Despite an unpredictable race ending, NewBlood by Morand Racing achieved great team work and race strategy.
NewBlood by Morand Racing once again proved competitive in the second round of the 2014 European Le Mans Series, building a strong race lead until an engine failure a few minutes before the chequered flag.
The Swiss team and its drivers Christian Klien (b. 1983), Gary Hirsch (b. 1987) and Romain Brandela (b. 1973) were once again potential winners on the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit at Imola (Italy). Despite an unpredictable race ending, NewBlood by Morand Racing achieved great team work and race strategy.
Gary Hirsch climbs up to the race lead – The #43 Judd BMW-powered Morgan with Dunlop tyres started the race from the fifth position on the grid with Gary Hirsch at the wheel. During his first stint he stayed in the top 6 until his first pit stop. His second stint saw the Swiss driver gain position up to P2 and he took the lead before handing over to Romain Brandela on lap 55, after 1hr 36mins of racing. “At the race start, the left side of the track suddenly slowed down so I took no risk but lost two positions.
I tried to preserve my tyres during the first half of my first stint, and then I started pushing. Regarding race strategy, the team did an incredible work and the car was fantastic. Now we have to look to the future, since we will keep on battling for the championship. Our great strength is our pace in race and our capacity to elaborate good strategies.”
Romain Brandela keeps the pace – The Frenchman came back to the track in third position with the tyres Hirsch used during his second stint. Brandela’s stint was eventful: he suffered a collision (fortunately without damage!) with another prototype when battling for P2 and saw a Ferrari spinning right in front of him! His consistent driving maintained the car in the top 4 until he came back to the pits after 2hrs 25mins of racing and handed over to Christian Klien.
“For the first time in my racing career I came on the race track with used tyres. The car oversteered quite a bit but I tried to get my job done, which was to preserve the car and bring it home so Christian could finish the work in good conditions. We already saw this weekend that we had a good team regarding management, mechanics and drivers. We obviously are disappointed, but we can make it for the win.”
Christian Klien takes the lead – A few minutes after the Austrian driver took the wheel, he was fourth overall when a GT left some debris on the track, causing an 11-minute safety car period. At the race restart, the battle between the two leading cars helped him to fill in the gap before his last pit stop. When the leading car stopped due to brake issues, Klien climbed up to P2 and took the race lead in the last half hour of racing. Less than ten minutes remained when the Austrian driver stopped on the circuit because of an engine issue. The Morgan-Judd BMW with Dunlop tyres was not classified.
“My double stint was very good, I was happy with the car and the balance was good, I just had to manage the tyres in the second stint, but I could still be quicker than the cars ahead of us. I waited for the right moment and overtook the leading car. Our car was fast, I could already smell the champagne, but suddenly the engine’s oil pressure switched off without warning. We would really have deserved the win because the team did a great job and Gary and Romain drove perfectly. We definitely have the right package for victory in the European Le Mans Series. We are ready for Le Mans, and will try to do our best there.”
Benoit Morand: the team owner’s final word – “After Silverstone we proved once again that we are one of the top teams in the LMP2 class. Gary had an incredible double stint. Things were more complicated for Romain because of the tyres, but he did his job and made no mistakes. At the end of the race, the safety car was helpful, of course. Christian did an outstanding job, bringing the car up to the race lead. Now we must understand this engine problem. We do not want this to happen again at Le Mans, where we will be aiming at the LMP2 podium.”
In two weeks NewBlood by Morand Racing will join La Sarthe for the Test Day (June 1st) and the 82nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 14-15).