The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing team made it to the end of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Sunday, but there was little joy to be found among a crew that had had high hopes of victory to take away the sense of frustration at losing out in 2006.
However, having had to tackle problems right from the start of the event, the #23 car was never going to be a factor for first place, leaving Patrick Long, Jorg Bergmeister and Romain Dumas to try and salvage what they could. As dawn approached for the final six hours, the team was hoping that rain presented the only remaining adversity, with Dumas doing his best to keep the white machine on track in treacherous conditions.
"After our early problems, we just tried to be consistent and earn some points towards the championship, so, when it was raining, I was a little bit afraid because I had never driven this car in the wet before," the Frenchman said, "When the heavy rain came down, I did not want to take any chances. I knew the car was quick, but it made no sense to put it at risk."
Finishing his final stint in eighth place, Dumas handed the #23 over eleven laps off the pace of the leader, and a switch to slick tyres seemed to help Bergmeister start to chase down the seventh-placed #61 car. Just as the team set its sites on improving its position, however, an accident for the #02 made the battle one for sixth. But, just as it appeared that the Ruby Tuesday car's luck may be about to change, Bergmeister spun coming out of the chicane and backed the car into the wall, leaving it in need of repairs to its left rear corner.
"On the last stop, we did not put new tyres on the car and, during the next stint, I experienced more and more oversteer," Bergmeister revealed, "When I got into the chicane, I started to slide, hit a wet spot and went off the track."
For the third time in more than 20 hours, the #23 team had to fix a damaged car, replacing the left rear suspension, the oil tank and lines, the fuel line, the exhaust system, the rear wing assembly and the rear deck - all in just under one hour. By the time Bergmeister returned to the track, the car was 42 laps down, and in 18th position.
Long ran the final stint in the car, eventually reaching the chequered flag with 615 laps to the team's credit, but with no change in its position, which equated to twelfth in the Daytona Prototype class.
"Our finish was bittersweet," the American said, "In the end, we finished, but we had to bounce back from some adversity. We definitely showed what we are as a team and as a unit - these crew guys never gave up - so we'll go back to the drawing board and improve on the areas that need improvement."