Following a highly successful showing in the official pre-season prologue at Paul Ricard two weeks ago, when Nathanaël Berthon recorded the fastest lap-time over the two days of testing, the Murphy Prototypes team eagerly anticipates the start of this year’s European Le Mans Series at Silverstone on Saturday (11th April).
Driving the team’s Oreca 03R Nissan LMP2, Frenchman Berthon – from Romagnat – posted his best time in the first session of the test. Team mates, RSA-born Mark Patterson from New York and Englishman Michael Lyons from Bishops Stortford also ran well and collectively, signalled that Murphy Prototypes has the potential to challenge for this year’s ELMS title.
“Of course, being quickest in the test was a great way to start the season, but we all know that testing is different than racing”, said Dublin-based Team Principal Greg Murphy. “We have a really strong driver line-up this year and I believe we can carry the momentum forward to the first round, especially as the team is based in Brackley, which means Silverstone is our home track. It would be great to come away with a top result this weekend, as I make no secret of the fact that we’re going all-out to win the ELMS title this year.”
Berthon took the ELMS field by storm in the official pre-season test and feels that the potential is definitely there to continue the form for this weekend: “I don’t see any reason why we can’t carry over the performance from Paul Ricard. Even though Silverstone is a different type of circuit, I am confident we can adapt to the changes in the track.”
When asked if setting the fastest time in the Prologue put him under any pressure for the first race of the season, Berthon said: “I don’t feel any more pressure, as we have a fast car and I like Silverstone. I have enjoyed a number of podium finishes there, whether it’s been dry and hot, or wet and cold, although I will see if I can bring some sunshine from France with me!”
The Ricard test also went well for Lyons, who admitted he learnt a great deal about driving a Prototype, having previously contested the ELMS in a GTE car: “The biggest difference I found is in the braking. Combined with the lighter weight and increased aero, the LMP car feels so much more responsive.
“Looking back at the Prologue test, I think its fair to say it went pretty well, so I feel quite confident going into the first round. Nathanaël’s single lap pace was excellent and Mark also proved strong in his stints, which bodes very well for the rest of the season. I’m really looking forward to Silverstone. Not only is it my home race in the BRDC’s back garden, but its also one of my favourite circuits and the thought of racing the Murphy Oreca there this weekend is a very exciting prospect.”
Joining Berthon and Lyons in the Murphy Prototypes Nissan-powered Oreca is the experienced Mark Patterson, who is also positive about the forthcoming race: “It took a long time after Nathanaël hit that best lap at Ricard for any other driver to get within four-tenths of the Murphy machine. These three-driver short endurance formats make it critical for all drivers to hold their own and I think that our mix puts us fairly high up the ladder of combined driver speeds.”
Patterson says he doesn’t mind that he is the oldest driver and possibly the only grandfather on the ELMS grid: “Like so many other hexagenarians still competing, I’ve seen many of the world’s best circuits. Of those with no elevation challenges, Silverstone, Monza and Sebring are the greatest ‘flat’ tracks I’ve driven. Add in the inevitable UK weather patterns and a Silverstone weekend is always a season-high to look forward to. Copse-Maggots-Becketts here we come!”
This year’s ELMS action kicks off on Friday with a 60-minute Free Practice session in the morning and another 90-minute session in the afternoon. Qualifying for the Prototype classes takes place between 11.30 and 11.50 on Saturday, with the four-hour ELMS championship race getting the green light at 14.30. All times are BST.
For further details and to find the latest news about the Murphy Prototypes team, plus images and videos, visit the Facebook page or the team’s website: http://www.murphyprototypes.com