Looking back through the record books, the Circuit Paul Ricard has been the venue where Murphy Prototypes has achieved some of its best performances during its four-seasons of competition in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS). Therefore, with round four of the 2015 championship set to take place at this former Grand Prix track in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in south eastern France on Sunday 6th September, hopes are high in the team for a top result.
It was at Paul Ricard in 2013 where Murphy Prototypes scored its first ELMS outright victory and then followed it up with a third place a year later. Also in 2014, with a time of 1:47.837, Nathanaël Berthon – one of the team’s current drivers – set the fastest ever recorded lap at Paul Ricard by an ELMS car during the qualifying session. Added to these achievements is the team’s performance in the official season’s prelude tests at Paul Ricard, when Nathanaël set quickest session times in 2014 and 2015.
With these results behind them, the team is confident that it has what it takes to do well in next weekend’s four-hour race. Whilst its performance so far this year means it is still within a mathematical chance of claiming the ELMS title, the team has a real challenge ahead if it’s to claimoverall honours. A DNF in round one at Silverstone was followed by an impressive second place at Imola for round two, which meant it was ‘game on’ for the rest of the season. However, 11th-hour dramas in round three at the Red Bull Ring, due to a clash with a back-marker with just 10-minutes to go, saw a potential podium snatched away and the team having to accept a sixth place finish.
“History shows that Paul Ricard is a track that suits us and we see no reason why we cannot continue the success we’ve achieved there in the past”, commented Team Principal Greg Murphy. “We have the car, the data, the set up and the drivers to deliver a top result and we will keep pushing for the title as hard as we can, for as long as we can, so we’re really looking forward to next weekend.”
The team’s Oreca 03R will be driven at Paul Ricard by its three regular ELMS drivers: Nathanaël Berthon from Romagnat in France, RSA-born Mark Patterson from New York and Anglo-Irish driver Michael Lyons from Bishop’s Stortford.
“For me it’s always a pleasure to race in France. But strangely, Paul Ricard was never my best track. That’s until the last two years when I have driven the LMP2 car with Murphy Prototypes. Since then, at every test or race there, I’ve set the fastest lap time. This weekend the aim is clearly to continue this strong performance, but with the newer LMP2 cars out there it’s going to be an interesting challenge.
“From previous performance, I’m convinced we can be very strong team and fight for the win this weekend. If we do a good job the result will come for sure.”
“I have raced this wonderfully challenging, almost flat, track several times before in GT cars and look forward to racing a prototype at Paul Ricard this time. We’ve had an excellent season so far with solid finishes, but for an electrical gremlin at Silverstone and a blinded/no mirror GT taking a Red Bull Ring podium from us unwittingly.
“We have the engineering and the drivers to compete for a podium at Paul Ricard, including the fastest ELMS driver on that track, so our ambitions include a shot at winning. This leaves us confident that we can score strategically important points in France and move up at least one notch in the championship table.”
The weekend’s action kicks off on Saturday (5th) with two, 90-minute Free Practice sessions at 10.30 and 15.00. The 20-minute Qualifying session takes place at 09.30 on Sunday, with the 4-Hours of Le Castellet getting underway at 13.00 (all times CEST).