Expectation was high as Marino Franchitti, his two co-drivers, David Brabham and Marco Werner, together with the entire Highcroft Racing team arrived at the famed 24 hour circuit in Le Mans nestled in the Sarthe region of France. Both David and ...
Expectation was high as Marino Franchitti, his two co-drivers, David Brabham and Marco Werner, together with the entire Highcroft Racing team arrived at the famed 24 hour circuit in Le Mans nestled in the Sarthe region of France. Both David and Marco each had three Le Mans wins to their credit, albeit two of David's were in categories other than his overall win in an LMP1 last year, and Marino was about to take full advantage of all their experience and hard fought success to settle himself into the event. Qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday went well, the team having secured 2nd place in LMP2 next to the HPD ARX-01c chassis of Strakka Racing who had put their team on the LMP2 category pole.
David Brabham took the wheel of the Highcroft Racing Honda Performance Development factory backed ARX-01c for the start of the 78th running of this historic event which is also renowned as the biggest motor racing challenge for any man or machine taking part in it. As the hours passed by the driver's cycled through their rotations steadily and consistently holding on to their second placing.
In total the team suffered three punctures all resulting from the debris strewn track, one of the punctures befell Marino after approximately ten hours of running and just after the start of a new lap as he arrived at the Dunlop Bridge. This required Marino to use all his skill in bringing the car back to the pits at just 60kph for the remainder of the 8.5 mile lap in order not to cause any unnecessary damage to the car.
The solid performance of all three drivers continued right through the night and at one point the team actually lead their class when pit stop rotations were taken by the Strakka Racing team.
It was 9.00am when David Brabham completed his dawn stint today handing the car over once again to Marino for his next set of multiple stints. No sooner had Marino begun to make strong inroads into the Strakka lead than he was forced to pit by the HPD engineers who wanted to investigate a cooling issue which had arisen in the Malaria No More liveried Highcroft car. It took five lengthy pit stops to try to resolve the problem which eventually robbed the Highcroft team of their Le Mans podium.
However, the car was repaired sufficiently for Marino to get back into it and complete the final 2.5 laps giving the Highcroft team their first Le Mans race finish.
"Disappointment is the over-riding feeling after such a programme and having spent so long in it's preparation," said Marino after the race, "But I am very proud of the job the whole Highcroft team did at their first Le Mans, and I am very proud of the job David and Marco did also. Everything about the team, and everything within their control, was first-class, and we are not going to let such a disappointment get us down, we will turn that into a positive for the future. Congratulations to the Strakka team, they did a fantastic job. I know Highcroft will be back, they were at such a high level already and next time they will be at a different level again."
Marino returns to the US with the Highcroft team in just three week's time when the team contest the second half of the ALMS season which begins in Salt Lake City on Saturday, 10th July.