YOONG CELELBRATES CONQUERING THE ULTIMATE SPORTSCAR RACING CHALLENGE
A1 Team Malaysia driver, Alex Yoong, as well as a Malaysian engineer Rueben Wong and Malaysian mechanic Shanker Ramachandran, from the A1GP team crew are celebrating today, after achieving great success in one of motorsport's most difficult challenges. Yoong and the CRS racing team not only finished the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans race, but took fifth place in class and eighth place overall of the fifty five entries.
The Le Mans 24 Hour race is recognised as the toughest, most demanding motor racing events, which tests man and machinery in a non-stop 24 hours long race of a technically challenging 13.6km street circuit in France.
The race claimed 24 cars during this ultimate test, including two of the favourites for the title and many of the most experienced sportscar racers and teams, which puts the achievement of Yoong and his CRS team into perspective. It is a feat of survival of the fittest, with strength and stamina winning through in the most prestigious and historic event.
Although the race itself is 24 hours long, the build-up lasts a week with scrutineering, extensive practice and qualifying sessions during the day and at night, as well as complete racecar rebuilds before the start. This year the weather played a central role in the demands on the teams, with torrential rain featuring in every track session adding to the stress and physical demands placed on driver and team.
CRS had a good build up to the race, running smoothly in each session. Yoong's team mates, Stefan Mucke and Jan Charouz were both rookies to the event, and with Yoong only having taken part in last year's race for the first time, the trio was relatively inexperienced compared to many of their rivals. The focus of the pre-race sessions was giving all the drivers as much experience of the track as possible and they successfully reached this goal.
The race start yesterday afternoon saw the No.15 Lola-Judd line up in 11th place on the grid. In an incident-filled 24 hours of racing, the CRS team overcame many obstacles to reach the chequered flag. A flash fire during a pit stop less than five hours into the race turned up the heat for the team, but it was quickly extinguished and although delaying the team's exit from the pits, there was no damage to the car. As with many entries the team suffered a number of punctures from track debris that built up over the period of the race. At around half distance, one of these sent Charouz, the driver at the time, into a spin down the middle of the Hunaudiere straight. He crawled back to the pits for repairs, with the car suffering damage to the undertray, rear wing and a broken front right wishbone. The efficient crew made the necessary repairs and the entry was able to get back out to continue their assault on the Le Mans race, although having lost an hour of running they had lost ten positions to their rivals.
The second half of this punishing endurance event proved less hectic for Yoong and his team mates with each settling into a strong pace and enduring a change from dry, bright weather in the morning to torrential rain as the event reached the closing stages. With only 29 cars running in the final hour, the CRS entry were lying in eighth position. After 34 pitstops and 334 laps the team finally reached the chequered flag and savoured their achievements in conquering the famed Le Mans 24 Hours race.
Yoong said of his second 24 Hours of Le Mans experience, ""We've had five punctures, Jan's crash on Mulsanne, the fire, and Jan lost a tyre -- but the car still felt really good after all that, and Stefan set the fastest petrol LMP1 lap (3:32.945). It's been a rollercoaster for the team but we made it through despite all the trials and tribulations of running non-stop for 24 Hours. I'm running on adrenalin now, it's just been such a ride and I'm over the moon to have reached the chequered flag at this famous event. With the challenge that this race presents, a finish is a win!
"My thanks go to everyone at Charouz Racing for making this such a fantastic experience, particularly the crew who worked tirelessly, my team mates Jan and Stefan, who were great to drive with, and to Antonin Charouz for giving me this opportunity."
"It was a real team effort, not only for the last 24 hours but for a whole week and that, together with a quick, reliable car, has really given us the competitive edge that got us to the finish line. It's difficult to describe how I feel now -- relief, delight, tired, wired, I'm just so happy!"
Jack Cunningham, Chief Executive of A1 Team Malaysia said "The Le Mans 24 hour race is the greatest challenge in sportscar and endurance racing. Alex and his team MAL team-members have played a significant role in the team that has been formed by Toni Charouz. We've been proud to play a part in this success, as a stage perhaps towards a fully Malaysia-based programme next year. This event is not that well-known in Malaysia but it is one of the motorsport world's great events and the achievement of this team of people today really cannot be overstated. I applaud my colleagues, and Toni Charouz's team."
Yoong will continue to spend his A1GP off season racing in the CRS sportscar and is set to return to the cockpit in Nurburgring, Germany in two weeks time. In the meantime, he will return to Malaysia for a well-deserved break from racing.
-credit: A1 team malaysia