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How a Braveness cameo offered an exciting Le Mans climax

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Jean-Marc Gounon has no scarcity of candidates relating to selecting his favorite automotive. The 1989 French Method 3 champion by no means sat in a aggressive Method 1 automotive, making 9 grand prix outings for Minardi and Simtek, earlier than ploughing a furrow in sportscars the place his hard-charging repute honed by profitable races with unfancied Method 3000 equipment discovered its calling.  

Aboard the Ennea Ferrari F40 at Nogaro within the 1996 BPR Endurance Collection, Gounon had the race of his life in recovering from a lap all the way down to problem for victory till the driveshaft went with 10 minutes to go. However a automotive that whereas fast was tough across the edges – with energy supply by no means managed, ineffective energy steering and inconsistent brakes – doesn’t qualify as his favorite.

And nor does the DAMS-run Lola B98/10 with a Judd V10 by which he gained 4 instances within the 1999 SportsRacing World Cup. As an alternative, the previous Mercedes and BMW manufacturing unit driver opts for a automotive he solely ever raced as soon as, after a last-minute call-up, on the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2003. 

Whereas the manufacturing unit Braveness-Judd C60 was arguably not the top of extremely developed equipment, with no energy steering and an “old style” handbook sequential gearbox, the efforts made to get him into the cockpit for his first Le Mans look in three years and subsequent heroics throughout the race aboard “a really, excellent chassis made by Paolo Catone” means it holds an elevated place in his recollections. And when Gounon says “it was a improbable story”, he’s definitely not flawed – totally befitting of a driver who started his karting profession sporting gardening gloves, a borrowed motorbike helmet and outsized painters overalls. 

Gounon had made solely sporadic appearances within the FIA GT championship over the 12 months previous to a Le Mans made well-known by Bentley’s first victory since 1930 with the attractive Velocity 8. The proprietor of a automotive dealership in his hometown of Aubenas had begun to deal with racing as his second job “as a result of I wanted to work on the dealership and I used to be already {old}” – he was a mere 40 – when a emptiness opened up within the all-French Braveness LMP1 entry. 

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Boris Derichebourg, who had been as a result of share with one-time F1 prospect Jonathan Cochet and former Indycar racer Stephane Gregoire, had been injured in a French GT crash at Pau the earlier weekend. Gounon remembers studying the information on the Tuesday earlier than the 24 Hours within the L’Equipe newspaper and speculating with a buddy over whether or not to inquire concerning the drive.  

After giving in to curiosity and informing the group of his availability, he was advised {that a} contribution can be anticipated – Gounon remembers that figures north of €150,000 had been cited. He subsequently believed “that was the tip of the story”. Not so.  

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Gounon’s 2003 drive got here unexpectedly with no monetary value hooked up

A name from John Judd revealed that the Rugby operation was ready to supply Braveness discounted engines to safe his providers, then a gathering was convened that included tyre provider Michelin, who was additionally keen to chip in. And by 8pm, Yves Braveness had modified his tune.  

The best way to be an ace engineer: Engine designer John Judd

“He mentioned, ‘Jean-Marc, we did every little thing for you, you come free of charge, we pay the bills and also you drive the automotive, however it’s important to be there tomorrow morning 8am’ as a result of it was over the restrict to register drivers,” remembers Gounon.  

After driving by the evening, he arrived in Le Mans at 4:30am on Wednesday morning, managed two hours sleep earlier than being woken to get registered. Amid the whirlwind of the drivers’ briefing and making a seat for a automotive he’d by no means pushed earlier than, he was out for the beginning of first apply and, after remedying a experience top drawback that destroyed the splitter, ended up eleventh within the instances on the primary day earlier than bettering to ninth on Thursday. Not unhealthy for his first prototype outing since September 2001 when he’d teamed up with Sam Hancock to race a B98/10 for the Kremer group on the Nurburgring. 

“The Panoz was very fast [on the straight], they’d low drag they usually had large energy additionally. I needed to be within the slipstream on a regular basis” Jean-Marc Gounon 

“In two laps, the automotive was okay, they usually had been stupefied,” says Gounon, who remembers that engineer Catone agreed to swap the entrance and rear springs and alter the dampers at his behest. “I mentioned, ‘I do know Le Mans like my dwelling so it’s simple for me to go there’. On the finish I did the quali as a result of I used to be the quickest within the automotive.” 

