Aston Martin Racing debutant Stuart Hall has admitted that he has no option but to accept the penalty handed down to him by the race stewards following an accident in the early stages of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The Briton's #009 LMP1 entry made heavy contact with the #26 LMP2 Radical after passing it just after the Ford chicane, the Bruichladdich Bruneau car sent spinning into the pit entry tyre wall, resulting in heavy damage to both. Although the punishment was slow in coming, the race stewards decided to exclude Hall for his part in the incident, reducing the #009 crew to just Peter Kox and Harold Primat.
“After that incident, the stewards have decided to exclude me from the meeting, so I won't be driving the car again this weekend,” Hall confirmed, “Everyone I've spoken to says that the penalty is a little harsh, but there's nothing I can do. I made a mistake and I'm sorry. I'm gutted.”
The #009 had had enough problems to worry about in addition to Hall's suspension. After a string of electrical gremlins earlier in the race, the car eventually stopped out on the circuit at 2-20am. Harold Primat was driving at the time and, after a spot of on the spot repairs, the car finally reached its pit box ten minutes later. The water pump controller was changed in 15 minutes and Peter Kox took over behind the wheel. However, the Dutchman lost electrical power after just one lap and had to return to the pits for further attention.
There was a degree of inconsistency in Hall's punishment too, for Darren Turner was also involved in an incident that resulted in woe for a rival, but his only punishment was to see the #008 car receive a four-minute stop-go penalty.
Following some repairs to fix damage from the contact which saw the #75 Alphand Aventures Corvette punted out of the race, Jos Verstappen took over the car shortly after midnight, but serving the penalty was one of his first tasks.
“Of course, a penalty like this feels like hours rather than minutes when you are actually there,” the Dutchman said, “But, afterwards, I really enjoyed myself. The main thing about this car is that it feels very comfortable, which makes it easy to drive quickly.
"It's a pity our car had the problem with the collision as I think we could have been in the same position as the #007 car or maybe ahead of it, but that's racing. There's still an extremely long way to go so let's see what happens.”
With approximately 2750km under their belt, Aston Martin reached halfway with Jan Charouz occupying fifth place in the #007 car, having taken over from Tomas Enge, who had managed to maintain a strong position throughout his problem-free stint.
“Actually, I wasn't as happy with this stint as I was with my first stint,” Enge explained, “I seemed to get a lot more traffic this time round for some reason, and when this happens it is really difficult to find a consistent rhythm. Towards the end of my stint, I also began to lose grip: I'm not sure why but, generally speaking, I have to be happy. The car has been really good and reliable, so we are right up there.”