24 Hours Le Mans: Czech Lola Judd in Eighth A successful debut for the Skoda Charouz Racing System - Lola/Judd in the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans race. Alex Yoong, Stefan Muecke and Jan Charouz finished in eighth position in the overall ...
24 Hours Le Mans: Czech Lola Judd in Eighth
A successful debut for the Skoda Charouz Racing System - Lola/Judd in the legendary 24 hours of Le Mans race. Alex Yoong, Stefan Muecke and Jan Charouz finished in eighth position in the overall classification and fifth in the LMP1 class. Not only was the team a rookie. The youngest driver of the race Jan Charouz, and Stefan Muecke of Germany, both drove for the first time on the La Sarthe circuit, too. The Czech car attracted attention of more than 250,000 spectators not only by its performance, but also by a huge fire in the pits.
Lola with Muecke behind the wheel caught on fire during one of the refueling stops Saturday. Almost the entire prototype was in flames, people couldn't see through them from the pit to the grandstand opposite. The firefighters were quick, luckily enough; it took them just about five seconds to put the fire out, so no harm was done to the driver or the mechanics. Muecke only inhaled some smoke and one of the mechanics has slight burns on his hands.
The Czech Lola managed to keep in fifth overall after the fire thanks to perfect performance of the drivers; the dramas were yet to come, though. At 3:30 today, the 19-year-old Jan Charouz left the track in the Playstation chicane, causing serious damage to the car when hitting the barrier.
He was lucky enough to make it to the pits. It took lots of effort, skill, tools and fifty minutes to fix the car. Almost all of the bodywork, exhausts and many other parts had to be replaced. When the Czech Lola B07/17 re-entered the track, the standing ovation for the mechanics and engineers was well deserved.
Jan Charouz couldn't figure out the reason of the accident at first, but later it turned out a flat tire was to be blamed. It was a so-called slow defect when the air escapes gradually. The result was seventeenth position. The international trio of drivers started a pursuit which caught attention of spectators and experts alike. But the moment the car attacked the top ten, another shock came. Right at the same spot where the night accident happened, the rear right tire burst and the car made a wild flight over curbs and the emergency zone.
Jan Charouz was again behind the wheel. And again, he had enough luck to manage to drive slowly to the pits. After a new wheel was mounted, the car lost a few positions again - and a new pursuit could begin. The result was eighth place overall and fifth in the elite LMP1 class. The car also set a record with the fastest lap of all gasoline vehicles.
Jan Charouz: "I took part in 24-hour races in Spa or Daytona, but Le Mans really is unique. I spent some nine hours in the cockpit which turned out to be my longest driving time ever. Of course I'm sorry for the troubles we had, however I think that the performance and result must have attracted attention. The atmosphere of the race was fantastic, too. I will never forget this weekend."
Stefan Muecke: "Just like Jan, I had my debut in Le Mans, so there was lots to learn. But I have to admit it was quite an exciting lesson. I was flattered by the fastest rookie award, but I'm even happier about the performance of the entire team. Here's the truth: the moment Jan brought the broken Lola in the pits where I was waiting to take the car over, I said to myself, well, Stefan, take a shower, you're going home. The car was a wreck. I actually did leave the pits and when they called me back, I couldn't believe my ears. The crew are real professionals."
Alex Yoong: "First let me agree with Stefan about the proficiency of the team. What they showed in Le Mans was a fantastic job. Personally I'm more satisfied than during my debut last year. We had to retire quite soon then, this time we finished, and we finished in a great place. I'm looking forward to the next race in two weeks at Nuerburgring and I hope the same line-up will get together here next year."
Antonín Charouz, team director: "I'm satisfied with the performance and result. I'm only disappointed that even a better result was hampered by the troubles. The fire was a big show but it didn't delay us too much. We lost much more because of flat tires which totaled some six or eight, I don't know. We have to analyze everything to be better next time. To sum up the whole Le Mans week, it was definitely successful."