Signature Plus: Maiden podium in Portugal

Monday, July 19, 2010

Signature Plus team are today celebrating their best ever result in the Le Mans Series after finishing in a sensational third place at the end of the Algarve 1000kms race on Saturday evening.

Following the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month which saw the team forced to retire in the 19th hour, this weekend's podium is a jubilant return to form for Signature, who are participating in this season's Le Mans Series as official partners of Aston Martin Racing.

The team has enjoyed an extremely competitive weekend in Portugal, in spite of a number of dramas since Friday's opening practice sessions. In the first practice of the weekend, the team could only amass a couple of laps after suffering from electronics gremlins. All three Signature drivers, were able to become better acquainted with their Lola Aston Martin chassis and Dunlop tyres in the second session, setting the third fastest time overall. The final practice, which took place late in the evening to replicate the night-time aspects of the event, saw important work on aero configuration and tyres in preparation for the race itself. The competitiveness of the chassis and tyres enabled the team to lead the way for the majority of the session, lapping an impressive 45 times.

Saturday's qualifying was undertaken by Franck Mailleux who once again demonstrated the sheer pace of the Signature package around the Portimao track. Franck encountered traffic on his best lap but still ended the session in a strong third place just 0.292s from the Peugeot pole. His time was a mere 0.04s from the second placed car which was ultimately demoted for a technical infringement. The decision elevated Franck and Signature to second place to secure their best ever starting position and first front row in their short career in the Le Mans Series to date.

Pierre Ragues started the race with a competitive triple stint but was penalised with a 30 second stop/go penalty on lap 40 for exceeding the pit lane speed limit on his first stop. Having dropped out of the top positions, the team had to make a longer than scheduled pit stop on lap 61 to change the steering wheel. These problems were further compounded by the fact that the radio link between car and team was not working for a large percentage of the race. Nonetheless, the team kept their composure to regain positions and to take the final podium position at the chequered flag. The team also set the second quickest lap of the race, 1m32.794s, only 0.4s from the race winners' best lap, highlighting their overall performance.

Franck Mailleux: "What a race and what a result for all of our team. After the emotions of Le Mans last month, this result could not have come at a better time for everyone involved with Signature. We were able to show a really competitive pace throughout the race, in spite of the stop/go penalty and steering wheel change, and to get on the podium for the first time in the Le Mans Series is a truly fantastic achievement. We had a great qualifying pace to take second on the grid and to be so close to the Peugeot in qualifying was amazing. I'd like to thank Signature, Aston Martin and Dunlop for giving us such a competitive package this weekend. The hard work that we have all put in since the start of the season is really paying dividends now. A special word of thanks to my personal sponsors Sojasun with whom it is a pleasure to be back on the podium. We have two more events this year in Hungary and Britain, so I hope we can use this podium as positive momentum for these races."

Pierre Ragues: "I could not be happier right now! We came to Portugal with the aim of overturning the disappointment from Le Mans and we managed to do that in style with our first ever podium as a team. It was a good start to the race from second on the grid and I was able to get into a good rhythm, but unfortunately we were hit first with the stop/go and then with the steering wheel change which dropped us down the field a bit. We came back fighting though and battled hard and competitively right to the end. The team performed supremely and the technical support from Aston Martin and Dunlop was outstanding. Our package was first class and we have a podium to show for our efforts. Hopefully this is the breakthrough that we have been working so hard to achieve, something that will give us rewards in the final races of the season. Thanks to Group Auto Union, my personal sponsor, for their support, and congratulations once again to the team for this result. It's been a weekend to remember."
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