HIGHCROFT HEARTACHE TAKES U.S. CHAMPS OUT OF CONTENTION Le Mans LE MANS, FRANCE, Sunday, June 13, 2010: Highcroft Racing completed its goal of finishing the toughest endurance sportscar race in the world today at the 24 Hours of Le Mans - but...
HIGHCROFT HEARTACHE TAKES U.S. CHAMPS OUT OF CONTENTION
Le Mans LE MANS, FRANCE, Sunday, June 13, 2010: Highcroft Racing completed its goal of finishing the toughest endurance sportscar race in the world today at the 24 Hours of Le Mans - but the reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champions discovered why the classic event is the ultimate test of man and machine.
Marino Franchitti completed two laps at the end of the 24 event, completing a stint which actually began six hours earlier after David Brabham handed over the reigns shortly after 9.00am.
The Highcroft Racing Honda Performance Development factory-backed ARX-01c had performed strongly through the night, sitting solidly in second place in the LMP2 class.
As Marino was starting to make serious in-roads into the lead enjoyed by European-based HPD rivals Strakka Racing, the team were forced to bring the Malaria No More car into the pits to investigate a cooling issue.
The Highcroft and HPD engineers actually completed five extended stops trying to solve the issue before being forced to give up on their LMP2 podium dream.
Le Mans Franchitti stepped out the car for 2 1/2 hours while the team worked on ensuring the car could complete the final laps and be classified as a finisher.
Franchitti, Brabham and Marco Werner had all performed faultlessly throughout the night, the team actually taking the class lead during the pit stop rotations.
The team had qualified second in class on Thursday night and set chase after the Strakka HPD machine with Brabham, Franchitti and Werner taking turns at the wheel.
Three unscheduled pit stops to replace punctured tires hindered the team's assault on the class lead - one suffered by Franchitti forcing the Scotsman to complete almost an entire lap of the circuit on a flag tire.
Highcroft was eventually classified in 25th place in its Le Mans debut. Strakka took the class victory with Danny Watts, Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis behind the wheel. Oak Racing's Pescarolo Judd finished 2nd in LMP2 while another HPD engine - this one mounted to a Lola Coupe entered by RML finished third.
While the team may not have achieved victory today, the entire Le Mans event proved to be a major success for Malaria No More. The Highcroft HPD entry featured major signage for Malaria No More and Radio Le Mans also adopted the cause as the official charity of the English-language commentary channel.
A highlight of the special auction is a banner signed by the Highcroft drivers plus a host of others including multiple Le Mans winners Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, Peugeot stars Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Nicolas Minassian and ex-Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell.
Fans can bid on this amazing souvenir and help raise funds to protect African families from malaria at www.milestoendmalaria.org/auction
Brabs Le Mans Icon DAVID BRABHAM
"Obviously everyone is disappointed in the end result but we can't put our heads down too much because this is the first time the team has been to Le Mans.
"It is a very tough event but the team showed how serious Highcroft Racing is. We ran in the top two throughout the entire race and it was a very good effort overall.
"Unfortunately, we had a problem towards the end but the team has learned a hell of a lot.
"The positive aspect from everything is the team will look at the overall experience - preparing for the race, getting here and what happened during the race. The good thing about Highcroft Racing is they are not frightened to look at how they can improve.
"You can't gain experience at Le Mans without coming here, so I think the team will learn a lot from this week.
"The entire team and my teammates did an exceptional job. Marino and Marco were outstanding through the night and we were getting set to really start putting the pressure on before the problem struck."
Marino Le Mans Icon MARINO FRANCHITTI
"It has been a fantastic experience for the entire Highcroft crew. We've learned a huge amount as a group and there is a lot of pride in the way the team performed.
"The team were outside of their comfort zone for their first attempt at Le Mans - I think the guys did an outstanding job.
"Everything that we could control as a team we did well. Everything that Le Mans could throw at us, it did. In a way, that is good for the future because we can come back better prepared.
"I really don't think there is anything the team could have done differently, I think the team has performed fantastically.
"My Le Mans prototype debut was an amazing thrill. Before it went bad this morning we were really flying. The car was right in the zone and everything felt fantastic.
"I was having a huge amount of fun. It has been a great experience and I have certainly learned a lot and got to the level I want in the prototypes.
"I'm just disappointed, now I have to wait 12 months to come back and do it again."
Marco Le Mans Icon MARINO FRANCHITTI
"This is not the type of finish we were really looking for. We expected to finish on the podium and challenge for the win.
"Everything was going well and we were still in second place despite the problems that we had.
"The additional stops with the punctures put us behind the Strakka car a bit. Our pace at times was very good and we were still in a position to hopefully challenge for victory towards the end.
"I really enjoyed the car a lot this weekend. In my first stint I was a lot closer to the pace required and it was really nice to enjoy the car.
"I've had a great time with Highcroft Racing this weekend. It has been a nice week and considering this is a team very new to Le Mans, they did an amazing job.
"It is a bit of a shame about the finish but I am really proud to be a part of this team."
Duncan Dayton DUNCAN DAYTON
"As we said all along, and it wasn't just a cliche, this race was going to be a huge learning experience for us and we take away hundreds of individual lessons as to how to, and how not to do, Le Mans.
"From that standpoint it is a very big success. We achieved one of our objectives which was to learn about this race, but didn't make a few of the others which included a class win and a top ten finish. We had a bit of bad luck, but we can't blame it on that. The Strakka guys have executed flawlessly and to a man on the Highcroft team we tip our hats to them.
"They have done an excellent job and have thoroughly deserved the victory
"It can be a cruel sport sometimes. We'll learn our lessons, do our homework and come back and do a better job next time.
"The guys at Highcroft really did an amazing job - I am very proud of them and would certainly go into battle with them any day. They faced a huge task in getting everything ready to run this aero package and do this style of pit stop for the first time.
"They are all extremely dedicated and I am eternally grateful for their efforts and very proud to come to Le Mans with them to fly the Highcroft flag.
"The drivers also did an incredible performance. The car wasn't easy to drive early in the race but all three guys did a brilliant job and our pace this morning was exceptionally strong and I was looking forward to how the battle could have panned out."