Le Mans (France), 17 June 2012: Indian racing star Karun Chandhok has created history by becoming the first Indian to finish the historic Le Mans 24 Hours race as his JRM Team crossed the line in an exceptional 6th position. Chandhok, along with team-mates David Brabham and Peter Dumbreck delivered faultless performances to finish the race on the team’s very first attempt at the world’s largest motorsporting event, with over 400,000 fans in attendance through the week.
David, the 2009 Le Mans winner, took the start in the team’s Honda HPD ARX-03a LMP1 car and immediately gained a place from the starting slot of 11th. The Australian set a consistent pace to hold 10th position overall before handing over to Karun Chandhok just after 17:00.
Karun, who made history as the first-ever Indian to compete in the race, had a baptism of fire with an immediate quadruple stint in car #22 and had moved from P10 to P8 by the end of his time in the car. He then handed over to Peter, who started to exchange positions with the #13 LOLA Rebellion – gaining a position when the latter pitted and losing it when he himself refueled. Peter later moved up to sixth place when the #7 Toyota spent a significant amount of time in the pits.
However on lap 114, Peter had a tyre failure coming through the Dunlop Curves and went off into the gravel. The Scot subsequently had to negotiate almost the entire lap with a puncture, and was pulled into the garage to check for suspension damage. No major damage was found but the delay dropped the #22 back to 17th overall. During the stop David took over from Peter for his second session in the car and the fight to gain positions began.
The Australian made a charge, storming through the LMP2 cars and was back to 9th overall by the time he handed over to Karun Chandhok on lap 158. Karun soon went up to 8th and set about chasing the #44 Starworks car for 7th overall. On a stop on lap 169 Karun reported a problem with the clutch and was pushed into the garage. He rejoined in 12th overall but brought the car back to the pits in 9th when he handed over to Peter just before dawn.
Peter then put in a long stint as the sun came up, completing 42 laps. When he came off shift a little after 07:30hrs the Scot had put the team back into 7th overall, clear of the LMP2 cars and three laps from 6th following issues for the Strakka Racing and #13 Rebellion. David then took over from Peter and consolidated the sixth position before handing back to Karun for another quadruple stint.
Peter concluded the race for the #22 JRM Racing car amidst frenzied celebrations on the team’s pit wall given the magnanimity of what the drivers and the team had achieved in their very first attempt.
Hour 1: 9th (+3:29.011) / Hour 2: 10th (+1 lap) / Hour 3: 9th (+1 lap) / Hour 4: 9th (+2 laps) / Hour 5: 8th +3 laps) / Hour 6: 7th (+2 laps) / Hour 7: 6th (+3 laps) / Hour 8: 16th (+9 laps) / Hour 9: 13th (+10 laps) / Hour 10: 10th (+10 laps) / Hour 11: 8th (+11 laps) / Hour 12: 12th (+13 laps) / Hour 13: 10th (+14 laps) / Hour 14: 9th (+14 laps) / Hour 15: 8th (+15 laps) / Hour 16:7th (+16 laps) / Hour 17: 7th (+16 laps) / Hour 18: 7th (+17 laps) / Hour 19: 6th (+18 laps) /
Hour 20: 6th (+18 laps) / Hour 21: 6th (+19 laps) / Hour 22: 6th (+19 laps)
Hour 23: 6th (+21 laps) / Hour 24: 6th (+21 laps)
With the team missing most of the earlier qualifying session Chandhok did not get a chance to run and will head into the historic race with a mere 18 laps under his belt. The team which will field a Honda HPD ARX-03a in the top LMP1 class, has drivers David Brabham and Peter Dumbreck partnering the young Indian.
Karun Chandhok was ecstatic after finishing in such a high position in his first ever race here. “Driving for nine of the last 36 hours and sleeping for four makes for a pretty tiring ratio! I ended up doing the graveyard shift from 2 – 5am, which was very special and exhausting in equal measure. It made me really understand the unique, special nature of this race. Overall a very good race for us and it feels great to be the only Indian to have finished the Le Mans 24hr race. The whole team worked tirelessly and it is a great reward for all their hard work. We have all been flat out since the first test here. I am absolutely exhausted and look forward to taking a nice long break. To finish second amongst the privateer teams is huge so fantastic result all around.
Team Principal James Rumsey was thrilled with the result after aiming to just get to the finish line today. “Before the race I said we would be thrilled to finish the race. That was an underestimation – we are absolutely overjoyed. It’s only our third ever event as a team and our first Le Mans so to finish, and to finish well, is almost indescribable. The drivers all drove very, very well and came together as a crew. David was invaluable in giving us his experience, Peter did a great job through the night – particularly after the puncture when things could have gone very wrong – and Karun did incredibly well to be so consistent on his first visit here. This week has tested everyone – we’ve had a lot of work, lots of late nights and yet everyone has pulled together to achieve this result. I am so proud of everyone and am sure that this is just the start of something very big. Watch this space.”
Team Manager and Chief Engineer Nigel Stepney commented, “I’ve been in motorsport for longer than I care to remember, but this is a feeling that goes beyond anything I’ve experienced before. The sheer amount of effort that’s gone into the result in the months and weeks before this has tested everyone and it’s incredible that we have a result that justifies the workload. We’ve had more than our share of problems leading up to the race this week and a couple of minor issues in the race, but really reliability has been pretty good – the only issues we had were incidentals. There is a lot of luck in Le Mans and while we were lucky today, the preparation that’s gone in before has helped us get a bit of luck for ourselves.”
After winning the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship with Nissan, The British-based JRM Racing will partner with Honda Performance Developments to enter the brand new FIA World Endurance Championship in the LMP1 class. JRM Racing will enter a single LMP1 Honda Performance Development ARX-03a powered by a specially designed and tested 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine. The ARX-03a is currently hailed as the most competitive petrol Le Mans Prototype around.