Drama and Downpours Shape de Ferran Motorsport's Petit Le Mans Challenge Braselton, Ga, Saturday September 26, 2009: the 12th annual Petit Le Mans 10 hour race certainly proved to be a battle of endurance for the de Ferran Motorsports Acura...
Drama and Downpours Shape de Ferran Motorsport's Petit Le Mans Challenge
Braselton, Ga, Saturday September 26, 2009: the 12th annual Petit Le Mans 10 hour race certainly proved to be a battle of endurance for the de Ferran Motorsports Acura squad. Tasked with a championship title to chase and the opportunity to star amidst a hugely competitive field - including the works Audi and Peugeot teams - the stakes were always going to be high. Coupled with this, the weather was destined to play its part in the drama and certainly delivered the promised downpours in torrents. The ultimate result for Gil de Ferran's young team was still unsure at the time of going to press due to red flag confusion at the much reduced event.
The race started very well for team owner Gil de Ferran who took the green flag and by the first hour the Brazilian was hunting down the Audis having successfully passed the two Peugeots; a race to the rostrum seemed a reality. The wet weather had passed and the slicks were fitted. It was thirty minutes later that the No 66XM Radio de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a experienced its first drama of the race when from nowhere Gil was hit by back marker Jon Field in the number 37 Lola.
The car limped to the paddock with substantial bodywork and suspension damage and the de Ferran Acura rejoined the race 16 laps down with a furious Gil de Ferran wondering how it could have happened.
"Disappointment doesn't begin to describe what I am feeling now, the car felt great," said Gil. "I felt great. We had gone from fifth to third and I had a clear track ahead. Everything was going according to plan and we had a great opportunity to grab the championship lead. Suddenly, the Lola came from nowhere and I still have no idea what happened. All I know is that I had a front running car in my hands and next we were repairing substantial damage in the paddock. All credit to my crew for getting us back in the race."
With the American Le Mans LMP1 Series championship crown up for grabs, the de Ferran Motorsports team was determined to press on and attempt to close in on the title before the final round of the series at Laguna Seca in two weeks time (October 10th). They were running a close second place before the start of Petit Le Mans with only seventeen points between the top two protagonists.
The Petit Le Mans dream became ever more distant just under an hour later when front running IndyCar driver, Scott Dixon - joining the regular duo of de Ferran and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for a one-off appearance - went wide out of turn five and found himself a passenger as the car cruised into the tire wall. Another twenty minutes in the paddock replacing the front bodywork assembly brought to an end the prospect of a strong finish at this race, but the championship became the priority and once again the de Ferran Motorsports crew were hard at work to re-join the race.
"It was my mistake," said Scott. "I could find lots of reasons for it. I haven't driven the car in the rain but it was my error. I now just want to do my best to make up for it in the rest of the race. The car is hard to drive there is tons of understeer, but we have to keep going and complete 70% of the race leader's lap tally in order to score some vital points."
The result of the first accident was to take its toll at the hands of regular de Ferran Motorsports driver, Simon Pagenaud and the 25-year-old Frenchman made the team's third trip to the paddock with a broken exhaust and electrical problems. This time the stop was for over thirty minutes and the team determined to repair the car and return to the race to achieve as many points as possible. With the race not even at the half way point the attitude was positive that some trouble free hours would produce a reasonable tally.
The weather, however, was to provide the next intervention. The rain returned with a vengeance and the race was red flagged at 4.09 pm -- the first competition red flag in the American Le Mans Series history. The torrential downpour had made certain parts of the course unsafe for the cars and corner workers. However it was to be four hours later before the chequered flag was waved once the organizers decided the conditions were too dangerous for the race to re-start.
At the time of going to press the points scored and the ultimate race results were still unsure. A further release will be posted with this information.
What is not in doubt is that the team will be moving to the final round of the championship in Laguna Seca in two weeks time (October 10th, 2009) where the series LMP1 title will be the only focus of attention.