#LeMans24 Through the Night with #MurphysMen @MurphyPrototype
As dawn broke over the Circuit de la Sarthe, the crew and drivers behind the #48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03 were breathing a collective sigh of relief. What had appeared to be a faint hope only a few hours previously had been consolidated through the night into a very respectable 30th place overall, some 25 positions having been regained by some determined driving through the hours of darkness.
As Saturday had crept inexorably through to the early hours of Sunday, Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen had steered the #48 steadily up through the order, taking advantage of other’s occasional mishaps, keeping out of further trouble, and maintaining a steady and impressive pace.
The race had not been without incident – far from it – and a succession of safety car periods had punctuated the story of what had developed into a thrilling race, not only for the overall lead, but also in LMP2. The team’s only regret was that the #48 couldn’t be there at the sharp end to take advantage.
Jeroen’s stint, which had started at quarter past eleven on Saturday, lasted almost three hours, and saw him rise from very close to last place, up through the tail-enders, until he was running in a secure 37th position. The Dutchman then handed over to Marc Goossens, who used all his vast experience to maintain the charge for another triple-stint. He captured another four positions before Ben Keating began his second series of stints at five in the morning.
A number of extraordinary events then happened. Five of the front-runners in LMP2 encountered problems that ranged from fairly straightforward spins and accidents, incurring modest damage and costing just a handful of laps, through to major incidents that resulted in almost instant retirement. One of the net beneficiaries was Ben Keating in the #48, who was not only picking off more of the GT cars, but also overtaking his stricken peers in LMP2.
As the race moved on into its seventeenth hour, Ben eased through into 30th place overall, passing the unfortunate Tommy Milner in the #64 Corvette, who’d just suffered a high speed impact with a tyre wall on the Dunlop Curve. That incident was followed by an equally kinetic accident for Pierre Thiriet in the second-placed LMP2 Oreca #46 at the Mulsanne Corner. The safety cars were deployed, which saw Ben through to eight o’clock and his final pitstop.
When Jeroen took back control of the #48 at ten-past eight, #murphysmen were lying 26th overall, 15th in LMP2, having once been 23rd, almost last. It begs the question, where might they have been if the rain hadn’t scuppered their electrics all those hours ago?
Seven hours of this astonishing race remain – the equivalent (and more) of a regular round of the World Endurance Championship.