Team Modena Record Third Le Mans Finish
Team Modena brought their Aston Martin DBR9 successfully to the end of the 2008 Le Mans 24-Hours race having overcome major gearbox problems in the night that cost the team a strong finish in the classic race. Two hours in the pits, the car only emerging as dawn broke over the French circuit dented their hopes, but a superb team performance to get the car back on the track was backed up by strong driving from Terry Borcheller, Christian Fittipaldi and Jos Menten to see the car take the chequered flag.
The car was an unrepresentative 30th overall, having run as high as 22nd during the night before problems struck, and eighth in the LM GT1 class when a top finish was looking possible. Rapid yet careful work from the crew saw the gearbox stripped down and rebuilt in the pit garage as the click ticked, losing the car 30-laps on its rivals. The race finish continues the run of Le Mans finishes for the team's DBR9, making its third consecutive finish in the world's most testing event, a superb tribute to the team's professionalism, preparation, and race engineering skills.
"The team did a great job," said Team Principal Graham Schultz, "you can't do this event without a team, it is really as simple as that, and we knew that we could do the job and bring the car home. The gearbox was a bit of a tester, but we have done it before and we have brought the car home again in its third Le Mans. It has to be the most famous and well-campaigned Aston Martin out there."
"It's fantastic to have come to Le Mans three times with this car and to have finished very time," said Sporting Director Rik Bryan. "Once again we were unlucky with the gearbox, we need to investigate in the next few days and find out what went wrong, and without that we could have been fourth in class. Le Mans is always ups and downs, without the problems we could have finished higher.
"The spirit of the team shone through in the early hours of the morning when they had to rebuild the internals of the gearbox. I'd also like to take the opportunity to congratulate team regular Antonio Garcia - who won in the factory Aston Martin."
"It was a long 24-Hours for the car and the team," said Team Manager Hans Muelhbauer, who orchestrated all of the 33 pit stops, "the car was perfect, sadly the gearbox wasn't, but once again we got the car to the finish."
The team's youngest driver - 27-year-old Jos - had the honour of bringing the car across the line at the end of the 24-Hours, the car completing 302 laps, an amazing 2561 miles of high-speed racing despite losing over two hours in the pits. As the marshals flagged the car over the finish line, the team and supporters lined up on the pitwall and gave an emotional reception greeting to the car and driver.
"It was a new experience for me at the end bringing the car across the line," said Jos, "totally different from other 24-hour races. The track started wet in my final stint but a dry line was soon there so it was ok, You can have mechanical issues in racing, it can be sometimes the drivers fault, sometimes the car, a million things can go wrong but the guys did a good job and we are happy."
All the drivers contributed hugely to the result, lapping the car rapidly in the night and pushing to the end in what were often very tricky track conditions. Though disappointed by the overall result, they proved a strong combination and a well-balanced driver line-up.
"The result was not exactly what we expected," said Christian, "but that is the way it goes sometimes in racing. We were unfortunate to lose almost the whole first day of practice, and had to play catch-up from that point on.
"We had a good start to the race but then mechanical problems started kicking in, we blew up a tyre and then the gearbox lost us two hours. It is hard to finish this race but we have done it."
"Whenever you have a problem that costs you so much time it is frustrating," said Terry, "but as a whole, I have made some good friends and had a lot of fun with a good group of people. The result is frustrating but it was a great effort by the team and everyone involved - we had fun."
Next Race for the Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9: Le Mans Series, Nurburgring, Germany, August 17th