Le Mans (France), June 15 (IANS) Indian car racing ace Karun Chandhok and his Murphy Prototypes Endurance Racing Team finished the 24 Hours of Le Mans in fifth position in the Le Mans Prototype Class 2 (LMP2) category and 13th place overall out of 55 starters.
The team was running as high as third and on course for their first podium finish before they suffered problems but still managed to finish fifth.
The historic Circuit de la Sarthe saw over 260,000 spectators present for the 83rd running of the world’s most famous endurance race. France President Francois Hollande flagged off the race.
Chandhok was happy to finish the race but did not feel the team was fast enough for a podium.
“It’s a hard race to finish and I’m pleased for the whole team to have achieved it. Although we had a few problems, we may have only gained one place if we hadn’t. This would have still not seen us on the podium and that’s what we were aiming for. As a team, we are getting the best out of the car and therefore, this weekend represented a great effort all round,” said Chandhok.
The race got underway at 3.00 p.m. in hot and sunny conditions. Nathanaël Berthon was the first of the three Murphy Prototypes’ drivers to get behind the wheel of the team’s Nissan-powered Oreca 03R prototype and a clear getaway by the whole field saw Nathanaël holding station to his grid position eighth in class and 18th overall.
After a treble stint lasting two-and-a-half hours by Nathanaël, Chandhok followed with a series of impressively consistent laps and when Mark Patterson took over the controls after five hours, the team was lying in an impressive third in LMP2 and holding an overall position of 13th.
By the time Patterson finished his double stint it was dark and Nathanaël and Karun guided the car through the hours of darkness. Now fifth in class and 14th overall, the team knew that there was lot of work to be done overnight if the team was to realise its goal of a podium.
At the halfway point at 3 a.m., the time sheets showed the team had moved up to fourth in class and 12th overall – a position that was improved further when an LMP2 car ahead went off the road at the end of the Mulsanne straight. An hour later, another LMP2 category competitor retired with a mechanical problem. This meant the team was now third in class and suddenly the target was becoming a distinct possibility.
Karun was in the car for the sunrise shift and was delayed while the team removed some debris from the air intakes. It was then Patterson’s turn again and after nearly two hours he was clipped from behind as a car went to overtake. After a brief visit to the pits, a spin and contact from another car saw the Murphy Oreca back in the pits for further repairs, but this time the work was to take over 20 minutes.
When Nathanaël exited the pits, he was sixth — six laps down on the fifth-placed car and five laps ahead of the seventh.
When Karun jumped in to take the car to the end of the race, the Murphy team had moved up a place to fifth in class and 13th overall. The position was held until the end.