Signature Plus: LMS 2010 vice champions after fighting to sixth at Silverstone

Monday, September 13, 2010

Signature Plus: LMS 2010 vice champions after fighting to sixth at Silverstone

Pierre Ragues ended this afternoon’s 1000kms of Silverstone in a hard-charging sixth place, crucially obtaining enough points for the Signature Plus team to end the 2010 season as championship runners-up.

The result ensured the French squad concluded their second season in endurance racing as the top petrol-powered team with their Dunlop-shod Aston Martin Lola package. The top six result also guaranteed Pierre his highest ever placing in the drivers’ table, ending up equal fourth with his co-drivers Franck Mailleux and Vanina Ickx; a great result for the team’s sophomore LMS season.

The afternoon’s dry race was in stark contrast to the intermittent rain showers that had hit the team’s race preparations on Friday and Saturday. Silverstone once again played host to the season finale but the new, extended configuration of the high-speed track placed a greater emphasis than usual on track time, something that was hard to come by for Signature.

Right from the opening free practice session on Friday, the rain has caused chaos with Signature enduring a number of off-track excursions, thankfully with little damage to the car. Pierre’s on-track time was minimal as a result of the setbacks and the French driver headed into today’s race with around 12 laps to his credit.

Although conditions were not ideal during Saturday morning, the qualifying session remained dry and allowed the team’s first clear runs of the weekend. In the circumstances, and suffering from traffic, Franck Mailleux did an extremely solid job to take a top ten starting position, just a few tenths-of-a-second from the top six.

Vanina was given starting duties for the race and got the 008 Aston Martin up to seventh place before handing over to Pierre. He reported difficulties with oversteer on heavy fuel, almost certainly a result of the team’s lack of practice laps, but he nonetheless enjoyed a competitive double stint and consolidated position before handing over to Franck Mailleux. Pierre was given the honour of bringing the car with a solid final run, taking the chequered flag in sixth and bringing Signature’s 2010 season to a highly positive conclusion, which culminated in the team earning their automatic place at next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours race.

Pierre Ragues said: “We knew it was going to be a tough afternoon because of how our preparations were affected by the rain but I think we pulled together as a team today and got a very good result in the circumstances. We have finished the season in second place in the team’s championship and I am fourth in the drivers, which is a great end to our year. We had a good race in spite of the lack of running in practice. I had a few oversteer issues in my first double stint but it was much better at the end of the race. To end the season in the top six is really positive and I think it is a fantastic achievement for a team in just their second full season of Le Mans Series racing. We have made big improvements with the technical support of Aston Martin and Dunlop this year and taken some great class podiums, something that greatly contributed to our final championship positions. I’d like to say a big thank you to the entire Signature team for their hard work this season and to my personal sponsors Group Auto Union.”

Franck Mailleux said: “It has been a difficult weekend but one from which we can draw many positives after a top six finish. The result means that Signature holds the runners-up position in the team championship, a brilliant result. I am also pleased with my fourth place in the drivers table, especially with how close we came to finishing even higher up. For my second season in Le Mans Series, that is a great achievement and I feel capable of even more. It was a good race today apart from a small spin at the end of my run, but we were affected quite a lot by the wet conditions in practice. We have become regular competitors at the front of the field this year which is even more special with a petrol-powered car. Aston Martin and Dunlop have given us great support and I think we have all demonstrated a fantastic teamwork this season. From such professional work comes good results and we will look back on this season positively. My sponsors Sojasun have once again been fantastic to me this year and we shared in some special podium results which I am very proud of.”

Signature Plus Team Principal Philippe Sinault: “I’d like to extend my thanks to the whole team and to our wonderful drivers for this result. Today is not so much about taking sixth in a thrilling Silverstone race but more for our second place in the teams’ championship. Signature, Aston Martin and Dunlop are 2010 Vice Champions. We have proven to be a formidable and competitive package. I’m thrilled with and immensely proud of our performances this year.”
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