Motorsport: Kiwi driver soars at Le Mans

By Eric Thompson

Brendon Hartley 13th despite problems, writes Eric Thompson

New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley tears up the track at Le Mans despite hiccups along the way. Pictures / Supplied
New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley tears up the track at Le Mans despite hiccups along the way. Pictures / Supplied

Brendon Hartley's Murphy Prototypes LMP2 team is thrilled at finishing seventh in its class despite an early setback at the 90th anniversary of the the Le Mans 24 Hour.

Hartley did the lion's share of the driving at just over 10 hours behind the wheel. After climbing from around 58th after engine control unit (ECU) problems, the team went on to to finish 13th in a field of 68 cars.

"I couldn't work out why the car was down on power early in the race and it took a few pit stops for the team to work out what was wrong," Kiwi Hartley told Driven after the race.

"We found out that the ECU mapping was all wrong and the fuel pressure was too high, flushing loads of fuel into the engine, and we had to change it.

"That put us down three-odd laps at the start and in about last place."

Not one to be concerned about a bit of bad luck, Hartley did what he does best - go fast. As he hauled the team up the leader board he was consistently setting the fastest laps in the LMP2 class prompting the respected Autosport website to say he was the fastest man on circuit.

"We just chipped away, stayed out of trouble and began to move up the table until Mark [co-driver Mark Patterson] had a little off-track excursion that set us back a bit again.

"The pit crew and the engineers did a fantastic job to keep the car running so well for the 24 hours," said Hartley.

Unfortunately for Hartley, Patterson and the third driver, former F1 pilot Karun Chandhok, that wasn't going to be the last of their problems. They lost another five-plus minutes in the pits when someone made contact with the car and ripped off one of the side numbers. These are important as they are illuminated at night. To refit the number, a large chunk of the bodywork had to be removed.

"Another one of those niggling little problems, I suppose. We didn't have the fastest car on the track but we were always inside the top three for the fastest lap times. Although it's annoying we didn't get on the podium I'm really happy with the way I drove," said Hartley.

"I reckon if we didn't have those hiccups, we could have definitely been on the podium. Just to finish is a big achievement though.

"I did a lot of hours in the car and I had an awesome stint during the night but it was all three of us who made sure we fought hard and got inside the top 10.

"There was a sense of disappointment afterwards, but we all knew we did a bloody good job and we did celebrate that we had such a good race and brought the car home in one piece," he said.

The flying Kiwi is now packing his bags and heading across the Atlantic to strap up in the next round of the American Grand Am series at Watkins Glen.

The 90th anniversary of the running of the world's oldest endurance race will be remembered for the death of Allan Simonsen. The Danish racer has been a regular fixture at the V8 Supercars endurance rounds since 2003 and was a popular figure in pit lane.

Simonsen was due to partner V8 driver David Wall at Brad Jones Racing in this year's endurance rounds. He left the Le Mans circuit early in the race, while behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, hitting a barrier and was killed. Aston Martin team continued to race after Simonsen's family said they wanted the team to continue in his honour.

- NZ Herald

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