Murphy Prototypes overcomes challenges to qualify P8 in LMP2 class at Le Mans
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.”