After being destroyed during the trials, the Oreca #28 IDEC SPORT was rebuilt before the race. The whole team worked hard to be able to get sixth place at the finish. The Ligier #27 missed fifteen minutes of the race after retiring with gearbox problems.
As Jenson Button has said, some results are as pleasing as a win when you know you have given it your all. The Oreca #28 IDEC SPORT’s sixth place was no victory, but was nevertheless an exceptional performance.
The first session of trials went well for IDEC SPORT. The team had found the right set up, allowing them to deal with tyre wear while remaining competitive, which the other cars did not manage. After leaving the track at high speed on the famous Raidillon bend in the second session of trials, the car was destroyed.
While many thought this would put #28 out of running in the Spa-Francorchamps 4-Hour Race, the French team once again showed its strengths and potential by doing their utmost to come up with a solution.
“As soon as we knew that Paul-Loup (Chatin) was OK and could race again, we tried to find a solution. We found that late in the afternoon. We went 500 miles to look for a new chassis in Germany. We got there at half past midnight and we had to fit the parts on the spot. We didn’t have all the equipment, but we managed to get everything set up,” explained Frederic Ducastel, the head of the team. “The lads only got three hours of sleep and as soon as it arrived, they leapt in. We also changed the engine, as otherwise it would have been considered as a mongrel car. We couldn’t refit the engine from the accident so got another one from Gibson. We were really grateful for how everyone behaved. The organisers helped us, Oreca too and the Inter Europol Competition lent us a trailer to pick up the car. It was great seeing everyone work together like that.”
Of course, the Oreca did not take part in the qualifications, but thanks to their extreme motivation, the car was back together again for the race. It set off from the back of the LMP2s. The final details were worked on just before the pit lane opened to line up on the grid. There were then just five minutes left to see whether they needed to return to the pits before sticking to the grid.
“We set the new car up with the basic set up, but couldn’t get everything adjusted. When Paul-Loup set off, he had a problem with the accelerator sensor. The car went to safety mode and went slowly around the lap. It did however make it to the grid, where we readjusted it, so we hadn’t done any testing before the start. The car set off without testing the brakes and steering.”
In spite of all these incidents, the race went well with the car driving well and the drivers on the attack. Once up in second place at the front of the race during a handover, Paul Lafargue, Memo Rojas and Paul-Loup Chatin lost their lead because of a yellow flag with the cars limited to 50 mph. “The full course yellow came just after our handover, so we lost a lot of time. We had a chance of getting on the podium but the others were lucky. That is how it goes,” regretted Frédéric Ducastel. “Getting sixth place is a good result, as some people thought we were out of it, but it leaves a bitter taste. When there are incidents in the race, it is rarely in our favour. We just have to sit back and watch the problems. In any case, it proves our skill. It is rare to have a car that has not been tested up there amongst the frontrunners.”
The Ligier #27 driven by Stéphane Adler, William Cavailhes and Erik Maris did not make it to the finish because of a gearbox problem after 3 hrs and 45 minutes of racing.
“It is still all to play for. The aim will be to win or at least stay in second place in the championship. We won’t give up and we’re in it to win. The whole team are extremely motivated. I hope next time things will be calmer.”
There is just one race left on the 2019 calendar of the ELMS and 13 points separating G-Drive and IDEC SPORT. It will all be down to what happens in Portimao on 27th October.