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JRM takes sixth in 'amazing achievement' at Le Mans
18 June 2012
JRM Racing achieved its ambitious objective of finishing the Le Mans 24 Hours at its first attempt and the line-up of David Brabham, Peter Dumbreck and Karun Chandhok provided an added bonus by scooping sixth overall as the second-best privateer team.
The British-based team, led by team principal James Rumsey and team manager Nigel Stepney, passed the flag after 24 hours and 357 laps of hard-fought racing, with the three drivers racking up over 4800km in a largely untroubled display.
Brabham, a winner at La Sarthe in 2009, took the start in the team's Honda-powered HPD ARX-03a car, immediately gaining one place from a starting slot of eleventh before setting a consistent pace to hold tenth throughout his three-hour stint behind the wheel. Chandhok took over just after 1700hrs local time and launched straight into a quadruple shift on his first appearance in the famed race. Undaunted, the Indian - the first to compete at Le Mans - moved the #22 machine from P10 to P8 by the end of his spell, before giving the wheel to Dumbreck, who then started to exchange positions with the #13 Rebellion Lola, gaining a position when the latter pitted and losing it again when he himself refuelled.
The Scot later graduated to sixth when the #7 Toyota spent a significant amount of time in the pits but, on lap 114, suffered a puncture coming through the Dunlop Curves and went off into the gravel. Dumbreck subsequently had to negotiate almost the entire lap with the flat tyre, and was pulled into the garage to check for suspension damage. Although no major problems were found, the delay dropped the #22 back to 17th overall.
During the stop, Brabham took over for his second session in the car, and the fight to gain positions began. The Australian made a charge through the LM2 cars and was back to ninth overall by the time he handed back to Chandhok on lap 158. The Indian soon moved up to eighth and set about chasing the #44 Starworks car ahead of him, but reported a problem with the clutch just eleven laps later, which resulted in the car being pushed back into the JRM garage. When he rejoined, Chandhok was down in twelfth overall, but had brought the car back up to ninth by the time he handed over to Dumbreck just before dawn.
The Le Mans veteran then put in a long stint as the sun came up, completing 42 laps and moving the JRM entry into seventh overall by 0730hrs. The delays had left it three laps off the nearest target, but the team remained well clear of the leading LM2 runners behind. Brabham took over from Dumbreck and consolidated the sixth position before handing back to Chandhok for another quadruple stint.
"Driving for nine of the last 36 hours and sleeping for four makes for a pretty tiring ratio!" the Indian admitted, "I ended up doing the graveyard shift from 2–5am, which was very special and exhausting in equal measure. It made me really understand the unique, special nature of this race.
"Overall, [it was] a very good race for us and it feels great to be the only Indian to have finished the Le Mans 24 Hour race. The whole team worked tirelessly and it is a great reward for all their hard work. We have all been flat-out since the first test here. I am absolutely exhausted and look forward to taking a nice long break, [but] to finish second amongst the privateer teams is huge so fantastic result all around."
Dumbreck then concluded the race, crossing the line in sixth overall as JRM went the distance in only its third endurance race.
"What a journey we've had as a team today - and actually since the start of the year," Brabham reflected, "We've done two races as a team and come to Le Mans for the very first time, so to run in the top six and run as well as we have, with no real reliability issues, is an amazing achievement.
"Since the start of this programme, the guys have been up against it as the car came so late - and, even this week, they've been working hard to get everything ready and prepared. There have been a lot of very late nights, so I am very proud of everyone in the team who has worked so hard to achieve this result."
Even for the most experienced members of the team, which has enjoyed success in other championships, completing Le Mans at the first attempt was an emotional moment.
"I've been in motorsport for longer than I care to remember, but this is a feeling that goes beyond anything I've experienced before," chief engineer and team manager Stepney, a veteran of F1, concluded, "The sheer amount of effort that's gone into the result in the months and weeks before this has tested everyone and it's incredible that we have a result that justifies the workload.
"We've had more than our share of problems leading up to the race this week and a couple of minor issues in the race, but really reliability has been pretty good – the only issues we had were incidentals. There is a lot of luck in Le Mans and while we were lucky today, [but] the preparation that's gone in before has helped us get a bit of luck for ourselves."