When you think of the American Le Mans Series, presented by Tequila Patron, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Speed, of course. Technology would be in there, too. Perhaps Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. What about Dublin, Ireland?
If that city didn’t pop in there, maybe it should have. Why, you might ask? That’s because one of the newest competitors in the Le Mans prototype division is based there. They competed this season in the European Le Mans series, and visited the United States for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in late October.
Murphy Prototypes Le Mans Team, founded by Dublin-based green energy entrepreneur, Greg Murphy, raced a Nissan LMP2 Oreca 03 with British drivers Warren Hughes, Jody Firth and Italian Luca Moro behind the wheel. Warren Hughes is one of the world’s most respected endurance racing drivers. He has competed in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race six times since 2001, winning the LMP2 class with a lap record in 2005 in an MG Lola. Warren was a UK Formula Ford champion before going on to test for the BMW Williams F1 Team and for F1 Team Lotus.
Jody Firth was the SPEED UK endurance-racing champion in 2010 and last year won the Speed Euroseries endurance racing championship. In 2011 he also won two of the five Le Mans European Series races. Talented Italian, Luca Moro, who came fifth in the 2010 FLM class Formula Le Mans Series, joins the British duo. He competed in the American Le Mans Series in 2011 and the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2012.
Murphy Prototypes used their experience in the Renewables, Aerospace and Automotive fields during this European Le Mans Series campaign. This combined with their resources in biofuels, hydro energy, energy efficiency, hybrid and alternative vehicle applications helped to uniquely position the team for marketing and technical partnerships using the platform of Endurance Racing.
The team received engineering support from Team RLR M-Sport, who were recruited based on their successful program in 2011 for the MG Lola Le Mans team.
In their US debut, the young Irish team maintained front running positions in the LMP2 category throughout its strong race before the #118 Oreca-Nissan ended it’s running with electronics failure on lap 330 in the 9th hour.
Driver Brendon Hartley said, “I am very disappointed that we ended the race as we did. Everyone in the team did a very good job and we were fighting for a podium. We had a few misfortunes during the race and when I got in to the car for my second stint I had only done one and a half laps, getting the tires up to temperature with the car feeling really good, when it stopped with an electrical problem.
We have no idea exactly what the problem is and everyone worked for over an hour trying to get us back out on track. It’s such a shame, it was the last race of the year, we have had good times and bad and I think that this could have been a really good one. I’d like to thank Greg and everyone in the Murphy Prototypes team and Jody and Warren for a fantastic first year in sports car racing.”
Driver Warren Hughes said “My first stint was ok until I got tapped in to a spin by Dario [Franchitti]. I did not want to let him through, as we would have gone a lap down which would have made the strategy a bit difficult. I gave him room, but he over shot a bit and got a penalty for that. Everything was good after that; it was a relatively straightforward stint with no safety cars or anything.
Hughes continued, “I joined the second stint under a very long safety car period and just on the restart I felt something odd in the last corner. I wasn’t sure if I had just lost tire temperature, but then as I turned in to turn one the front left tire was completely deflated so I couldn’t keep it out of the gravel and barrier. It took a bit of time to maneuver the car out but we got going again still under the safety car and had to make an additional stop under the regulations. They are all frustrating things to happen, but we got going again and I had very good pace in the dark. In a lap or two I was going to take a lap back from the race leader just as I pitted, so the pace was really good and the car was decent, we just had one or two too many incidents that cost us a little bit. The race was there for the taking so we are massively disappointed not to make it to the end when we got that far, but I’d love to come back. It has been a great week at Road Atlanta.”
“We are thoroughly all disappointed. We lost power to the engine at the start of Brendon’s stint just going in to the night and as yet we still don’t understand what the problem is. Up to that point though the race was really good and the team and drivers did an excellent job. We were in the hunt and when the car stopped we were fighting for a podium with plenty of time left, so anything could have happened. It has been a different experience racing in America,” added driver Jody Firth.
“The safety cars have thrown in something different – it keeps everything competitive and interesting for the fans, so I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It is the last race of the season and I would like to thank everyone at Murphy Prototypes and Starworks particularly here in the US. Most of all I would like to thank my teammates, Warren and Brendon, who have been great to work with and I have really enjoyed everything we have done together this year. A final thank you goes to Greg (Murphy) because he has been brilliant. I think I’ve got a friend there off the track as well and I am sure that he’ll go a long way in the sport.”
The West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner is pleased to help publicize the first LMP2 car to be based out of the emerald isle. Stay tuned for additional information about the team, as well as coverage leading up to the 2013 season of both the ALMS and Grand-Am series.
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