Jota’s new team are driven to limit of endurance at Le Mans
A SERIES of unfortunate events prevented Jota Sport from repeating last year’s historic victory at Le Mans 24 Hours.
The Frant-based outfit, which runs two cars in the LMP2 class on behalf of Jackie Chan DC Racing, were left with two top 10 class finishes in a race which at one point was looking far worse.
However, they were later bumped up to fourth and sixth places after the G-Drive TDS Racing team were stripped of their victory for using an illegal device to speed up refuelling stops.
G-Drive, who plan to appeal the decision, produced a faultless run to win by two laps but the honours went to Signatech Alpine Oreca’s No 36.
The third place 28 TDS Racing entry was also stripped of its podium place for the same offence.
Last year Chan’s DC Racing came first and second in the LMP2 class – and second and third overall – an unprecedented achievement for a team competing in the junior prototype class.
But only one driver, Ho Pin Tung, remained from last season and there were persistent difficulties in optimising the two cars for a new line-up.
Hopes that the race itself would prove more fortuitous were dashed when the No 37 car suffered extensive damage as two LMP1 cars collided in front of it on the first corner of the race.
Bad luck also struck the No 38 after debris on the track resulted in two punctures within an hour, sending the car hurtling down the ranks.
Jota did, however, manage to avoid the general attrition of this ultimate endurance test, which this year saw 180 drivers in 60 cars battle it out over four classes. Around three quarters of these cars saw the chequered flag.
With determined driving and well-executed pit stops the two Jota cars fought their way back up to sixth and eighth places.
The result will keep Jota competitive in the World Endurance Championship, which now consists of a newly structured ‘super season’ that will include next year’s 24-hour race as well.
Sam Hignett, team principle and co-founder of Jota, said: “It was a highly emotional race, but unfortunately not for the same reasons as last year.
“It was always going to be hard to repeat the same feat. We were realistic about our prospects.
“Endurance racing relies to a degree on luck, although you want to ensure you don’t have to rely on it too much. This year it was not on our side.”
He added: “The drivers and pit crew pulled out all the stops to overcome every adverse situation. I am exceedingly proud of our final positions.
“We have not lost heart, we will assess what could be done better and learn from our mistakes. The super season is young and all eyes are now on 2019 and the races ahead.”
Toyota secured its first ever Le Mans victory in the LMP1 class and overall with Formula One icon Fernando Alonso making his debut for the Japanese team.
PICTURE: RECOVERY VEHICLE: Ho Pin Tung crosses the line for Jota and Jackie Chan DC Racing