The FAI-sponsored DragonSpeed LMP1 challenge at the 2019 Le Mans ended during the night, despite a huge effort to keep the car running to the finish.
The Gulf-liveried and FAI-supported DragonSpeed LMP1 effort to emulate a win, 50 years on from the legendary 1969 Le Mans victory, came to a premature end with around nine hours of the race run, as the striking-looking blue and orange machine was stranded out in the Le Mans countryside with a gear selection problem.
The 87th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours had started well for DragonSpeed and FAI, with Indycar racing star, Ben Hanley, comfortably holding his seventh-place from the grid and looking to move up the order; however, the car suffered a freak rear diffuser issue, which meant the car had to come into the pits and change the rear bodywork (top and bottom) in order to keep the car running within the regulations.
The stop cost the car six laps and dropped it down almost to the back of the 61-car field. A strong drive from Henrik Hedman, though, moved the car up from 59th to 29th within an hour. Renger van der Zande then took over and was heading further up the rankings when a gearbox actuator failure brought him back into the pits.
A repair seemed to have cured the issue, but, frustratingly, the same problem re-occurred forcing the #10 blue and orange, Gulf-liveried car, back into the pits. Over two further intense sessions, the team worked vigorously to get the FAI machine back into the race competitively, but, ultimately, Renger lost gear selection completely out on the circuit, and he was forced to abandon the car two thirds of the way around the lap, when the time was close to midnight.
FAI Automotive Managing Director, Sean Walker, was quick to applaud the team and its efforts: “As a racer, I know that you don’t always make it to the finish line, but you can’t fault the effort the DragonSpeed team put in, so I understand the determination and passion of the team by trying to get the car to the end of the race. It was an exceptional endeavour.”
“It is a great pity, for everyone concerned,” said DragonSpeed Team Principal, Elton Julian. “The car looked great and had won the hearts of many – the Spirit of 1969 concept attracted massive global coverage across social media, and it is just desperately disappointing, especially after the incredible effort the entire team put in, that we couldn’t deliver a finish.”
This weekend, FAI continues its motorsport programme in the Superbike World Championship, with the factory Ducati team ready the Pata Riviera Di Rimini round, as championship-leader, Alvaro Bautista, and Chaz Davies look to continue their fantastic form.