Signature Plus: Looking forward to the Hungarian challenge

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Signature Plus are hoping to continue their fine run of strong performances with a second consecutive podium finish of the season at this weekend's inaugural Le Mans Series 1000km of Hungaroring.

The event is the penultimate race on the Le Mans Series calendar and takes place at the 4.381km long Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod near the Hungarian capital of Budapest. It is a circuit that is used only infrequently during the year, but which held its Formula One round just a few weeks ago. Even so, Le Mans Series teams will inevitably face the usual low grip that tends to characterise the tight and twisty circuit.

Although Hungaroring is a step into the unknown for the Le Mans Series and its teams, a number of the more established drivers will recall the challenges of the track from their time in Formula 1, an advantage that Signature Plus will not have. The challenges of learning a new circuit will be made even tougher by the track's narrow layout which makes overtaking practically impossible so a good grid position and efficient pit strategy will make all the difference for Sunday's day-night race.

The weather is usually extremely hot at this time of the year, even at night, so all drivers will require exceptional fitness levels to adapt to the conditions.

Signature Plus claimed their first podium in the Le Mans Series in Portugal last month, so the bar has been truly raised with heightened expectations for this weekend's event. Nonetheless, on the back on a successful shakedown of the Dunlop-shod Lola Aston Martin at Lurcy-Levis on Monday), the team are in a optimistic mood.

Quick Q+A with Pierre Ragues

Pierre, you've been busy since Portugal winning races, is that right?
"Yes! I am a big karting fan and I have been taking part in the GPO karting series this year alongside LMS. I find it great physical preparation for the Le Mans Series races and so after the last LMS event, I raced in Lyon and won two races which was great timing after our podium in Portugal. The karting helps keep my racing skills fresh and that is important when we are heading to Hungary, a new track for the championship and for me personally."

What do you think of the track?
"I have only seen it on paper and of course from the F1 races but it looks like it is going to quite tight and difficult to pass on. We will have a big task list in the first practice sessions to find quickly a baseline balance for the car and then to find improvements to the set-up as we learn more about the track. We have continually made good steps forward with Aston Martin and with Dunlop this year, so I hope we can get another result like in Portugal and to build up some good momentum as the season comes to a close."

Quick Q+A with Franck Mailleux

Franck, how much does the Portugal result help preparations for Hungary?
"The result in Algarve was a really timely boost for the team after some difficult races. We were always confident in the performance of the Aston Martin and the Dunlop tyres and I think the result in Portugal was the culmination of the work we have carried out on the overall package. Hungary will be another challenge and it will not be straight forward. We have never been there before with LMS and we will all have a lot to learn in a short space of time. But I am confident in our team-work and our race preparation style, so I think we can be in with a good chance of a podium."

What do you think of the track?
"As a driver, I always enjoy going to new tracks and learning all the details. Hungary definitely looks tight and twisty, and we know from Formula 1 that it is difficult to pass on, which will be even harder with our cars. We will have a lot of work to do in practice to set the car up for this track, both in terms of aerodynamics and chassis stability, as well as tyre evaluation. It will probably be quite hot and physical as well, so I am thankful to my sponsors Sojasun for helping me once again with the most suitable diet in preparing for these conditions."
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