#LeMans24 Report 2 from @MurphyPrototype
After a reassuring and largely trouble-free opening stint from Jeroen Bleekemolen, things started to become more challenging for Murphy Prototypes as the race became embroiled in its fourth hour. Towards the end of Jeroen’s final stint, the first signs of electrical problems started to become apparent.
While pushing hard, the car suddenly lost power, not once, but twice. In addition, Jeroen was getting some strange and unreliable messages from the dashboard. These included, among others, warnings about low fuel pressure, which didn’t seem right to the Dutchman. He had no option but to head for the pitlane where the car was hauled backwards into the pit garage, where the full complement of mechanics and engineers could work on identifying the problem. Only two can work on the car if it’s still, outside in the pitlane.
Working frantically fast, but with impressive attention to detail, the problem was narrowed down to water having drowned the electrics – one of the hazards of running an open-topped car in torrential rain. It took almost 20 minutes to isolate the issue and replace the damaged circuitry.
The highly experienced Marc Goossens, making his 12th appearance in the Le Mans 24 Hours, returned the car to the track at ten-past six. He was instantly on the pace, and circulating strongly, but half an hour later he was back into the pitlane again. This time the problem, still related to the electrics, was narrowed down to the dashboard itself.
It was another lengthy pitstop, while the crew fitted a new unit, but when Marc returned to the fray, he truly showed his class, setting fastest laps for the #48 that were among the quickest yet set in LMP2. After regaining several lost positions, Marc made a scheduled pitstop at 19:45 to hand on to Ben Keating.
‘Although it was a short stint, there was lots happening,” said Marc “At the start, we had some electrical issues, and the dash had failed completely. There was nothing on the screen, so I had no tachometer, no gear change indication, nothing. However, after the pit stop, everything went back to normal, and I was able to pick up the speed and set some real pace towards the end of the stint.”
“The car is sensitive to oversteer on initial turn-in but I could drive around the problem. The encouraging news is that the tyres were still good at the end of the stint. Earlier in the race we thought we had a problem, as Jeroen’s left rear had a lot of unexpected wear. However, I think we have overcome the tyre-wear issue – and we may even able to save time through triple-stinting the tyres as we get further into the race.”
American Ben Keating began what turned out to be a lengthy 3 hour 16 minute triple-stint. Aside from an unscheduled pitstop for an extra splash of fuel, it all went smoothly and to plan, with Ben steadily picking up his pace as grew more accustomed to the car, and to the circuit. Significantly more so than his experienced co-drivers, Ben had suffered from lack of track time due to the atrocious weather conditions during practice and qualifying. He was now making up for that under the pressure of the race itself, coping impressively, and improving position up as far as P47.
‘I feel really good, not tired at all,” he insisted after clambering out. “I wanted to do a long stint in the car, get into the rhythm, and learn how to drive around some of the handling issues we’re experiencing. The car is not perfect or easy to drive, particularly on turn-in, but the longer I went, the better I felt.”
Coming up to eleven o’clock, Ben had a minor spin. “I was heading through Turn 1, just before the Dunlop Bridge, and I had an LMP1 bearing down on me. I was trying to ensure that I cleared the way for him, but ended up stabbing the brakes mid-bend, causing the car to spin around. I collected it quickly and headed off again, luckily with no ill effect on the car.”
As Marc predicted, the tyres are holding up very well and showing much less wear than expected. Jeroen Bleekemolen is now back in the #48, although the race is currently under the safety car.