LMP 675 has traditionally been looked upon as the "junior" class in Le Mans racing, but this year the MG team came close to disproving that stereotype. In spite of the power disadvantage and the narrower tires, the British team showed up just ...
LMP 675 has traditionally been looked upon as the "junior" class in Le Mans racing, but this year the MG team came close to disproving that stereotype.
In spite of the power disadvantage and the narrower tires, the British team showed up just about everyone at the classic June endurance race, being bettered only by the Audi Sport team, running the all-conquering Audi R8.
Unfortunately the Cinderella story was not to be, at least not yet this year, as both factory Lola-MG cars failed to finish the race.
The #26 MG (Anthony Reid, Warren Hughes and Jonny Kane) ran strongly in fourth place, behind only the factory Audis, and clear of all other LMP900 entries. Shortly after midnight, though, its gearbox failed, and the car failed to reach the halfway point of the 24 hours.
The star-studded #27 entry was the one that was expected to show even better, with drivers Mark Blundell, Julian Bailey and Kevin McGarrity. Unfortunately suffered from various early mechanical ailments, and long pit stops quickly dropped it down by several laps, and to 13th overall.
Blundell, Bailey and McGarrity soldiered on through the night, although they still never quite achieved quite the pace of their sister car. The morning hours saw the MG's engine let go, repeating last year's DNF for the team.
As KnightHawk racing's Lola-MG had already caught fire in a spectacular way, the demise of the #27 marked the end of the MG story for 2002.
Behind the factory MGs, other LMP675 entries were well back; the Welter Gerard WR Peugeot was 10 laps behind the second MG, and when it took over the LMP 675 lead with some six hours remaining.
But Welter Gerard's lead was not to last quite long enough: on the last lap but one, the WR suffered a rear tire puncture near the beginning of the lap, and had to limp all the way back to the pits.
By the time it reached the pit lane, the rear suspension was badly damaged, and the crew unable to repair it. The crew sent it out for one last desperate lap, but it was not to be enough: the #29 Reynard Lehmann VW took the class victory on the very last lap.
The old adage still holds: to finish first, one must first finish.