Signature Plus: Looking ahead to Lola Aston Martin debut at Paul Ricard

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The 2010 Le Mans Series gets underway at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France this weekend precisely seven months after the curtain fell on last season's championship.

For the Signature Plus team, the weekend ahead marks the official start of its recent partnership with Aston Martin, which sees Signature participate in this year's championship with the prestigious title of Official LMP1 Partner Team of Aston Martin Racing. Franck Mailleux and Pierre Ragues will also hold the title of Official Aston Martin Racing Team Partner Drivers for their second full season racing in the Le Mans Series with Signature.

Paul Ricard will host its first ever 8 hour Le Mans Series race this weekend, although it has been a firm fixture on the LMS calendar since 2004 having played host to official pre-season testing. As a result, Le Mans Series competitors are well acquainted with the 5.791km circuit configuration, its technical nuances and its particular weather conditions.

This year's official test at Paul Ricard took place just over one month ago with teams and drivers facing bitterly cold track conditions, coupled with the notorious Mistral wind that is a feature of the region. Nonetheless, it the Signature team with a useful first opportunity to acclimatise to the Lola Aston Martin LMP1 and to begin a thorough evaluation of the car's character at the track in readiness for this weekend's race. A further two-day test at Magny-Cours last week enabled the team to ramp up its preparations in spite of the continued mixed weather conditions.

The team has also established a solid working relationship with its new tyre supplier Dunlop, using the variable weather conditions to test a wide range of rubber in anticipation of the five events that make up the 2010 season.

Franck Mailleux
"I am really excited to get racing again this weekend after what seems like an extremely long off-season," said Franck. "Knowing that we will be taking part in this weekend's race as the official partner team for Aston Martin Racing makes it even more special. I am really honoured to be representing such a prestigious automotive brand, so I hope we can do them justice and repay their faith in our team.

"We have experienced some tough conditions in the few days of testing that we have carried out this year," continued Franck, "with the two days at Paul Ricard and two days at Magny-Cours, so we will definitely have some further refinement to do in the practice sessions. However, I know that we have a strong base package with the Aston Martin and the Dunlop tyres, so I am optimistic for a good result. I also benefit from the continued support of my personal sponsors Sojasun, so I am also looking forward to giving them some podium results during the year, hopefully starting at Paul Ricard this weekend."

Pierre Ragues
"Finally we are ready to go racing," said Pierre. "After a long off-season period, I am really looking forward to getting back into competition this weekend. I am proud to be starting my second season in the LMP1 class and second year with Signature as an official Aston Martin Racing partner driver. Aston Martin is a special brand and a proven competitor in the Le Mans Series, so we have a lot to live up to. I had the duty of shaking down the car at Lurcy-Levis on Tuesday, so I am really in 'race mode' now!

"We have had some important days in the car in the run-up to this weekend's race, although the weather has not been particularly kind to us. It has been useful to gain experience of the Aston Martin around Paul Ricard from the two-day official test at the beginning of March, even if I hope the weather will be better for the race. We start from a very solid base but we still have some finesse work to carry out on the set-up of the car, which I am sure we will accomplish in the first practice sessions. It should be a good weekend and, also with the backing of my sponsor Groupe Auto Union, I am confident we can get the season off to a great start."
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