Signature Plus: Ready to come back fighting in Portugal

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

After a two month break to accommodate the high profile 24 Hours of Le Mans race, the Le Mans Series championship resumes this weekend with the Algarve Motor Park hosting round three of this year’s five-race series.

Franck Mailleux and Pierre Ragues will be looking to translate their competitive performance around the demanding La Sarthe circuit last month into the best race result of the season as Signature Plus looks to get the most out of its Dunlop-shod Aston Martin package around the 4.652km Algarve circuit.

The Signature team was left heartbroken after a 19th hour retirement from the prestigious Le Mans 24 hour race after team driver Vanina Ickx crashed the car, causing irreparable damage. The team has spent the last few weeks working tirelessly on the car to prepare it for next week’s race, with a shakedown scheduled to take place today at Magny-Cours. The team will use the opening practice sessions to check all the systems on the car, as well as carry out the usual set-up and tyre evaluation work in preparation for Sunday’s 1000km race.

The Algarve race made its debut on last year’s calendar, so all teams will have a good idea of what to expect this time around. The most notable characteristic of the event is that it will be held into the night, putting the dusk and night-racing experiences of last month’s Le Mans race to good use.

There will be three free practice sessions on Friday 16 July with a specific session held at night to allow teams and drivers the chance to prepare for the later stages of the 1000km race. A short qualifying session will take place early on Saturday 17 July with the 229 lap race starting at 17.00 local time on Saturday evening.

Pierre Ragues
Just how motivated are you for the Portuguese round of the Le Mans Series?
“As a team, we are all extremely motivated for two reasons. First of all, we are hoping to put the disappointment of Le Mans behind us. It was an unfortunate way to end our race and also to bring to an end my own run of consecutive race finishes, but we showed that we have a quick pace which is the positive thing that we can take to Portugal. We had an equally competitive package at Spa at the previous round of the Le Mans Series, so I think all of these will spur us on in Portimao next weekend.”

Do you have any predictions?
“I believe we stand a good chance of a good result but we cannot take that for granted. The team has done a fantastic job to get the car ready after the crash and the fact that I am able to do today’s shakedown is a testament to the work they have carried out. We still need to make use of all the track time we can get to get the car ready for the 1000km race but if any team can bounce back, it is Signature. We just need to focus on getting to the chequered flag with a solid result and to remind everyone, including ourselves, just what we are capable of achieving.”

Franck Mailleux
After the disappointment of Le Mans, are you motivated for the Algarve 1000kms?
“It took a long time to get over the disappointment of Le Mans but it is important to draw all the positive aspects from the entire weekend. We found a good rhythm with the Aston Martin and with the Dunlop tyres, and hopefully we can translate that into a good result in Portugal. The team has worked incredibly hard since Le Mans to repair the car in time for this race, so my thanks to each of them for their efforts. Le Mans is a tough weekend and the emotions run high, but their dedication in the weeks following the race has reinforced that we have a really excellent team at Signature.”

What are your expectations for this race?
“The Algarve 1000kms is quite an interesting race because we have a mix of day and night-time driving, which will allow us to use all of the experiences of Le Mans once again. It is a great facility and an interesting track configuration. It was new to us last year, but this time we will have a good idea where to start with car set-up and tyre work. If we apply ourselves professionally and consistently, I think we could have a good result there. It would certainly be a welcome celebration after Le Mans!”
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