The Murphy Prototypes Endurance Racing Team has qualified eighth in the highly competitive LMP2 category for this weekend’s 83rd running of the 24-Hours of Le Mans.
Following the build-up to the most famous endurance race in the world, which included scrutineering, public displays, autograph signing and other promotional activities, the 56 teams taking part in this year’s Le Mans 24-hours took to the 13.629km (8.46-mile) Circuit de la Sarthe for the first time since the official test 10-days ago, for four-hours of Free Practice at 4.00pm on Wednesday (10th June).
Karun Chandhok was the first in the car, initially driving in wet conditions following a downpour earlier in the afternoon. He then handed over to Mark Patterson who, after a few laps, began to explore the levels of grip on the drying track, which resulted in a spin at the Porsche Curves, significant contact with a barrier, a red flag and a trip to the pits on the back of a recovery truck.
Thankfully Mark was unharmed, but the same could not be said for the team’s Nissan-powered Oreca 03R. With around three hours before the first of the event’s three, two-hour qualifying sessions, the team’s technicians set to work to repair the damage. This involved replacing the suspension, much of the bodywork and a number of other ancillary items.
After a truly determined effort, the car was ready with 25-minutes of the qualifying session left and, although held up by slower cars, Nathanaël Berthon was able to set a lap time that meant with rain forecast for the two, two-hour qualifying sessions the following day, whatever happened the team would start ahead of the slower GT cars at the latter end of the field.
With the second qualifying session not taking place until 7.00pm on Thursday, it gave the Murphy team more time to work on the car following the previous day’s incident. As it transpired, the weather proved the forecasters wrong and, after a hot and sultry day, conditions were dry when Nathanaël took the car out for the first stint. After 30-minutes, the lap charts showed him set the fourth-fastest LMP2 time, underlining that the team was back in the game.
Mark was next in the car and quickly laid the spectre of his previous day’s encounter to rest. However, his stint was cut short again, this time when another competitor hit a barrier with 42-minutes remaining, forcing the organisers to abandon the session while they cleared the track. The incident saw qualifying session three start at 9.30pm and extended by another 30-minutes.
In the final session, all three drivers completed at least the mandatory five laps in the dark in order to qualify. With a cooler track, lap times decreased across the board, with the Murphy team extremely satisfied having qualified eighth on aggregate in the LMP2 category and 20th overall. However, in 24-hour event, it’s as much about reliability and consistency than it is out-and-out pace, which plays nicely into to the hands of the team who have proved time and again why they are leading contenders in the European Le Mans Series.
Friday (tomorrow) is a promotional day, with attractions and activities laid on for the public. During the day some of the drivers will take part in a golf match arranged by the event organisers, followed by a driver parade in the town centre. The race starts at 3:00pm on Saturday (all times are CEST – one-hour ahead of BST).
Greg Murphy – Team Principal
The team did a great job to get the car back to 100% following Mark’s unfortunate moment. It’s clear from the times we achieved in the qualifying sessions that we’re back on the same pace we were during the official test. So, our sights are well are truly set – as they have always been – on an LMP2 podium position this weekend.”
“With the traffic and changing track conditions I was not able to do a perfect lap. I think there’s more to come from the car too, so I believe we can improve on our qualifying times in the race.”
“Having not driven since yesterday afternoon, it was good to get back in the car for the final Qualifying session. From how the car felt this evening, I think we have a better race pace than qualifying pace, which is good news for the weekend.”
I was pleased to be in the car this evening and to get back behind the wheel following what happened yesterday. Karun gave me some useful tips and I could see where to make up time, so I’m feeling confident for the race. I must also give a big thanks to the guys in the pits for fixing the car I broke. They did a great job.”
Follow the team
Watch the race live at: http://www.24h-lemans.com/live/en/
Murphy Prototypes is an Irish-owned endurance racing team that is located in Brackley, Northamptonshire, England. Headed up by Dublin businessman Greg Murphy, the team is Ireland’s sole representative in the LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype Class 2) category in the ELMS (European Le Mans Series) and the 24-Hours of Le Mans. The car used by the team is a Nissan-powered Oreca 03R prototype sportscar.
Karun Chandhok was born in Chennai in India in 1984 (31) and now lives in Brackley, Northamptonshire, England. He became one of only two drivers from India to compete in Formula 1 when he raced for HRT and Lotus in 2010 and 2011. He was the first ever Indian to start Le Mans in 2012 and raced for the Murphy Prototypes team there in 2013 and 2014. Karun currently competes in the FIA Formula-e Championship.
Mark Patterson was born in the Republic of South Africa in 1951 (63) and has lived and worked in New York for most of his life. It wasn’t until his 40s that Mark started in motorsport and has since raced in a variety of championships in the USA and UK and competed at no less than 57 circuits around the world in a variety of GT and Prototype sportscars. Mark is proud of the fact that his race-pace defies his age, as he is by three-years the oldest driver in the ELMS – where he drives for Murphy Prototypes – this season and most probably the only Grandfather on the grid.
Nathanaël Berthon was born in Romagnat, France in 1989 (25) and continues to live in the same region. He claimed his first European title in 2005 driving karts and went on to compete in single-seaters. He has tested Formula 1 cars and, from 2012, has competed in the GP2 Championship, scoring a number of podium finishes, with his most recent top-three achieved in Bahrain this year. In 2014 he made the move into sports cars and drove for Murphy Prototypes at Le Mans and in the ELMS.