EARLY RETIREMENTS DASH HIGH HOPES IN LE MANS
Never have joy and despair been so close together for Project 1 at 24 Hours of Le Mans than at the 90th running of the famous race. After two years of pandemic restrictions, the old magic returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2022 together with hundreds of thousands of fans. But, for the team based in Lohne, the endurance classic was marred by two retirements – all the more frustrating considering the team were in the running to finish well for much of the race.
Together with the team’s partners from Optimum Motorsport/Inception Racing, Project 1 made every effort to prepare the cars, drivers and crew in the best way possible for the highlight of the season. “We fought well and took a lot of care in setting up the cars,” said Axel Funke. “We had a fantastic package, the team did a brilliant job and managed the pit stops perfectly. So it is all the more disappointing that both cars retired early.”
The #46 Porsche 911 RSR (Cairoli/Leutwiler/Pedersen) was one of the quickest cars in the LMGTE Am field – with Matteo Cairoli posting lap times that would have put him up with the front-runners in the more-powerful GTE Pro category. However, a trip into the gravel trap caused vibrations that the team were unable to resolve, despite the team’s best efforts. “We were unable to continue to guarantee the safety of the car and were forced to retire it,” explained Axel Funke.
Brendan Iribe, Ben Barnicoat and Ollie Millroy were also in promising form at Le Mans. The drivers of the #56 entry didn’t put a foot wrong all through Saturday and were targeting a podium finish on Sunday, working their way up to third position in class thanks to an outstanding recovery drive. Then, seven hours before the end of the race, the car was involved in an incident that resulted in retirement.
Despite the double retirement in France, team founder Hans-Bernd Kamps was still keen to point out how grateful he was for the dedication and commitment of everyone involved in the Le Mans effort. “I would like to thank everyone who worked towards this race. Our team put in an extraordinary performance and left nothing to chance,” said Kamps. “I am also very grateful to our partners who made this project possible in the first place. Le Mans is an enormous challenge and we couldn’t have done it on our own.”
The team from Lower Saxony will be competing at the next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Monza on 10 July, when the battle for WEC points continues.