The Braveness wasn’t particularly simple to handle, with Gounon relating that it “was actually fast, however exhausting to drive”. He’s well-qualified to make the judgement as Gregoire proclaimed himself unable to proceed throughout the evening. Gounon estimates that, consequently, he drove “no less than 11 hours myself” and afterwards felt “completely destroyed”. It didn’t assist that Cochet’s solely set of overalls had been misplaced from the drying machine when Gregoire made his mayday name, forcing Gounon to get again in a single hour after finishing a triple stint “from 4:30 to 7:30”.  

“However we had been quick and I used to be loving the automotive,” he provides. Positive sufficient, Gounon’s efforts lifted Braveness into fifth spot, which was important because the ‘better of the remaining’ behind the 2 Bentleys and a pair of Audis – the third R8 run underneath the Audi Sport UK banner was an early retirement after Frank Biela’s uncharacteristic pitlane entry gaffe meant it ran out of gas. “The most effective place you could possibly do with a personal automotive was P5,” confirms Gounon. 

Autosport’s report notes that Gounon “was working wonders within the manufacturing unit Braveness-Judd”, however its maintain on fifth wasn’t to final as soon as he stepped out of the automotive. Because the race entered its closing phases, Gounon rejoined the fray within the thick of a fierce three-way struggle with the Gunnar Jeanette’s ageing however bullet-like front-engine Panoz LMP-01 Evo and the delayed Dome-Judd S101 with Jan Lammers on the wheel, recovering from dropping 11 minutes to a battery change. 

Lacking power to the Panoz, Gounon's Courage works team had to race clever to progress

Picture by: Motorsport Images

Missing energy to the Panoz, Gounon’s Braveness works group needed to race intelligent to progress

The battle raged within the closing phases, with Gounon briefly getting forward when the Panoz had a nostril change just for Jeanette to roar again previous as Lammers adopted of their wheeltracks. 

“The Panoz was very fast [on the straight], they’d low drag they usually had large energy additionally,” remembers Gounon. “I needed to be within the slipstream on a regular basis. That they had TV on us and through one hour and a half, preventing, preventing, preventing.  

“I used to be attacking in each nook however he was going away within the straights. He was so highly effective and so fast that my engine was over-revving. On the finish of every straight I used to be on the limiter, I couldn’t move him. And I mentioned, ‘okay, I’ve to attend till the final lap, final minute’.” 

Autosport’s report relates what occurred subsequent: “Gounon got here inside inches of overhauling the Panoz, harried it for some time after which dropped again, his clutch having given up the ghost. This left him powerless to withstand the problem from a flying Lammers.” 

Gounon admits he was “pissed off” at ending seventh, after seeing fifth slip away: “In my thoughts, I mentioned ‘it will likely be final lap, 4 corners [to go], assault’. It was clear that it was that and nothing else. And I used to be disenchanted about that.” 

However his temper was modified when he obtained applause from Joest’s technical guru Ralf Juttner. And Juttner wasn’t the one one to be impressed, as his 2003 drive parlayed into extra alternatives with Braveness within the group’s LMP2 automotive the next 12 months.  

After ditching the “catastrophic” Mechachrome engine, the C65 Braveness was reconfigured to just accept an engine in-built Essex at AER and Gounon once more starred by embarrassing a number of LMP1 machines to finish up twelfth total, lower than a second behind Erik Comas’s Pescarolo, and over 10 seconds forward of his nearest class rival.  

A clutch problem left Gounon frustrated to finish seventh in 2003 when fifth had been up for grabs

Picture by: Motorsport Images

A clutch drawback left Gounon pissed off to complete seventh in 2003 when fifth had been up for grabs

Gounon remembers that group patron Henri Pescarolo didn’t initially consider he was in a P2 automotive after they met within the pitlane after qualifying, and duly provided him a drive at Spa later that 12 months within the fledgling Le Mans Endurance Collection. And for 2005, he acquired his arms on an ORECA-run R8 for the complete LMES. The Braveness C60 had led to an unbelievable revival of his prototype racing profession. 

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“It was good recollections,” summarises Gounon. “The story is simply out of what you see on a regular basis. Testing, making ready, every little thing managed, every little thing ready for Le Mans throughout the winter. Once I did it for McLaren [in 1997] we did a number of assessments of 24 hours. Right here you come, parking, seat, leap within the automotive – it’s out of what you’ll be able to ever think about. 

“It was uncontrolled, this story, it was good!”

Off the back of his Le Mans performances for Courage, Gounon earned a seat in the Pescarolo C60 in 2004

Picture by: Ebrey / Motorsport Images

Off the again of his Le Mans performances for Braveness, Gounon earned a seat within the Pescarolo C60 in 2004

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