Karun Chandhok and Murphy Prototypes team start 7th at Le Mans 24hrs at La Sarthe Circuit
Chandhok is eagerly looking forward to the weekend as the first and only Indian on the grid comprising of 166 drivers. He received acclaim last year then he finished in sixth place overall for JRM Racing and went on to be the first and only Indian to take part and complete the race.
Besides Chandhok, the Murphy Prototypes team will also include Brendon Hartley from New Zealand and Mark Patterson who is placed 2nd in LMP2 at Petit Le Mans. The French circuit is 13.6 kms in length and cars across this circuit touch a top speed of 315 kmph. Thursday night will be dedicated to practice and qualifying so as to enable the drivers to get used to night time driving.
This year also marks the 90th anniversary of Le Mans 24 Hours race. Here the race distance is over 5000 kms while over 280,000 spectators are expected to converge at the venue. Karun Chandhok and Murphy Prototypes finished the first day of practice at a time of 3:44.538 to qualify in 17th place overall, and 9th in their category. Brendon Hartley, Mark Patterson and Karun Chandhok will drive a LMP2 Nissan V8-powered Oreca 03 with Murphy Prototypes. Their 1st qualifying session was cut short by 55th minutes beacuse of a barrier damage at the second Mulsanne chicane.
Chandhok said, “It was OK, there wasn’t really time for quali laps as we were still on reasonably used tyres. We were still doing race set-up because of the red flags, so we didn’t have time to do anything, neither Brendon nor I did any laps in the daylight. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t do any in the night either because of the red flag. It was pretty crazy how much time we lost, so we just focused on race set-up. We’re not bad, but we’ve got work to do and we’ll do what we have to do.”
Brendon Hartley said, “I was planning to do the last 45 minutes this evening and get some laps in, but another red flag and they cancelled the session. I think we’re in good shape though, Karun was in P9 and we weren’t really pushing for quali laps at that point, but I’m sure others have a similar story. We’re feeling reasonably confident, I’m not too worried that I haven’t done any laps yet in the dry, I’ve driven this car enough times and I know the circuit, so I hope to be on it straight away.”
Team Principla Greg Murphy felt the LMP2 category will be one of the most closely contested this weekend with nothing to choose from. He said, “It’s going to be a scrap in LMP2, there are so many teams here that can win this race but we’re here to fight, we’re here to win. So we’ll see. We typically don’t go all out for Qualifying, especially in the toughest 24 hour race in the world, but we’ll to get ourselves into a reasonable position, it won’t be a banzai, but yeah we’d like to move up the grid a bit.”
Earlier today at the 2nd qualifying session, the team set a time of 3:41.569. They will begin the race in 15th place overall, and 7th in their category. A wet and rainy practice session resulted in 9 red flags among teams, and for Murphy Prototypes team, Hartley ran in the qualifying session with a new set of tyres.
Chandhok said, “The morning session was a complete washout and it made no sense to do any laps. With the weather and so many red flags I could not get any running today but will be back in the car for warm-up tomorrow. We are starting in a reasonably good position and will have to push very hard to get a good result. The atmosphere here is unbelievable and I can’t wait to get going on Saturday. I am a little more experienced after racing last year but conditions are a lot more unpredictable this year so should be an interesting race. ”
Brendon Hartley said, “We could have been much better, but it’s qualifying for a 24-hour race. We had some kind of issue with the steering rack – Karun commented on it yesterday and that made it very tricky in the beginning. We are in P7 so it’s not a big deal but with such a long race tomorrow we have little issue to fix, but we’re in good shape.”
Team Principal Greg Murphy said, “We were pretty disappointed to be honest, every time we went for a lap we got traffic, we got red flags… I’m sure it’s a common story up and down the pitlane, but yeah, we really struggled. We had a lot more pace in the car, than we showed today. But seventh position, I think Starworks when they won it last year started in 11th, so we’re reasonable happy, 24 hours to go, we’re here to fight and we’re here to win so I think we have some good speed in the car. We had a problem with all the red flags and stuff, we didn’t get a rhythm, and I feel a little bit for Karun he had very little running, but he’s such a good driver it’s not going to be a problem.”