Paul Ricard HTTT
Tough start to Le Mans Series for Jota Sport AMR
Official Aston Martin Racing partner team, Jota Sport AMR, had a dramatic start to their Le Mans Series season at the weekend when start line chaos scuppered any hopes of a strong result in "Le 6 Heures du Castellet" at Paul Ricard in southern France.
A mistake from the race controllers saw the lights turn to green despite the pace car still remaining in position at the head of the field at the end of the warm-up lap. The confusion triggered a concertina effect and a huge multi-car pile-up in the mid pack, wiping out much of the GTE field, including Jota Sport's starting driver, Sam Hancock.
"I literally had nowhere to go," said Sam. "We all saw green, floored it and were well up to 4th or 5th gear, three or four abreast, before suddenly seeing a wall of brake lights ahead. None of us stood a chance; in fact I think we got off lightly compared to some of the others."
Despite being T-boned and pushed hard into the pit wall at over 100mph, the Jota crew worked fantastically to have their V8 Vantage repaired and back into the fray with more than four and a half hours of the race remaining.
Hancock and team mate, Simon Dolan, making his debut at this level, both put in strong stints to haul the car back up to 6th position in the GTE Pro class by the flag, but following further repercussions from the accident which required additional pit stops, the squad were ultimately to fall short of the required minimum 70% of the winners race distance and thus were officially unclassified in the results.
I literally had nowhere to go. We all saw green.
Sam Hignett, Team Principal, Jota Sport AMR: "We're pretty upset as you can imagine. But we're not the only ones and actually we were very lucky not to suffer a lot more damage. On the upside, once the car was up and running again, it set some very encouraging lap times that were competitive with the pace of the class leaders so we're looking forward now to setting the record straight at the next race."
Simon Dolan: "That was certainly not the start I'd anticipated to racing at this level but we all know that anything can happen in racing - and it usually does! Once we got going however, I really enjoyed the whole experience - perhaps with the one exception of when the air conditioning unit failed and the cockpit temperature reached 65 degrees! I got over that pretty quickly though and had well over two hours of seat time which is very useful for me at this stage. I'd like to pass on a big thanks to the team and to Sam for guiding me to this level in such a short time and grooming me so well for it. After all it was only three years ago this month I competed in my first ever motor race! So whatever happened today, it's still pretty incredible to be here."
The team will now prepare for the official Le Mans test day on April 24th, before returning to Le Mans Series action for Round 2 at Spa on 7th May.
-source: jota sport