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16/09/2007 - 1000 kms LMS Silverstone

Horag Racing Runs Strong But Sees Fifth-Place Finish Disappear Sunday in 1,000 Kilometers of Silverstone

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, England, Sept. 16 - A last-minute flat tire coupled with the loss of radio communications spoiled a fifth-place finish in the LMP2 class for Horag Racing Sunday in the 1,000 Kilometers of Silverstone.

It also dropped the team from third to fourth in the LMP2 point standings.

Not realizing the consequences due to a loss of radio communications, Eric van de Poele brought the team's Lista Office and Lista-sponsored Lola B05/40 Judd onto pit road when it suffered a puncture on the last lap of the event Unfortunately he was in the pits when the checkered waved, not on the track, which proved very costly since the Le Mans Series rules stipulate that a car must cross the start/finish line at the checkered to be classified as a finisher Although it was just a few yards adjacent to the start/finish line when the checkered flew, the No. 27 was scored as a non-finisher, ninth in class and 36th overall, with no points earned. If it would have taken the checkered on the track with its flat tire it would have finished fifth in class and 12th overall, and it would have earned four points.

It was a bitter result for the team, which was as high as second in class at one point and fought valiantly throughout the grueling, six-hour contest for a top-five finish in the 10-car LMP2 division within a total field of 45.

van de Poele, of Sart-Risbart, Belgium, qualified the No. 27 in 19th overall and ninth place in class with a lap in 1:38.986 on Saturday, and he set its fastest lap of the race on Sunday on lap four with a 1:42.102. He had hustled the car into the top five in class by lap 15. He was still in fifth when he made his first pit stop on lap 34, but he was fourth in class on lap 56 and third by lap 61. Four laps later he was still third in class at the two-hour mark, but 60 seconds later he was up to second as pit stops were occurring.

His drive was not incident-free, however. Contact with another car damaged the Lola's bodywork and caused one of its headlights to not operate, so the Horag Racing crew replaced the car's nose when van de Poele pitted for Fredy Lienhard to take over.

The replacement nose didn't generate the same downforce as the previous one, but Lienhard settled into a steady pace. The veteran from Niederteufen, Switzerland, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Friday, ran in fourth or fifth place throughout his stint. At that point the top seven LMP2 cars were running ninth through 15th overall.

The event was almost at its half-way point when Thomas Erdos had a problem with his MG Lola AER which moved Lienhard back into fourth place in class, 11th overall. He still held fourth when he pitted to turn the car over to Belgium's Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz., with 96 laps complete.

Meanwhile the team repaired the car's original nose and installed it during the pit stop for the Lienhard-to-Theys driver change. Theys began his drive in 17th overall and eighth in class. The Lista Office Lola was faster than some of the cars ahead of it, but it was difficult to advance up the standings because it was seven laps down to the overall leader, due in part to the time lost changing the noses. Still, a half-hour into his stint Theys was seventh in LMP2, and 10 minutes later he took sixth when Bruce Jouanny's Sauinier Racing Courage AER dropped back. He was still 14th overall and sixth in class when Alexander Frei planted his Courage AER in a gravel trap to bring out a full-course yellow. He pitted under that yellow on the overall leader's lap 133, only dropping one spot. About 11 minutes after the four-hour mark Theys passed Mike Newton's RML MG Lola AER for sixth place, and he regained fifth by passing Bill Binnie's Lola Zytek five minutes later.

Theys was still in fifth place, 12th overall, when he pitted on the car's 156th circuit around the five-hour mark for van de Poele to take over again. Binnie got ahead of the No. 27 due to the pit stop, so van de Poele had to repass him. It didn't take him long to do just that and move back into fifth place in class, but then Erdos got by about 22 minutes after the five-hour mark to push van de Poele back to sixth.

Fifth appeared to be the car's destiny on Sunday, however, as Warren Hughes, who had been running second in class with the Embassy Radical Judd, ran into problems and vaulted van de Poele back into fifth. At that point van de Poele immediately began searching for a way around Erdos in the RML MG Lola, who was in fourth place and on the same lap.

Erdos remained elusive, but near the end it looked like attrition might play into the Horag team's favor when Binnie and the second-place LMP2 driver, Tom Kimber-Smith, made contact. Kimber-Smith restarted his Team LNT Zytek, however, and still held second at the checkered, trailing only the class-winning Barazi Epsilon Zytek. The Quifel ASM Lola AER took the final LMP2 podium position. The RML MG Lola AER of Erdos and Newton was fourth, one lap ahead of the Horag team at the finish, before the Horag team was excluded from the list of official finishers. The Binnie Lola Zytek team ended up fifth in class.

"The rule that a car must cross the start/finish line and run a certain percentage of the race to be considered a finisher was implemented a couple of years ago at Le Mans," Theys explained. "It was put into place to keep teams from being in the garage area for hours and then coming out at the last minute with a damaged car in order to earn points. Although that wasn't our situation, it's in the rule book; there's nothing we can do about it."

Sunday's race was the last European round of the 2007 Le Mans Series. The series' season finale is scheduled for the Interlagos course in Sao Paulo, Brazil Nov. 9-11. Theys said that the officials have indicated that if a certain number of entries aren't received for the South American race it will be run as a non-points event, so Sunday may have been the last points race in this year's championship. If that ends up being the case Horag Racing will drop from third in the point standings, five points out of second, to fourth for the season.

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