Monday, 13 June 2011 04:00
American sportscar outfit Robertson Racing today wrote one of the great fairytales in Le Mans 24 Hours’ storied history by claiming a superb GTE Am third place finish at Circuit de la Sarthe in France, the first of any kind for the team in its short four year history.
The storyline of the plucky privateer American Le Mans Series squad, which receives little manufacturer support in a class dominated by factory developed machines, could not have been better composed with team owners/drivers Dave and Andrea Robertson celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary today.
Foregoing traditional festivities in favour of the world’s most famous twice around the clock endurance race alongside long time co-driver, friend and lynchpin David Murry, the crew kept to a strategy built around the consistency and bullet proof reliability of the Braselton based team’s fan favourite #68 Ford GT.
285 laps and 3876 kilometres later, Andrea crossed the finish line to become the first female to climb a Le Mans podium in any class since 1931.
The records do not end there though, for this was also the first husband and wife driver team to finish on the rostrum in Le Mans’ 79 race history.
Murry meanwhile picked up his second consecutive GT podium finish at La Sarthe following a ten year absence.
No modern Ford GT has finished the gruelling Grand Prix of Endurance, let alone recorded a podium finish, since the car was first produced seven years ago, while the last Ford chassis of any kind to repeat the feat did so in 1972.
Of course, the last Ford GT40, on which Robertson Racing’s machine draws such iconic styling cues, last finished in the top three at this race way back in 1969 when Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver triumphed outright.
While the rest of the GTE Am class fell by the wayside, Robertson Racing kept up a metronomic pace, the car’s only reliability issue of the entire race occurring after four hours when the team lost two laps converting to the ‘manual’ sequential gearbox when its paddle-shift system developed problems.
“We are as happy as can be. From day one I honestly thought we had a chance in this class, which is why we entered it. We are not the fastest, and I know we have a lot of progress to make, but if the team could work together and have a mistake free run I always believed this was feasible. We just kept going for 24 hours. We are so glad to be here, but wouldn’t be were it not for the fantastic group of people in the garage and back in Braselton. This is for them. It’s also great to be the first husband and wife on the podium and it makes it even more special that it’s our anniversary. The only problem is I’ve no idea how to top this next year!”
“It comes as quite a shock to be the first woman since 1931 to make the podium and just proves what a male dominated sport this is. I’m not sure why; perhaps they’re intimidated?! I am also still in awe at being the first married couple on the podium but I think it’s kind of neat. I would once again like to thank everyone in the team from the bottom of my heart because without them, their hard work and dedication, we would not have come this far.”
“I am so happy for Dave, Andrea and the team. We have worked so hard for the past four years and this is the pinnacle of what they wanted to achieve, so to come and get a podium on debut is just fantastic. You always dream about a possible result but don’t ever think it could happen so we have just taken one step at a time. This was a 100% team effort and that is what contributes to podiums at Le Mans.”
Andrew H Smith, Team Manager:
“Unexpected, fantastic, awesome! Everybody worked so well and it’s been a true team effort over the last two days. It’s taken years of preparation to get here. With just a small bunch of people and a lot of desire we’ve taken on some of the world’s major car manufacturers at the world’s greatest race. I think we can all be immensely proud of our achievement.”
Lee Penn, Chief Engineer:
“Awesome! It was absolutely amazing. I never expected it and never dared imagine it even in my wildest dreams. It is just the most unbelievable result ever and beats the podiums I have achieved here so far, including the win with Panoz.”
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