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08/05/2007 - Uncharacteristic Engine Problem stops Horag Racing at Valencia on Sunday

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VALENCIA, Spain, May 6 - Horag Racing's Lista Office- and Lista-sponsored Lola B05/40 Judd was in second place in the LMP2 class at the four-hour mark of Sunday's 1,000 Km of Valencia Le Mans Series race at Circuito Ricardo Tormo.

About 20 minutes later it had to pit due to engine problems, and unfortunately the Swiss team wasn't able to finish the six-hour race.

Drivers Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Fredy Lienhard of Niederteufen, Switzerland, and Eric van de Poele of Sart-Risbart, Belgium had the car in position for another podium finish various times in the event until the problem reared its head through a misfire. Van de Poele had been running in second place for about 20 laps before the car retired with 166 laps complete.

A change to the car's set-up for qualifying on Saturday didn't work as hoped, putting Theys deep in the field for the start of Sunday's race. The native of Nivelles, Belgium was determined to get the entry back up where it belonged.

He flew through the field dramatically and was able to run in second or third place in class during his double stint. The car's fastest lap in the race was a 1:30.367 clocked by Theys during his time behind the wheel.

Lienhard then took over on the tight, twisting 4.750-km (2.951-mile) road course, which opened in September 1999 and was hosting the Le Mans Series for the first time. He kept the car on the same lap as the one that was third at the time, Tim Greaves' Bruichladdich Radical AER, while holding off Thomas Erdos in the RML MG Lola AER that was one lap back.

Van de Poele took over around the three-hour mark. The entry dropped to fifth in LMP2 after the pit stop but four of the top five were nose-to-tail on the scoreboard, and van de Poele was determined to advance. He passed Mike Newton in the RML No. 25 for fourth just six minutes before the three-and-one-half-hour mark. Third place was Greaves, who was one lap ahead at the time, but van de Poele was running faster. The class leader was Juan Barazi in the Barazi-Epsilon Zytek, with Vitaly Petrov second in the Noel Del Bello Courage AER.

Barazi made a lengthy pit stop at that point to knock him down in the standings and vault van de Poele into third just seven minutes after he had taken over fourth. Greaves was still a lap ahead of him in second place, but they both advanced to first and second in class, respectively, when the class leader, Petrov, pitted five minutes before the four-hour mark.

Unfortunately the No. 27's engine was misfiring at that point. Van de Poele keep running in second place in class and ninth overall until he was forced to pit due to the problem about 20 minutes after the four-hour mark. After an inspection, the entry retired.

Despite a great deal of traffic on the tight course with a 46-car field, none of the Horag Racing drivers were involved in any altercations. The only other issue the team dealt with was a headlight that didn't work at one point, but that was solved quickly when they replaced the car's nose during a pit stop.

"The engine started to misfire about two hours from the end," Theys said afterwards. "We will have to see, but right now it looks like either a valve or a valve seat broke.

"I ran in second or third during my double stint. Fredy drove very well and was very steady, and gave the car to Eric in good shape. Eric had it up to second, and then the problem occurred. It's unfortunate, because a podium finish was in sight."

Theys qualified tenth in class and 21st overall with a 1:28.843.

"We made a change to the set-up before qualifying that made the car very loose, and we didn't qualify well," he said. "During the race the car was much better.

"Our Michelin tires were good," he added. "We tried a softer compound in qualifying, but we put the medium compound on during the race and it was as fast as the softer tires. The temperature during the race was about 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We're still missing torque," Theys added. "This is a tight course and you need torque here. There are a lot of turns, and you're in the middle of traffic all the time. There's not a lot of grip to start with."

The class was won by the Quifel ASM Lola AER No. 40 over the Saulnier Racing Courage AER No. 35 and the Bruichladdich Radical AER No. 21.

Horag Racing was ninth in class and 38th overall.

Teams have to finish a race to score points, so the team will have to wait for the next LMS event, the 1,000 Km of Nurburgring in Germany on June 29-July 1, to add to the ones it garnered by winning the season opener last month in Monza, Italy.

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