The new Murphy Prototypes team showed impressive speed on its debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours, despite being forced into retirement at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The team's Oreca-Nissan was amongst the LMP2 front-runners throughout the opening half of the race, with former single-seater ace Brendon Hartley moving into the lead during his first stint.

Although the team lost time with a puncture while Warren Hughes was at the wheel, the Irish squad was battling back towards top spot after a strong stint from Jody First when suspension failure saw Hartley stranded out on the circuit and forced the team into retirement.

"My first stint was really good," Hartley said. "We were in P1 by the end of the stint, so it was very nice to see the '1' light showing on the car. I think I managed the traffic pretty well and I was really happy with my performance. We stayed on the hard tyres for three stints until dusk and that was quite impressive - that we could maintain tyre temperature and do some pretty good lap times. It was just an amazing rollercoaster of emotions. Hopping out of the car I was wired for a while with excitement and then the realisation hits you that there are still potentially 13 hours of the race to go. I then had my first taste of real night racing, which I was pretty confident about.

"After two or three laps I was really comfortable and felt right at home in the car; everything clicked. I was passing other LMP2 cars and we had great pace. Even though we had the problem with the suspension in the end, I am really happy with what we achieved. We can leave Le Mans knowing that the whole team did a brilliant job and with our heads held high. "

Team founder Greg Murphy said he was proud of the way his team had performed, even though it failed to see the finish.

"We are obviously disappointed having been in the lead for so long, but when you get a puncture and then suspension failure there's nothing you can do," he said. "Sports car racing is a team sport and everyone in Murphy Prototypes has worked their socks off at this event. I stand by what I've said before that I wouldn't swap my drivers for anyone else on the grid. We are who we are and we won't give up. Watch this space."