come in for slicks until we were within the fuel window to be able to make it the rest of the way. I had to be very conservative, because I didn't want to spin off.
"As far as the incident with the Porsche, they were battling for position. I saw them ahead and I broke early to stay out of their way, but he hit me in the rear and I spun. It didn't do too much damage to the car, and we were able to continue.
"My last stint was 100 percent on slicks. We had a sprinkle but it didn't last long, and we were able to finish third. At the end I was able to run quite good laps, the car was good, and we were happy with third."