Seventh Heaven for Elton Julian in Le Mans Comeback

American racer Elton Julian enjoyed a successful return to the sport with seventh place in the Le Mans 24 Hours at the wheel of the Racing for Holland Dome S101-Judd co-driven by team principal Jan Lammers and sportscar ace John Bosch. The 30-year-old Julian also recorded the highest finish for a rookie in this year's endurance classic, and set the team's quickest daytime and nighttime race laps a remarkable performance given his six-year layoff from racing.

The Racing for Holland Dome took to the track on Wednesday with the innovative hydraulic suspension run at the Le Mans test day. The new system again displayed its advantages in low and medium speed corners but needed further testing at top speed, causing the team to revert to its conventional suspension. "It's something that can be fixed pretty easily, but unfortunately not in the time available before the race," said Lammers. Taking advantage of the traditional `golden hour' for Le Mans qualifying early Thursday evening, Jan put in one of his famously fast laps on soft tyres to claim 11th spot on the grid. It was left to Elton to record the team's best practice lap on race tyres in the final session.

In the race, a first lap pit stop dropped Lammers down the field, but he cut a swath through traffic to finish the first hour in 11th place. Julian continued the upward trend to end his first Le Mans race stint in fifth. The Dome-Judd remained in the top six until the tenth hour, when John Bosch suffered a punctured rear tyre which led to fragments of bodywork holing a water radiator. The Racing for Holland mechanics changed the radiator with swift but sure teamwork and after a mere 36 minutes lost in the pits, Bosch rejoined in 15th place. It was to be the start of a determined climb up the order which saw the orange Dome back in the top ten with four hours to go, thanks to fast early morning stints by Julian and Lammers. In the midst of Bosch's steady run to the flag, several frontrunners hit trouble, ultimately promoting Racing for Holland to seventh as the clock ran out just reward for the stalwart efforts of the drivers and Dutch crew.

To the noisy accompaniment of jubilant Dutch fans across from the Racing for Holland pit, team principal Jan Lammers said, "Fifth place was probably our maximum possible this year, so finishing seventh after our problems overnight is a terrific achievement for the team. I'm proud of everyone, including Elton who played a big part in this result. The whole team have been very impressed with him, and we'd all like to see him get the kind of drive he deserves in the future maybe with us!"

"I'm happy I've done what I needed to do to re-establish myself as a fast, consistent, and reliable driver," said Julian. "I want to thank everyone who made it possible for me to do this race: Rodale and Men's Health and Best Life magazines, Create Media, Puma Motorsport, Impact Race Products, Speedstar Management, and my personal backers. I also have to thank Racing for Holland, who gave me a great car and crew. Jan and the team were very generous in letting me show what I can do, from the first test right through the race. Looking around the paddock, I can't imagine having done it with any other team. Now I'm looking forward to capitalising on this result to secure a competitive full-time ride."

-ejr-