Signature Plus: Pierre Ragues and Signature draw positives from Aston Martin Debut

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pierre Ragues and his Signature Plus team have drawn positives from a sixth-placed finish at today's 8 Hours of Le Castellet at Circuit Paul Ricard in France. For Pierre, it was his 14th consecutive finish in Le Mans Series competition in his first race as an Official Aston Martin Team Partner Driver.

Having qualified the car on Saturday, Pierre's fellow Quadra Sports team-mate Franck Mailleux started the race, but Pierre's consistent double stint in the middle of the race contributed to the team's eventual result. Although it was a useful race in terms of gaining experience, it was far from trouble-free with the need for front and rear end repairs during some of the scheduled pit stops as a result of damaged louvers on their Lola Aston Martin LMP1 car.

The team had advanced as high as fourth position in the early stages, but was unable to match the hot pace of the frontrunners in their first weekend as they continued to acclimatise to their new package.

The drivers completed 55 laps in Friday's practice sessions and a further 28 laps on Saturday morning as they focussed on car set-up and a thorough analysis of the tyre performance with new tyre supplier Dunlop. The afternoon qualifying session did not yield the expected improvement in lap time Pierre suffered from handling problems and could only claim the eighth fastest time.

For Signature, the result marked a continuation of their 100% finish rate in the Le Mans Series after an unbroken run of race finishes in their debut LMS season in 2009, and their first as an official Aston Martin partner team. Although the weather conditions were largely pleasant for the duration of the weekend, cloud cover started in the early afternoon and led to a late threat of rain which ultimately failed to impact on the closing laps of the race.

The end result is not where Signature aims to be in its second season participating in LMP1, but it has been a valuable opportunity to gather data in real race conditions with its new car, new tyres and for the first full 8 hour race around Paul Ricard, data that will prove highly beneficial to the team in preparation for round two of this year's championship at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps circuit in one month's time.

Pierre Ragues said: "It was not really the sort of result that we hope to achieve this season, but considering it was our first race weekend with Aston Martin and Dunlop, and the first eight hour race at Paul Ricard, I think we can be reasonably satisfied. Qualifying was not good for me yesterday and I was struggling with some handling issues. Also in today's race, the car was understeering a lot and getting worse as more rubber went down on the track. This also contributed to our problems with the louvers which forced us to extend our scheduled pit stops for repairs. Nevertheless, we have learned a lot, not only about the car, but about the Dunlop tyres, so it has been a productive weekend and a good baseline for the season. The team worked diligently and professionally all weekend and the fact that we have been able to register another finish is a testament to their hard work. I also appreciate the fantastic support from my sponsor Groupe Auto Union."
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