LE MANS: A BIG ADVENTURE
Kronos Racing takes a lot of pleasure in participating in the Le Mans 24 hours, by entering a Lola-Aston Martin LMP1, with the support of Marc VDS Racing Team. Three Belgian drivers will drive the car: Vanina Ickx, Bas Leinders and Maxime Martin.
Even though the confirmation that the entry was accepted came rather late, the team has fully prepared for the upcoming Le Mans 24 hours after a successful test day at the end of April, hoping that the ACO would make a positive decision regarding their entry. The Lola B09/60 and the V12 Aston Martin engine were completely revised and last week there was a short test session on the Lurcy Levis track. The team's ambitions are based on faultless teamwork, on track and in the pitlane. To complete the 24 hours is the main aim, but a nice result among the non-diesel LMP1-prototypes is among the possibilities.
We are very happy to be part of this mythical race, because our participation was unsure for quite a while.
This is a general presentation of the team and the opinion of the main actors in this big adventure, an adventure everyone involved is eager to start...
Kronos Racing was created in 1994 by Marc Van Dalen and Jean-Pierre Mondron. As the team preparing the Peugeots for the Belgian importer of the French car constructor it gathered plenty of nice results, on circuit as well as on rally roads. Twice (1999 and 2000) they took the win in the Spa 24 Hours. International rally programmes with Peugeot and Citroën further filled their trophy room, not only with wins in prestigious events as the Monte Carlo Rally (Sébastien Ogier in 2009) or European titles (Bruno Thiry in 2003) but also with world championship titles (Junior WRC with Dani Sordo in 2005, WRC with Sébastien Loeb in 2006 and IRC in 2008 and 2009, with Nicolas Vouilloz and Kris Meeke respectively). In 2011 Kronos Racing enters several Peugeots 207 S2000 in the IRC and the Middle East championship. This has already given some nice results, as the Tour de Corse win for young Belgian rally ace Thierry Neuville proves.
But at Kronos Racing they longed for a comeback on the track and they chose the Le Mans 24 Hours, after being trusted with the preparation of the Orbello Racing Lola-Aston Martin LMP1. To cope with the logistic and sporting challenge this first participation in Le Mans represents, Kronos Racing created a joint venture with another Belgian team, the Marc VDS Racing Team, which entered a Ford GT in last year's 24 hours. Following the glorious tradition of the "Equipe Nationale Belge" or "Ecurie Francorchamps", which excelled in the middle of the last century, they chose to compete with three Belgian drivers: Vanina Ickx, Bas Leinders and Maxime Martin.
Marc Van Dalen (Kronos Racing): "We are very happy to be part of this mythical race, because our participation was unsure for quite a while. First we were second on the reserve list, then first and then we got the green light from the ACO. Fortunately all involved were able to double their efforts and we are very proud to enter a 100% Belgian team in Le Mans, even though are ambitions are quite modest. Our car is a very performant one, our team homogeneous, so now it is up to us to put all pieces of the puzzle in the right place during the whole week of the 24 hours. We have to be realistic in the way we take on the race, to be sure to be at the end. Michelin will provide us with excellent tyres and our Aston is the only car on the entry list that will offer the spectators the melodious sound of a V12 engine. Le Mans is a legendary race, and you have to treat it with the necessary respect. We are very happy we can be part of the myth of Le Mans, on our own modest level."
Jean-Michel Delporte (Marc VDS Racing Team): "Everything is looking well, although it was a race against the clock to get everything ready in time. Fortunately Aston Martin Racing gave us their full collaboration and with their spare parts our car is now as new. They also will provide us with three engineers on track. Our whole team is very motivated and we can hardly wait to get started. The changes in the rules make them a bit more in favour of the petrol engined prototypes, but that will not change the hierarchy. We will drive our own race, at a steady pace, trying to avoid all the pitfalls this race holds. That is part of the magic of Le Mans: everything is possible until the finish flag drops."
Vanina Ickx, 36, enters the Le Mans 24 Hours for the 7th time, making her a worthy heir to her father, Jacky 'Monsieur Le Mans' Ickx, for a long time the record holder with six wins. After starting her career in touring cars and single seaters, Vanina switched to endurance racing. In 2005 she set a couple of noteworthy results, with three podium finishes in the LMS and 16th place in Le Mans. After two seasons as a professional driver for Audi in the prestigious DTM Series she returned to Le Mans in 2008, finishing 11th. A year later she took 15th. Last year she was one of the strongholds of the Le Mans Series, at the wheel of the beautiful Lola-Aston Martin LMP1. She will be driving the same car in this year's 24 Hours, now in the hands of the Belgian Marc VDS Racing Team, the team for which she competes in the GT1 World Championship.
"We had to work hard to get here, but now nothing will stop us enjoying these moments to the fullest! I am very proud on what we have realised, the generosity of Olivier Baglione and Marc van der Straten really gave us a true energy boost. Both gentlemen immediately were on the same wavelength and the team is very motivated. Racing an LMP1 car is and remains a big challenge, this nearly is an F1-car with bodywork after all, a very powerful prototype. Technical problems are always possible, even though we will do our utmost to avoid them. The car has been fully revised and all three Belgian drivers get along perfectly. We are driving together in the GT1 World Championship after all."
Bas Leinders, 35, can look back on a successful career in single seaters, with titles in Formula Ford, Formula Opel-Lotus and Formula 3, followed by some excellent campaigns in F3000 and the World Series. In 2004 those resulted in a contract as a third driver with the Formula 1 team of Minardi, competing during free practice at every Grand Prix. Recently Leinders regularly competes in the GT1 World Championship. Last year he drove his maiden Le Mans 24 hours, at the wheel of a Ford GT.
"I am very happy that I can race in Le Mans with this team and this exceptional racing car. For years I have been trying to get into an LMP1 and now this dream has come true. For now, I only completed some ten laps on the Lurcy Levis track, to determine my position in the car. I get the impression this is a very pleasant car to drive. During the practice and qualifying sessions we can fully prepare the race to try and start the race in the best circumstances possible. Our aim is to get to the end of the 24 Hours, avoiding problems: if we are able to fully focus during 24 hours, a great result should await us at the end."
Maxime Martin is the son of Jean-Michel Martin, four times winner of the Spa 24 Hours and third in the Le Mans 24 Hours of 1980, driving a Rondeau. The 25-year old already won the French Clio Cup and the international Mini Cooper Challenge, before switching to the FFSA GT championship, at the wheel of a Morgan. After that he drove a Ford GT of the Marc VDS Racing Team in the GT1 World Championship. Martin recently improved quite a lot and can start in his first Le Mans 24 hours, after completing his compulsory ten laps during the test day at the end of April, setting a 12th time in the process.
"This is an important first for me and I am really looking forward to getting a taste of the Le Mans atmosphere for a whole week, after which I can participate in the race at the wheel of a fantastic car. We need some more mileage at the wheel of the car, but I am already very impressed by its cornering speed and its braking. Now I have to learn how to cope with night driving, getting through the traffic without losing too much time and if necessary driving in the wet. I would like to thank the team for their confidence in me and I hope that I can prove that I am worthy of it by bringing the car home!"
-source: kronos/marc vds