On Wednesday evening Antonio Garcia clocked the sixth best time in the LMGT1 category, and this meant that the Spaniard would take the start on Saturday at 15:00hrs from the fifteenth row on the grid. The start position on the grid is...
On Wednesday evening Antonio Garcia clocked the sixth best time in the LMGT1 category, and this meant that the Spaniard would take the start on Saturday at 15:00hrs from the fifteenth row on the grid. The start position on the grid is of no major importance in a 24 Hours race, but opting for the right race strategy is vital! During the warm-up the Aston Martin DBR9 once more confirmed that it was the perfect weapon under wet conditions. Jos Menten completed the wet warm-up registering some very competitive lap times. The variable weather conditions prove to be a headache for the teams. but the Team Modena management keep a cool head.
Antonio Garcia has no trouble keeping up with the rhythm of the leaders at the start of the race. One hour into the race and the first raindrops appear. The safety-car also puts in an appearance. Team Modena decides to come in for a quick pitstop, but continues the race on slicks. The rain soon stops and the Aston Martin DBR9 climbs up into third place in the class. One hour later the rain reappears and one of the LMP1-Audi's crashes. The safety-car neutralises the race and once again Team Modena makes the right choice: "We took full advantage of this interruption", Jos Menten told us. "We were able to stay behind the first safety-car and build up a nice lead on the rest of the LMGT1 field. Christian is now in fourth spot, behind the works cars."
Four hours into the race and it is Jos Menten's turn to get behind the wheel of the Aston Martin DBR9: "I had some trouble at the beginning of my double stint. I just couldn't find the right rhythm . and we also had some under and over-steer problems. But the longer I was at the wheel of the car the more I improved on my lap times. In the last lap but one I actually recorded my personal best time. When I came in for the driver change it became obvious why the handling hadn't been perfect. The left front damper had loosened. The team reacted very quickly and the mechanics fixed it in some ten minutes", the driver from Haelen explained.
The grey Aston Martin dropped back to ninth place in the class. Antonio Garcia, Jos Menten and Christian Fittipaldi take it in turn to complete their laps and the car slowly climbs up the rankings. But the night brings problems: "All the small prototypes experience problems. Firstly I had to avoid one of these prototypes . luckily unscathed. But Antonio didn't have the same luck. In the second chicane after Mulsanne, he collided with an LMP2-proto. The team had to repair the rear of the car and the rear wing was replaced. This costs us roughly 12 laps", the 26 year old from the Limburg told us. Blowouts also threw the odd spanner in the works . but with the Olympic ideals in the back of their minds the Team Modena-trio carry on the fight: "We knew it's going to be a long and difficult competition. All that is left for us to do is to finish the race. The backlog with our competitors is now too big. We're now driving our own race, and we'll see how it all turns out. A pity really, especially when during the beginning of the race we were out there fighting it out with the top five. But that's endurance racing for you."
Even the downpour at the end of the race brings little comfort. Christian Fittipaldi takes the final stint for his account. At 15:00hrs the Brazilian takes the chequered flag in eighteenth place overall. The Menten-Fittipaldi- Garcia trio finish as tenth in their class. This makes Menten the first ever Limburger to finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race: "After our highly competitive qualifying we had great expectations. We finally finished tenth in our class and eighteenth overall . not quite what we had hoped for, but al least we finished the race. This was a constructive experience. I thoroughly enjoyed this week. It's really great to compete on a circuit with such a rich history. I hope to be back at the start of this great classic race next year", Jos Menten told us after the race. "Collaboration with the team was perfect. All in all I'm really satisfied. It's just a great pity that we were only able to prove our potential during the first part of the race."