The Signatech Nissan team has won the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup LMP2 title after a strong finish in yesterday’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, USA. The team started the season focused on a single goal: to win the title. The fact that it is ‘mission accomplished’ with one more race remaining is testament to the work that has been put in by every single member of the team.Although there is no separate driver’s championship in the ILMC, this result means that 2008 Nissan PlayStation GT Academy winner, Lucas Ordoñez , is also now a Champion. It has been a fairytale year for the programme as both Lucas and 2010 winner Jordan Tresson prove beyond doubt that you can cross over from virtual to reality.
Petit Le Mans is always a tough race, fought over the fast sweeping turns of the Road Atlanta road course. With as many cars entered as at Le Mans but on a track only one-third of the length, there is a lot of traffic to deal with during the 10-hour/1000 mile race.
It was Jean-Karl Vernay’s turn to qualify at Atlanta and he duly secured pole position out of the LMP2 ILMC runners and second place of all the LPM2 cars.
Franck Mailleux took the start and soon settled into the lead. As the drivers each took their turn on the track the team worked hard to carefully manage the numerous safety car periods so no time was lost. All three drivers posted fast times during the race, including the fastest LMP2 lap of the race. Their speed was easily enough for a race win but as with all endurance races it is never that straightforward.
Half way through the race the power steering had to be changed and this put the car out of action for 30-minutes and dropped it to third position. The team made the repairs and sent the car back out to rejoin the battle. Fortunately this was the only problem and Signatech Nissan made it all the way to the flag and all the way to the title.
“We are very happy to have secured the title this weekend,” said team boss Philippe Sinault. “It is an incredible circuit but the traffic is a nightmare! We knew that the Level 5 Honda would be difficult to beat here but our hopes of victory were eliminated with the mid-race power steering failure. We are very proud to give Nissan this title in the first year of our partnership!”
Philippe also paid tribute to all of the 2011 Signatech Nissan drivers: Franck Mailleux, Jean-Karl Vernay, Soheil Ayari and, of course, Lucas Ordoñez .
“This has been another sensational weekend for us,” said Lucas. “We are the Champions and it is incredible! My biggest handicap this weekend was the traffic, with over 50 cars entered and the big difference between the GT and the LMP cars. I had to concentrate a lot harder than at the standard six-hour races. I am proud to have been part of our 2011 success. For me this is something quite indescribable! My thanks to Nissan and the whole team!”
Needless to say, this result is an excellent result not only for Lucas, but for GT Academy and Gran Turismo players (and indeed, all sim-racers) around the world. I had the chance to meet once again with Lucas at the event (who signed my media credentials with a shout-out to GTPlanet), and am very happy he has found such success in such a high level of professional motorsport. Congratulations!
Photography by Josh Koropchak and TKi Motorsport.