Lola Cars International recorded a memorable victory with its B2K/40 SR2 sportscar at Le Mans today. The car, run by Canadian team Multimatic Motorsports, took the laurels in the LMP675 class, finishing eight laps ahead of its nearest rival after the famous 24-hour French event.
The success was a remarkable achievement for a team that had never before competed at Le Mans and that was using a car just three weeks old. With a trio of Canadian drivers behind the wheel - Scott Maxwell, John Graham and Greg Wilkins - the Nissan-engined Lola triumphed in the toughest endurance race in the world thanks to a mix of strength, reliability and teamwork.
Team owner Larry Holt said: "The car was terrific. It's handling was superb and it never changed one per cent throughout the race. This car is well suited to teams like us as it is the best SR2 car available. If you want to be competitive in this category you have to have a Lola!"
The car completed 274 laps round the gruelling high-speed 8.45-mile circuit and took control of the class shortly after the 12-hour mark. With scorching temperatures making this year's Le Mans the hottest and toughest for drivers for nearly 20 years, the team had a slight scare towards the end of the race when the car's engine temperature ran high. But, with a cushion of eight laps, the drivers were able to reduce their pace and keep a watchful eye on the temperature to the end to record the class win and finish 26th overall.
In the LMP900 category, Team Rafanelli, competing with the Olive Garden-backed Lola B2K/10 SR1, ran an excellent fifth in the early stages of the race. But the team was hit by misfortune shortly before midnight when Italian Emanuele Naspetti spun and crashed about one mile from the end of a lap damaging the car's front right suspension. He had to remove the Judd-powered Lola's front bodywork on the track to drive it back to the pits.
The resulting repairs cost the team about 90 minutes and dropped the car to 34th. Once back on the track, Italian Mimmo Schiattarella set the team's fastest lap of the race on lap 96. Everything was running smoothly - the team climbing to 26th position - but four minutes past the halfway point engine problems forced retirement.
A team spokesman said: "It's disappointing, especially after all the hard work getting the car back on the track. The car even got quicker after that pit-stop but this is a 24-hour race and these things happen." Dutch outfit Konrad Motorsport, running a Talkline-sponsored Ford-engined B2K/10, also suffered bad luck, going out of the event on the 39th lap after being as high as 11th. A wheel came off the car on the exit of the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.
Driver Tom Coronel, of Holland, retrieved the wheel and put it back on the car, which could have continued back to the pits, only to find he had contravened the regulations. He was adjudged to have moved away from the car by more than the permitted 50 metres to collect the wheel and the team was disqualified.