The final 6 hours of the race are very exciting at the head of the pack with the lead 2 cars more often than not within 15 seconds of each other and at times the Peugeot even got close enough to threaten the Audi for overall lead. Even with 3 hours to go and rain giving the drivers something to think about the race was certainly not over. Down to less than 30 cars, almost half of the starters are out and the garage shutters are pulled down as the cars retire, almost in mourning but the Lotus Jetalliance car is carrying on as expected. No-one is patting their backs yet, anything can happen even up to the last lap so congratulations will certainly not be offered until the car crossed the line but the feeling is hopeful, tense even in anticipation.
Wow, now who can’t be happy with that! 22nd overall, 7th in class and 3rd in the ILMC cup from a car and team that didn’t even exist six months ago. The mood in the pit garage is electric, everyone is fatigued, relieved, pleased and ready for bed – all at the same time but it’s time to celebrate first! 30 minutes after the race the heavens open, that would have made the closing stages more interesting had it been an hour previous but in truth, at that stage of the race everyone is just looking for the cars that had made it this far to get home and complete the race. Endurance racing isn’t about the fastest lap times, Lotus have beaten many faster cars this year, it’s about crossing the line 295 laps (for the Evora) later and taking the chequered flag. I’m a huge fan of endurance racing and Le Mans is the toughest, 24 hours is a long time for a car to hold out, especially one which hadn’t even had the time to be tested for that period in complete form. With an overall best lap of 4.07.958 the pace will come with not only time but also the data and experience that has been accumulated over this weekend. Business goes on though, the team need to pack up and the car needs to get back to Hethel to be dismantled completely, checked and reassembled as Imola is only 12 days away, no rest time.
It was funny walking back to the car park in my Lotus Jetalliance shirt & cap. I think it’s the kind of people who go to Le Mans but as we all headed back to start the journey home I had strangers come and chat, congratulate ‘us’ on the performance and how they were really impressed with the car, shake my hand. I’m only a spectator! Finally back in the car, which had in fact been my home for 2 days too you get a moment to reflect on what’s been a Lotus lovers dream trip to the 24 Heures Du Mans, maybe in a year or two the congratulations offered by others will be for getting on the podium, or even a win? It’s a solid start by Lotus and one that the whole team and company can be proud of. Will I be going in 2012, you bet!
Thanks must go to Lotus for the chance to attend the event and to the team for being welcoming and open to an enthusiast. The whole event was a polished performance, it certainly makes me proud to be a part of the Lotus family. Well done to all at Lotus Jetalliance, the drivers, pit crew, mechanics and engineers back at Hethel and in Austria, team manager Jan Kalmar and Technical Director Nicola Scimeca, congratulations on the result and onwards and upwards from here!