After the difficult qualifying sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, the sun finally started to shine down on Team Modena on Saturday morning. But for the warm-up the British team still had a surprise up their sleeve for the drivers. A self...
After the difficult qualifying sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, the sun finally started to shine down on Team Modena on Saturday morning. But for the warm-up the British team still had a surprise up their sleeve for the drivers. A self developed aerodynamic pack and a more powerful engine should give Jos Menten, Christian Fittipaldi and Terry Borcheller wings. The revamped Aston Martin DBR9 immediately leaves a good impression, with Menten registering a fifth time in LMGT1 - just behind the works cars.
"The car feels perfect. The new rear wing gives less downforce, reducing the fuel consumption. Our race engine is somewhat more thirsty, but if we drive sensibly we should be able to save a full lap per stint", an optimistic Jos Menten comments just after the warm-up. The Team Modena- drivers are all tensed up awaiting the start of the 76th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, being flagged off exceptionally this year at 15:00hrs. The Brazilian driver, Christian Fittipaldi is at the wheel for the start of the endurance race.
Fittipaldi takes a good start and finds himself up with the leading pack. Some 50 minutes later the former F1-driver enters the pits, for the first scheduled pit stop, handing over the drive to Terry Borcheller. The American accomplishes his task perfectly and after a double relay hands the car over to Jos Menten. The Flying Dutchman puts in a couple of fast laps and battles for fifth spot, just behind the works cars. Unfortunately a flat left rear tyre makes him lose half a lap. After this unplanned pit stop the British car finds itself back in sixth place in its class, one and a half laps down on the Luc Alphand Corvette C6.R.
On the dot of 18:30hrs Fittipaldi once again climbs into the Aston Martin DBR9 bearing number 59. The drivers of the High Wycombe based team are definitely back in the groove. Following on from faultless and constant stints from both Fittipaldi and Borcheller it is once more the turn of the young Dutchman from Limburg to take to track: "During my last lap I checked to see what life was left in the tyres, and the outcome was a best time. We know that we still have a margin, and if necessary we can put in an attack later on."
Menten keeps to his word, because a little bit later the lead of the LAA #72 melts like snow in the sun. The Dutchman is lapping on average some seven seconds faster than his immediate competitor: "The car is perfect. Even after 10 hours of hard racing the Aston is handling perfectly. If we keep up this rhythm we should be breathing down on the rear wing of Alphand and co by 04:00hrs", Jos Menten told us after his third double stint.
But the claw back doesn't work out as planned. At around 04:00hrs a rain storm throws a spanner in the works and Fittipaldi is forced to come into the pits with a damaged gearbox. Repairs hold the car up for roughly two hours: "We then went back out with the Olympic spirit in the back of our minds. Achieving a top-five ranking in the class was out of the question, but all in all it is great to take the chequered flag in such a heavy wear and tear race as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team did everything they could to provide us with an ideal car. These last few weeks they have all worked extremely hard and it's a great pity that this result doesn't reflect our true potential. When you compare our laps times with those of the competition amongst the privateers you soon realise that in no way were we the underdogs. Nevertheless it was a great honour that I could drive the Aston under the chequered flag", a visibly disappointed Jos Menten remarks after the finish of this magical endurance race in La Sarthe.