Petit le Mans - Andy in a Jag
The season may be over for RML AD Group, and the team’s Lola HPD offered up for sale, but there’s still plenty of racing going on elsewhere, and some of it does have a relevance to the team.
The second round of the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup takes place this coming weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, at the famous Road Atlanta circuit. The first “Petit Le Mans event took place in 1998, and this annual ten-hour, 1000 miler soon became established as one of the true “classics” of endurance racing, ranked alongside the likes of the Sebring 12 Hour, the Daytona 24 and many of the historic 1000 Kilometre events that bejewel motorsport’s rich heritage. Just as American teams make the pilgrimage to France each year to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours, a handful of European teams repay the compliment by crossing the Atlantic to challenge in the States.
This year is no exception, and Peugeot and Audi will exchange gauntlets again as they go head-to-head once more, picking up where they left off at Silverstone just a few weeks ago. Drayson Racing will be there as well, with Jonny Cocker hoping to maintain his impressive run in the patriotically-liveried Lola Coupé.
Oak Racing will be representing France, and have entered one of their Pescarolo Judd LMP2 prototypes. They haven’t taken their strongest driver squad, so Guillaume Moreau is absent, but it will be interesting to see how the LMS front-running squad performs against the ALMS regulars.
Interest for RML and its followers will centre on one of the GT2 entrants, where the #33 Jaguar XKR is being shared by Butch Leitzinger, Tommy Drissi and RML’s Andy Wallace.
Andy will be making his eleventh appearance at Petit Le Mans, which he last won outright in 1999 with Panoz, co-driving with David Brabham and Eric Bernard. More significantly, perhaps, the drive re-unites Wallace with the marque that brought him to worldwide prominence so early in his remarkable career; Jaguar.
“I'm thrilled to be back in a Jaguar for Petit Le Mans,” Andy told us, just before flying out to the States earlier this week. “My early career in sportscar racing was behind the wheel of a TWR Jaguar, and I enjoyed some fantastic results, including victories at Le Mans and Daytona. Recently, I've been lucky enough to drive a 1988 Silk Cut XJR-9 again, as well as a 1990 Castrol XJR-10, both beautifully prepared for historic races by Don Law Racing. I have also driven demo laps in "my" 1988 Le Mans-winning Jaguar, which was a real trip down memory lane.”
Those memories stem from the days when Jaguar dominated Group C racing, and TWR was the team to beat at Le Mans, Silverstone, Daytona or Brands Hatch. Things have changed a great deal since then, and so too have the cars. This weekend he’ll be squeezing into the cockpit of one of the JaguarRSR (formerly Rocket Sports Racing) XKRs and battling on track with GT2 Porsches, Ferraris, BMWs and (if they can get it running) the new Panoz Abruzzi. The XKR had a less than glorious run at Le Mans in June, but has performed with far greater promise since then, and it certainly looks the part.
“I'm really looking forward to racing the RSR Jaguar XKR here at Road Atlanta this weekend and to be joining one of my long time team mates, Butch Leitzinger, in the car. GT2 in the ALMS is very competitive and we are under no illusion about the strength of the competition. The car is still very new and is improving all the time. Race by race the JaguarRSR XKR GT2 is getting better and better, so I am really thrilled to be a part of their program and hope I can contribute to a good result. We also want to put on a good show for Jaguar and their fans,” added Andy.
"We are very excited to welcome Andy to the team," said Paul Gentilozzi, JaguarRSR Principal Partner. "He is a world-class driver, and has a wealth of knowledge not only in sportscars, but also the Jaguar brand. As we focus on a good run in the Petit Le Mans for both our cars, we also look at this as the start of our attack for 2011. Having such a talented, well-rounded driver line-up is only going to help us get the Jaguar where it belongs, at the top of its class."
What the team is also hoping, perhaps, is that a good result at the tail-end of the 2010 season will tempt Jaguar’s new owners, Tata, to offer more support for the programme in 2011 and thereby fulfil their early assurances that the future of Jaguar, as a brand, is in motorsport, at Le Mans, and with a fully factory-supported team.
It’s a tough challenge for the team. The car that has huge potential, but is still in the early stages of development. We’ll follow the team’s fortunes at Road Atlanta with interest, and those of Andy of course. Only 394 laps to go!
If you don’t have Motors TV, then catch all the action and behind-the-scenes gossip by tuning in to Radio Le Mans – click the link.
Petit Le Mans Update
Sadly, the race did not go well for Andy and the #33 Jaguar, which retired from the race with engine problems after just 16 laps. The sister car didn't fare much better, completing only a further 66 laps before also succumbing to mechanical problems.
Oak Racing, despite fielding their less-pacey line-up, carried the flag for European LMP2 with yet another podium, the #35 Pescarolo taking the flag third in class, ninth overall.
The Drayson Lola finished just one up on the Frenchmen, crossing the line in 8th, fifth in LMP1.
Overall victors were Peugeot, scoring a dominant one-two by a couple of laps from the first of the Audis; Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello having to be content with third. Top honours in LMP2 went to the Highcroft HPD trio of David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Simon Pagenaud, a remarkable 11 laps clear of the second placed Muscle Milk Porsche Spyder.
The HPD was also the first petrol-powered car to finish, although only just. The venerable (five-year old) Intersport Lola AER LMP1 was still going strong on the same lap, and outfinished the second Audi R15 by six laps.
Practice and qualifying for Petit Le Mans in America had been plagued by atrocious weather - a bit like the Ryder Cup in Wales - but the 1000 mile race itself was largely played out beneath clear skies and sunshine. It's a pity the same couldn't be said for the Britcar 24 taking place at Silverstone, where rain, drizzle and fog persisted for much of the race, with only the start and finish run in the dry. Nearly 60 cars started the race, and more than 40 were still there at the end of 24 very challenging hours.
went to the MJC Ferrari 430 (right),
driven by Witt Gamski, Keith Robinson, John
Gaw and Phil Dryburgh. Second to cross the
line, just half a lap behind, was the #22 JetAlliance
Porsche 997 (above) co-driven by
Martin Rich, Lukas Lichtner-Hoyer, Marco Seefried,
Vitus Eckert and Michel Nykjaer.