DAVISON FIFTH IN CLASS AFTER GEARBOX PROBLEM HAMPERS LE MANS DEBUT
Alex Davison finished fifth in the LM GT2 class in his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut overnight, after a gearbox problem thwarted the Australian's quest for class victory in the sportscar classic.
Davison and team-mates Wolf Henzler and Horst Felbermayr Sr were running second in LM GT2 and closing on the class leading Ferrari when their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR struck gear selection problems during the ninth hour.
After repairs by the Team Felbermayr-Proton crew, the #77 entry returned to the track 15 laps behind the class front-runners.
Despite continuing to set a strong pace, limited LM GT2 attrition prevented the team from improving on fifth in class and 27th outright from 55 starters.
"It's a shame we had the problem with the gearbox," the Melbourne driver said.
"We were on-track for a class podium and looking good to challenge the Ferrari for the GT2 win.
"The repairs put us a long way behind and the class is so competitive that attrition is the only way to make up any ground when you've gone 15 laps down.
"Getting to the end is a huge achievement in itself, given the amount of cars and drivers that got into trouble out there, and was some consolation for the Team Felbermayr-Proton crew after all of their hard work."
Davison was selected to start the race, doing so from first in LM GT2 after the pole-sitting Imsa Performance Matmut Porsche was sent to the back of the grid after a pre-grid infringement.
He led the opening lap and settled into a rhythm, letting several cars running softer tyres through in the early stages to maintain a strong top-four position.
Over the following hours, Henzler and Davison rotated the class lead with the #82 Ferrari F430 of Mika Salo, Gimmi Bruni and Jamie Melo as the two cars made pitstops.
All the while, the Porsche made inroads into the Ferrari's overall lead, with Davison setting a string of fastest laps during a double-stint to reduce the deficit to 24 seconds, having been almost one minute earlier in the race.
With Henzler behind the wheel just before midnight, the car was forced into the pits for gearbox repairs, ending the team's charge for class victory and costing them an almost-certain class podium.
"Starting the race and leading the class on my first-ever racing lap of Le Mans was a great feeling," he said.
"Over the next few hours we were maintaining a really strong pace, Wolf and I were comfortable in the car and we had halved the Ferrari's lead before the gearbox problem struck."
Over the remaining 15 hours, Davison continued to set impressive laptimes in a number of double and triple stints, regularly the fastest LM GT2 competitor on track without putting a foot wrong in challenging conditions including night tracktime and wet weather.
After 24 hours, the #77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche had completed 309 laps in the race, which was won outright by the Audi prototype of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello, while the #82 Ferrari went on to win LM GT2.
"Overall, it has been an awesome experience and something I'll remember forever," Davison said of Le Mans.
"The circuit is amazing, it's up there with anything I have ever driven on before, and the build-up and atmosphere at the event is incredible.
"Unfortunately we had the gearbox problem which cost us a lot of time mid-race, but we're proud of our performance and what we achieved."
Davison's next race will be Round Four of the European Le Mans Series, the Nurburgring 1000km in Germany on 15-17 August.
-credit: alex davison