Road Atlanta: Libra Racing qualifying report

Libra Overcomes Mechanical Woes; Qualifies Fifth in Class for Road Atlanta 40 minutes before qualifying for tomorrow's Petit Le Mans, Libra Racing's V8 powerplant was still separated from the Radical SR9 chassis. Mechanics tenderly replaced some...

Libra Overcomes Mechanical Woes; Qualifies Fifth in Class for Road Atlanta

40 minutes before qualifying for tomorrow's Petit Le Mans, Libra Racing's V8 powerplant was still separated from the Radical SR9 chassis. Mechanics tenderly replaced some engine internals to clear a problem with the timing chain, then rushed to reassemble the car. Incredibly, the team's lead driver, Andrew Prendeville, was able to complete 5 laps of the session.

The car was still down on top end power, and the car is about three seconds slower than it could be, according to team principal Ian Dawson. Prendeville set a fastest lap of 1:21.820, about 5 seconds off its nearest class competitor. While the deficit seems immense, the problems the team has overcome just to ready the car for qualifying cast a positive mood in the Libra Racing paddock.

"We traced our problem to an oil leak to the front cover, which meant the engine had to come out. Upon closer inspection we found a problem with the camshaft timing, which necessitated quite a lot of work," explained Dawson. "The team did a great job. The motor was still out 40 minutes before the session started and then we got out for the last 10 minutes. After two all- nighters here, you have to say, 'what a great effort.'

The rush by the Libra team saw Andrew Prendeville, with his helmet and HANS device on, carrying bodywork into position, and the team principal himself tightening fasteners down. New Dunlop slicks were mounted, the car came off the lifts, and Prendeville hopped in as a mechanic fired the engine. Dawson looked at the crew chief, who affirmed that all systems were go. The mechanics cleared the on-lookers and Dawson nodded to Prendeville to get to the track, and with a clunk into first gear he was away.

"Andrew said the car, as usual, just handles really well, and we're really encouraged," said Dawson. "We're a little down on power, which we're looking into now. We're slightly disappointed we didn't dip into the 18s. We know that [Harri] Toivonen did a 21.8 on his fifth lap on a damp track on Sunday on with the other setup. Let's hope we've got a good race coming."

It has not been an easy week for Libra. In the first practice session the team cracked a cylinder head, then rushed to fit a new motor overnight. The car went out with the new motor for Thursdays's afternoon and night practice sessions, but the oil leak meant that the team would miss this morning's practice. With qualifying over, the team still is left to solve the top end power problem. Fortunately, the handling of the car remains exceptional in the wet and the dry.

"Everything felt extremely good, right where we were in the [Sunday] test. [Andrew] conferred with what Harri said with the Sunday run that the balance was good; braking very, very good. Jut a really solid package. With the rush to get the motor in we're down on the straight-line speed compared with Sunday. Well down, so we've got to find that. We're really losing quite a bit of time."

As soon as the car pulled in the paddock, the bodywork panels were off and the laptop was plugged in. After two restless nights, Libra's mechanics set right to work, but seemed to take a big collective sigh of relief knowing that they were able to ready the car for qualifying. They will undoubtedly carry that confidence toward prepping the car for tomorrow's race.

-source: libra racing

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andrew Prendeville