Mark Patterson was not given the opportunity to take the chequered flag at the end of his debut race for Murphy Prototypes today as the first round of the 2013 European Le Mans Series at Silverstone was red flagged with 39 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock.
Incessant rain since the start of the race at 15:00 meant that standing water made for treacherous track conditions from the green flag. From behind the safety car, Brendon Hartley started on the front row of the grid in the #18 Nissan powered Oreca.
He came in to the pits for an early stop to change to Dunlop wet tyres and was soon charging through the field to lead the race and take the day’s fastest lap.
A small mistake into Stowe meant Brendon caught some standing water and slid in to the gravel trap. He brought #18 back to the pits for Mark to take over the driving duties, take on new boots and fuel and head back out in to the rain.
On a later scheduled stop, the team encountered starter issues due to water in the junction box under the Oreca car, losing Mark a lot of time and set him several laps down from the pits.
The last safety car of the day lasted for 50 minutes before the race was finally stopped with Murphy’s Men finishing in provisional 18th position.
Brendon Hartley, Driver, #18: “I can’t help but be disappointed. Obviously the pace was pretty strong and we made the right call on the first lap to come in and put on wets.
When I came through the GT field on the first restart I made contact, spun and had to drop to the back again, but the car was fantastic and I caught the leader very quickly, passed him and pulled away comfortably.
I made a bit of a silly mistake – the track was getting wetter and wetter and I didn’t read it 100%, hit a puddle and locked the front brake and ended up in the gravel trap. Luckily we got the car back out and were able to get Mark some laps.
He did a really solid job; the conditions could not have been any worse than they were today. It’s a shame that we didn’t get any dry running, especially ahead of Le Mans, but we take away a lot of positives from this weekend and we should be proud that the car was so competitive and that everyone in the team did such a good job.”
Mark Patterson, Driver, #18: “In the beginning it was very wet and any gas application, the car was spinning backwards. I did about three of those, fortunately at slow speeds, so it taught me to just back off and take my time.
As the rain got heavier and the puddles increased we were running at the same pace as the front runners, but it didn’t feel quick in this kind of weather I can assure you.
But when they red flagged the race, that wasn’t much fun. I was wet and freezing sitting behind the safety car and so I would have loved to have done another 10 or 15 laps to warm up. I am sure that we would have moved up had the race continued, but we are where we are.”
Malcolm Swetnam, Team Manager, Murphy Prototypes: “The weather was a little bit extreme. The car was fantastic and the team made a good call pitting as early as we did. We got in before the pit road closed and I think that everyone thought we were not looking too shiny on about lap three and about lap four we were looking very shiny.
Brendon went off, but frankly the weather conditions were changing and he just aquaplaned. He wasn’t the first, wasn’t the last and it wasn’t a very exclusive club. From there we just battled on through the day.”
Greg Murphy, Owner, Murphy Prototypes: “It was a heartbreaking race. Brendon was way out in the lead and just got caught out by some standing water. But that’s motor racing and we weren’t the only ones affected by the weather and other issues today.
We take away some points and maybe at the end of the year we’ll be glad we got them. But Mark did a great job, we love having him and he did all we could ask of him today.
Overall, all of the guys in the team have done a fantastic job this weekend, we have taken a huge step forward this year and all looks promising for the next round. ”