Le Mans, France – Sunday 15th June 2014: Irish Racing Team, Murphy Prototypes took a beating at the hands of the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the 82nd running of the World’s greatest endurance race.
It was a race that punished 19 cars, and forced them into retirement, including the ever popular team of #MurphysMen. Early torrential rain showers created chaos in the field of 55 starters and set the tone for the Murphy Prototypes race.
The 2014 driver line up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, consisted of Le Mans veteran, Karun Chandhok, and the two Le Mans rookies, Rodolfo Gonzalez and Nathanaël Berthon.
Rookie driver, Berthon started the race well for the Irish team from sixth position in the LMP2 class. Despite loosing two places early on, Berthon made a good start to the race settling into a steady rhythm for the duration of his stint. Berthon handed the car over to Karun Chandhok during a smooth pit stop to retain their position. However, bad luck struck the team as monsoonal rains left enough water on the track to send his car aquaplaning at Tet Rouge. The Greaves Motorsport car, travelling behind him was caught in the same water and they followed, only to make contact with the #48, damaging the cars suspension. Eventually getting the car back to the pits, the #MurphysMen set about the mammoth task of repairing the wounded Fairlane Flyer and some 36 laps later, Chandhok returned to the track. He then set about proving the team’s pace with a string of fastest laps.
Darkness started to set upon La Sarthe and Le Mans rookie, Rodolfo Gonzalez took over the Hertz Car Sales sponsored car for his first stint of the race. A confident but measured approach from the Venezuelan driver saw him circulate as the fastest car on the circuit for most of his stint.
Just after 10:30, Nathanaël Berthon returned to the driving seat for his second stint of the race. Another spell of bad luck would strike the team as Berthon reported a steering issue over the radio. A lengthy investigation process followed at the side of the circuit just at the Porsche Curves. Despite applying a temporary repair, Nathanaël was advised by race control that he would not be allowed to return to the pits on safety grounds due to the high-speed nature of his location on the circuit. Unfortunately this message spelled instant retirement for the team in the early hours of the morning.
Karun Chandhok – #48:
“It’s been a frustrating race, Le Mans is the best race in the world and the biggest race in the world, but it can also be the most frustrating race in the world. As soon as we had the car fixed and we converted from a canoe back to a racecar, we were really fast. I had fastest lap comfortably at that point of the race. What might have been, but that’s Le Mans. I’d love to come back again with Greg and win it one day as I feel we deserve a result out of this.”
Rodolfo Gonzalez – #48:
“Obviously it is a little frustrating. We had everything in place to win the race from the team through to the car from Oreca. I felt that I came here in the right frame of mind learning from my mistakes in Imola. It was unfortunate Karun got caught out in the wet. I came here expecting to leave Le Mans with a podium as we had everything in place to achieve a podium, but here you cannot make mistakes.”
Nathanaël Berthon – #48:
“I was very happy to be here. I had an amazing week with the team. I was very frustrated at the end, as we didn’t finish. I got to start the race that was mega for me, really amazing. This week holds many good memories that I will keep. I think I did the best job I could and thank everybody for a really really good week.”
Greg Murphy – Team Owner – Murphy Prototypes:
“We are gutted! This race is the high point of our season and for it to end the way that it did was a huge disappointment. We really believe that we could have won the race with the pace that we showed during this week. Karun was caught out by the monsoon conditions and had a big accident, which effectively ended our race. The drivers did a fantastic job and all three were fastest car on the track at one stage or another. Both Nathanaël and Rodolfo have bright futures in Sportscar racing and again Karun did a great job for us. If we are invited back again next year we will be a stronger team for this experience.”