MBD Sportscars' Le Mans Challenge
June 24, 2002 -- Ontario, Canada - The MBD Sportscars Team fought valiantly to complete the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend in France, only to have their hopes dashed with only two hours remaining in the twice-around-the-clock endurance competition. The #19 Panoz Mugen 07 LMP 900's driving crew for the French classic featured Belgian Didier de Radigues, Venezuelan Milka Duno and Canada's own John Graham.
The entire MBD crew, including the drivers and the Mugen technicians, proved steadfast in their determination to cross the finish line on Sunday at 4:00pm - a full 24 hours from the race start on Saturday -- and even more so because of the challenges the team has faced in marrying a new powerplant to the Panoz 07 chassis.
And even though drawing the checkered flag proved elusive, the team is proud to have overcome both major and minor obstacles throughout the race to complete the most competitive laps in one race than they ever had before -- and proud as well that they completed more hours than many other teams.
In the first six hours of the race the team experienced some difficulties, as explained by driver Didier de Radigues -- "I drove at the start of the race, and the car was very quick in the straight, yet difficult in the corners. We decided to make some adjustments to make for better grip in the corners, and this made the car much better during my second stint behind the wheel. After Milka completed a very good double stint John unfortunately had some bad luck."
"He had to come in because the undertray of the car was touching and scraping the track and we also had a problem with a fuel filter and throttle cable. The crew made all of these repairs at the same time -- so it took a bit -- but because they are very quick and efficient, it ended up only taking about an hour. When the car once again took to the track, it was looking very good and John was turning some very good times."
>From the six hour mark, to the twelve hour mark, and even up to the eighteen hour mark the drivers all reported that the car was running and handling great. "Very smooth," "handling great," and "very fast" were the common comments amongst the drivers and crew. Anticipation was building in the team's garage in hopes of delivering a good and much-desired finish.
At approximately 2:00pm, only two hours from the race finish, John called in and reported that the engine was not pulling properly and he couldn't get full revs. After ten minutes of analysis in the garage, the Multimatic and Mugen engineers concluded that an electrical problem, that they had been fighting most of the race, had degraded to the point of having to withdraw the car.
MBD Technical Director Larry Holt commented: "It was a great shame that we had to stop so close to the end but the fix would have taken all the time that was left in the race. I feel very badly for the crew and drivers who gave me 100% all week and through the race. We had a few issues but generally the car ran reliably. All of the chassis problems appear to have been sorted and we can now focus on performance. We should draw some satisfaction from the fact that MBD outlasted a lot of bigger teams."
At the end of the day, the team didn't "lose" a twenty-four hour race by retiring two hours shy, they "won" a personal best challenge by completing twenty-two hours of a grueling test of man and machine.
For more insight on the MBD Team please access www.mbdsportscars.com. Additional information on Milka Duno is available to you at www.milkaduno.com, and on Didier de Radigues at www.deradigues.net.
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