HONG KONG DRIVER RETURNS TO LE MANS WITH MAZDA Two years after becoming the first Hong Kong driver to compete in the Le Mans 24-hours, Matthew Marsh is returning for a another attempt at success in the world's most famous sports car...
HONG KONG DRIVER RETURNS TO LE MANS WITH MAZDA
Two years after becoming the first Hong Kong driver to compete in the Le Mans 24-hours, Matthew Marsh is returning for a another attempt at success in the world's most famous sports car race.
Marsh will drive the Flex-Box Lola: an open-top racer powered by a 500bhp turbo-charged Mazda engine. The car is run by the German team Kruse-Schiller Motorsport (KSM) and competes in the LM P2 class for prototypes. Top speed on Le Mans' Mulsanne Straight should exceed 280 kilometres per hour.
After winning his class in last year's Nurburgring 24-hours, driving for Aston Martin, 40-year old Marsh is hopeful of a good result at Le Mans: "The Lola has a strong pedigree and the Mazda engine is improving all the time."
Each of the 55 cars at Le Mans will be piloted by three drivers and Matthew will share the Lola-Mazda with Japanese former F1 driver Hideki Noda and Singapore-based Frenchman Jean de Pourtales. The latter two drove together, for KSM, last year. "In Hideki and Jean I have two team-mates who know the car, the circuit and what it takes to achieve success in long-distance races," says Marsh. "We're also the only driving crew where every driver lives in Asia!"
The Le Mans 24-hours was first held in 1923 and this year's event will be its 77th running. The Circuit de la Sarthe measures 13.7 kilometres (about twice the length of most F1 tracks) and is located southwest of Paris. The race typically attracts 250,000 spectators.
This year Mazda will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of their first class win at Le Mans, in 1984, when their engine also powered a British-built Lola chassis. Mazda won the race outright in 1991 and remain the only Japanese manufacturer to have achieved this feat.
The contest for outright honours will see a three-way battle between teams from Aston-Martin, Peugeot and Audi - who have won eight of the last nine races. Stars include ex-F1 drivers such as Alex Wurz and David Brabham, former World Cup skier Luc Alphand - and Patrick Dempsey (famous for his role in the TV show Grey's Anatomy). Dempsey follows in the footsteps of legendary actors Steve McQueen, who competed at Le Mans in 1970, and Paul Newman who won his class and finished second overall in 1979.
Last year Marsh became the only Hong Kong driver ever to have scored an FIA World Championship point when he finished eighth in the World Touring Car Championship finale in Macau. "That was a career highlight," admits the 2004 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion, "but Le Mans remains the ultimate prize!"