Circuit de la Sarthe
JMB Racing barely misses the podium in the LM GTE‐AM
Invited by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) to participate in the 79th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, JMB Racing entered a Ferrari 430 GT2 in the GTE-AM, driven by a team led by Manuel Rodrigues, member of the JMB team in 2009, and rounded out by Jean-Marc Menahem and Nicolas Marroc, both racing on the legendary circuit for the first time.
The week started out at Place des Jacobins with the usual administrative and technical checks for the 56 participating cars.
Despite the team's meticulous preparations since the test day on 24 April, the first trials on Wednesday were marred by gearbox problems. The problems were eventually resolved, but given the time lost the day before, the team dedicated most of the Thursday session to optimising the car's performance for a 24-hour race instead of trying to ace the time trials. Under these conditions, Nicolas's fifth place finish was particularly encouraging.
In front of a record 249,500 spectators, Nicolas took off under sunny skies for what would be one of the closest races in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Then it was time for the mechanics to come in to refuel the car and change the tyres. The drivers followed their strategy to the letter by remaining consistent on the track and efficient during pit stops and were able to avoid the traps in a highly eventful race marked by several dramatic accidents that brought the safety car out onto the track.
JMB Racing's relays -- including Nicolas's night-time quadruple relay -- went off without a hitch.
Jean-Marc and Nicolas were able to drive a flawless race thanks to the experience contributed by both the team and Manu, racing for the third year in a row.
Less than two hours from the finish, the #83 Ferrari had moved up to third place, six laps ahead of the fourth place car. But unfortunately, a clutch problem kept the car in the pit for an extended stop. A makeshift repair brought the car back out onto the track as rain began to fall intermittently, complicating the drivers' task even more as they found themselves so close yet so far from the finish line.
Thanks to a final effort, the #83 Ferrari passed the chequered flag in fourth place in its category, a symbolic reward for all of the team's hard work.
Just like Manu in 2009, Nicolas and Jean-Marc had the satisfaction of joining the club of drivers who completed the Le Mans race in their first appearance -- no small feat given the 50% DNF rate in this particularly thrilling 2011 race.
Next up for JMB Racing is the GT Open in Spa on 24 June.