Maine (France): Ace Indian racer Karun Chandhok led his team, Murphy Prototypes, to an impressive fifth place finish at the historic Le Mans 24-Hours in the LMP2 Class, here.
The team was running as high as third place but suffered problems and eventually settled for a strong 5th position in the world's most famous endurance race. Chandhok, who is supported by JK Tyre, AVT Premium, Sidvin and Tag Heuer, did not feel the team was fast enough for a podium finish.
"It's a hard race to finish and I'm pleased for the whole team to have achieved it. Although we had a few problems, I think we may have only gained one place if we hadn't. This would have still not seen us on the podium and that's what we were aiming for of course," Chandhok said.
"I think that as a team, we are getting the best out of the car and therefore, this weekend represented a great effort all round. I would like to give a special mention to my sponsors who continue to help me in achieving my dream." Once the grid had been cleared, Nathanaël Berthon was the first of the three Murphy Prototypes' drivers to get behind the wheel of the team's Nissan-powered Oreca 03R prototype and a clear getaway by the whole field saw Nathanaël holding-station to his grid position: 8th in class and 18th overall.
After a treble-stint lasting two-and-a-half hours by Nathanaël, Chandhok followed with a series of impressively consistent laps, and when Mark Patterson took over the controls after five-hours, the team was lying in an impressive 3rd in the LMP2 class and holding an overall position of 13th. By the time Mark finished his double-stint it was dark and, as planned, Nathanaël and Chandhok guided the car through the darkness hours.
Now 5th in class and 14th overall, the team knew that there was lot of work to be done overnight if the team was to realize its goal of a podium position. At the halfway point at 3.00am, the time sheets showed the team had moved up to 4th in class and 12th overall - a position that was improved further when an LMP2 car ahead went off the road at the end of the Mulsanne straight.
An hour later, another LMP2 category competitor retired with a mechanical problem. This meant the team was now back to 3rd and suddenly the target of podium was becoming a distinct possibility. Chandhok was in the car for the sunrise shift and was delayed while the team removed some debris from the air intakes. It was then Mark's turn again and, after nearly two hours of inspired driving, he was clipped from behind as a car went to overtake.
After a brief visit to the pits to fix the damage, a spin and contact from another car saw the Murphy Oreca back in the pits for further bodywork repairs, but this time the work was to take over 20-minutes. When Nathanaël exited the pits he was 6th in class: six laps down on the fifth-placed car and five laps ahead of the
seventh. Therefore, unless anyone in front had a problem, it was unlikely that the position would change.
However, with just over an hour to go, that's exactly what happened. When Chandhok jumped in to take the car to the end of the race, the Murphy team had moved up a place to 5th in class and 13th overall.