Everyone knows that car racing is a sport which can be tough on the nerves of those taking part and that was the case last weekend. A problem with the clutch ruined the hopes of the IDEC SPORT Mercedes #17, which had been performing well.
The first race of the season for IDEC SPORT took place on the Mugello circuit in Italy, where they organised a 12-Hour race in the framework of the 24-Hour Series.
The sun was out for the trials and qualifiers, which IDEC SPORT finished with the eighth best time. During the first 3 hours of racing, Dimitri Enjalbert and Paul Lafargue took turns and were faultless, allowing them to keep up the pace and stay within a lap of the leaders.
“Remembering that a stop to refuel takes four minutes and that a lap is completed in less than two, we were well placed,” explained Frédéric Ducastel, head of the team. “In the final ten minutes before the end of the first part of the race, you’re not able to go for a pit stop. Fifteen minutes before the break, we got Paul (Lafargue) to pull in to change his tyres and fill up, so that he could set off in good condition on Saturday morning. But the car had a problem with its clutch. When the Mercedes is being driven, that doesn’t matter, but you need to use it when pulling in. Seeing there were another nine hours of racing, we asked the Race Directors if we could work on our car, as it could have been dangerous.”
While #17 entered the paddock in seventh place (fifth in virtual terms as two cars had not filled up), she went into the garage for the mechanics to start work on her.
“By choosing to work on the car, we automatically accepted a 10 lap penalty. But there was a safety risk for the drivers and others. If there had been a code 60 (with all the cars driving at 37 miles per hour instead of behind the safety car), everyone rushes to the pits, as you lose less time on the track. If we had had a clutch problem, it could have resulted in an accident,” explained Fred Ducastel.
Once they had identified the fault and carried out repairs, the car went back into the paddock in last position in her category because of speed differentials with the lower categories, but in reality the IDEC SPORT Mercedes was really in fourth place because of the penalty.
“Unlike many other teams, who suffered from burst tyres or accidents, we didn’t have any other problem. We got back up to fifteenth place after nine hours of racing. The three drivers drove well and dealt well with the other cars, which is important on this circuit. That’s what this sport is all about, but the performance was there. We might well have made it to the podium.”
Finishing in 15th place, IDEC SPORT returned from Italy with eight points. The next race in the 24-Hour Series will be at Spa-Francorchamps on 19th and 20trh April.
Meanwhile, Patrice Lafargue and Paul Lafargue will be back with the LMP2s and the European Le Mans Series for the opening event of the season on the Paul Ricard circuit on 14th April.