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Morand Racing - A Convincing Debut

Morand Racing, the new Swiss team born out of the friendship of Manager Benoit Morand and former motorcycle racer Joe Genoud, put itself firmly on the map at the first round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone. 

The team, now on the Le Mans grid thanks to its promotion from the reserve list, showed impressive pace throughout the weekend.  Their Morgan Judd was leading the ill-fated race when Franck Mailleux hit standing water on the Hanger Straight and aquaplaned into the barriers and retirement.

Swiss driver Natacha Gachnang, described by Morand as “a female driver who is as quick as the men” had showed strongly in practice in tricky conditions and was visibly upset to see the car crash out before she could make her P2 race debut.  “I am glad to be chosen as part of this team, because I have known Benoit for many years and I trust him to deliver, he is a very hard working man.  To be able to race at Le Mans again will be the cherry on the cake for this season.  My aim for the first race weekend was to stay on track, get a feel for the car and improve step-by-step until I can get down to Franck’s pace.  We could have expected a better result here but now we will prepare as much as possible for the next race.”  Her pace on the drying track halfway through the second free-practice session was sufficient to post a fastest overall first sector at the time on her in-lap (due to the ELMS pits being halfway around the circuit from the timing line).

Mailleux too had enthused about how good the car had been throughout the difficult practice sessions despite not having ran the Dunlop wet tyres before.  “The first feeling is really important and it was good and we can see that we will be competitive in the rain and the dry.” 

He qualified the car in fifth position and an excellent tactical call saw him pit immediately for wet tyres as the rain bounced down on the formation lap.  This meant that he was in and out of the pits before they were closed for the first safety car period, unlike others, putting him in the lead of the race. 

Brendon Hartley in the Murphy Prototypes Oreca took the lead with around 25 minutes gone, but ten minutes later Mailleux retook the lead as the Murphy car was caught out on standing water into the final corner.  Mailleux maintained the lead until a similar fate befell him, utterly helpless and “a passenger in my own car”, he hit a deep puddle running alongside Nick Tandy’s GTE Porsche.  Despite running in a perfectly straight line the car spearing to the right, spinning into the wall rear-first, with too much damage to continue.

Within a further 30 minutes the conditions had continued to worsen and the safety car came out to control the field until the decision was made to end the race early.que

Benoit Morand reflected “For this first race of the season, overall it is positive.  The team is young and step by step, each question has its own solution.  On the first lap, we took the decision to pit.  Without taking risks, we had over a minute 20 seconds lead at the end of the first hour.  Franck overtook a slower car.  He took an option and the result is what it is.  Overall we can say that our strategy was fine and the team acted the right way. Now we must focus on Imola, second race of the championship, and Le Mans.”

Paul Slinger