Team Bruichladdich in the top 5!
Once again the 78th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours was the race of all thrills and feats, and also of all satisfactions for Team Bruichladdich and drivers Tim Greaves, Karim Ojjeh and Gary Chalandon.
After the Technical Verification on Monday and autograph session on Tuesday, Wednesday June 9 was the theatre of practice and first the qualifying session. A very special moment for Gary Chalandon, who replaced Christian Ebbersvik following his accident at Spa (NB - Christian will be back for Portugal): "I was quite serene and trying to stay focused, and to make the best use of the advice I got from our Engineering Director Paul Thomas. Le Mans is a circuit requiring a lot of respect. Audi driver Allan McNish told me that I would need the whole week to understand the circuit, and he was right!" "Paul asked the three of us to complete series of ten laps, and afterwards a series of three laps." Karim Ojjeh adds that. "Thursday was a bit more difficult because the rain in the afternoon changed the track again."
"Gary did extremely well in his first Le Mans practice and qualifying. He is one of the youngest drivers on the grid and we are very please with all aspects of his driving and attitude," says Tim Greaves. On Saturday June 12 at 3 PM, Gary Chalandon also was at the wheel of the #41 Zytek 09S for the race start: "This a tough moment for all of us.," he comments. "It can equally marvellous and terrible, as we could see with Nigel Mansell's retirement in the first hour of racing." For Team Bruichladdich the most difficult moments came during Tim Greaves night stint: "The car was hit again by an Aston Martin (yet again after Spa!), and I was slow to realise that aerodynamics were damaged." We decided to pit and service the car and change driver to Gary. "At this moment, the team was fantastic", adds Chalandon. "They made a brand new car in eight minutes, and the best way for me to thank them for this job was to set the times I did in qualifying once back on the track."
Fortunately the car suffered no further issue and when Karim Ojjeh received the chequered flag on Sunday at 3 PM, the car was back in the LMP2 top teams, finishing 5th in the category. "Once again this was a very close battle in the class, as demonstrated by the small gap with the Pescarolo before us," says Ojjeh. "The most incredible thing is that I feel there are more P2s finishing the race than P1s!" "Looking at the number of professional drivers in the cars finishing ahead of us, this is a great result," adds Tim Greaves. Only the No 24 car had all amateur drivers. P1 to 3 had at at least 2 pro on board, which we feel is not in the spirit of the P2 regulations going forward.
"Finishing my first 24 Hours gives a lot of confidence, I proved to myself that I have what it takes to do the toughest track race in the world," says Chalandon with great satisfaction. Now Team Bruichladdich will be preparing for the third round of the 2010, to be competed next month in Portugal. This event is expected with great impatience by Christian Ebbesvik, who recovered from his broken vertebra at Spa: "I'm fine, I could not drive here at Le Mans, but I'll be back in Portugal!"