KC Motorgroup Ltd. (KCMG) were in contention for the LMP2 class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, before suffering an electrical issue that forced them out of the race.
It had been a promising start for the Hong Kong-based squad, with British ace Richard Bradley doing an excellent four-hour stint, where he went from the outfit’s starting position of ninth to fifth in tricky conditions. With torrential rain sweeping across Circuit de la Sarthe moments before the 15:00 start, the 84th running of the French endurance classic had got underway behind the Safety Car. Richard had taken advantage of this caution period, as he pitted for intermediates on lap seven.
Halfway through his mammoth stint, the team bolted a set of slicks on the #47 machine with the track beginning to dry out. The 24-year-old was able to lift the car into the top three, after a run of consistently quick laps around the 13.629 kilometre venue.
Matt, who claimed the class victory for KCMG in Le Mans alongside Richard last year, then took over from his fellow Brit at 19:00 to begin his first stint in the car. The Norwich-born driver had limited running during the qualifying sessions but was quick to get up to speed in the #47 ORECA 05-Nissan, holding fourth place for much of his spell.
During the two-and-a-half hours Matt drove he didn’t put a foot wrong, and was able to get the car back into a podium spot, after the #44 Manor span in front of him at the Dunlop chicane. Two-time Formula Nippon champion Tsugio Matsuda then took to the track just before 21:30 keeping third position and showing good pace, before suffering from an issue after a piece of debris hit the car’s marshalling system, killing the master switch.
The #47 ORECA 05-Nissan came to a halt on Mulsanne straight, with Matsuda pulling over to the right-hand side of the track.
It looked like the #47 machine was facing retirement, but the Japanese pilot was able to get the car back to the garage after over an hour delay. Richard then took back over the wheel, after an excellent effort from the technical team.
However, a few laps into Bradley’s stint, the car ran into the gravel trap after suffering more electrical-related gremlins and the team was forced to retire the car.
Tsugio Matsuda: “I was very disappointed that we weren’t able to finish the race. It’s a shame, but it was a great experience to be back at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Even though we didn’t have enough time to test the car, it still showed strong pace and I’m very proud of how everyone in the team performed. The boys did an excellent job fixing the car, and for the first six hours we were in the top three. Again many thanks to all of our supporters and I hope to be back next year with the team!”
Matt Howson: “Our initial problem was related to the marshalling system. We then started to encounter some electrical issues, which led to a loss of battery voltage, and ultimately power steering, which put Richard into the gravel where he was unable to restart. We’re not yet sure if the issues are related so the team will investigate further when the car returns. Obviously we’re so disappointed as we were right in the race for the LMP2 victory, and I can’t thank everyone at KCMG enough for their efforts, I’m certain we’ll have our time again. I had a great return to Le Mans after Richard’s superb opening stints, putting us in the fight for first position from ninth on the grid. We had a lot more pace to use when needed, and it’s been satisfying to show once again what a force KCMG is in LMP2”
Richard Bradley: “It’s obviously gutting, you can always look at the negative side, but that’s not going to gain anything. We came in; we did one race, and didn’t have as much preparation as anyone else, but ended up being very competitive. It looked like we had a very real chance of a podium. While the car was running everybody did their job very well and the team can be happy with that, and now we can look forward to the future.”