Nicholas Mee Racing: Rising to the challenge at Dijon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Level on 52 points at the top of the table after eight rounds, Nicholas Mee Racing scored its fifth win of the season in the ninth and final round of the 2011 AM GT4 Challenge to take first place in this year’s series. This follows Karsten Le Blanc and NMR’s victory in the inaugural AM Vantage GT4 Challenge series of 2009.

Le Blanc – NMR’s sole driver for the 80-minute race at the Dijon-Prennois circuit on 11th September – survived a late downpour while on slick tyres to take the chequered flag over one lap ahead of series rival Vantage Racing, and so secured first place in the race and the 2011 Challenge in which NMR scored 62 points out of a possible 80*.

Competing at the French venue for the first time, Le Blanc quickly found favour with the undulating track during Friday morning’s 2hr practice session, while Sunday’s 30min qualifying session saw NMR settle for third on the grid, two spots behind pole-sitter Vantage Racing.

With the forecast threatening heavy rain for Sunday’s race, Le Blanc made a terrific start by slotting straight into second position, and then took the lead from Vantage Racing while still on the first lap. He then settled into a steady, faultless rhythm for the first half of the race, and gradually extended his leading margin to 50secs before the compulsory pit-stop.

With the overall title at stake, the atmosphere in the pit lane was tense. Vantage Racing pitted first for its first driver, Tom Black, to hand over to teammate Alan Bonner, who had earlier set the pole position time. On his exit from the pit lane, Bonner crossed the white line for the circuit before the end of the pit lane and so incurred a drive-through penalty. This lessened the pressure on NMR as it would mean that the team would now have a one-lap advantage over its main rival. However, the NMR crew lost no focus when it was Le Blanc’s turn to pit.

Le Blanc subsequently took on new tyres plus a splash of fuel for his V8 Vantage GT4 and rejoined the race still with a comfortable lead. But there would be more tension as, 30 minutes before the end of the race, the predicted heavy shower finally arrived and competitors were forced to dive into the pits for treaded tyres.

Having missed the pit lane entry, Le Blanc used his next lap to gauge whether he’d be able to continue on slicks without pitting. Although his lap times did drop off, he was able to stay out on the now slippery track to run without incident to victory in the last AM Challenge race of 2011 with over a lap in hand on close rivals Vantage Racing.

After the race a beaming Karsten Le Blanc said, “I’m absolutely delighted with our win here and our clinching the Challenge. We were determined to take the title this year in memory of our dear friend and former Team Manager Craig Dawson, who passed away late last year. We've had to work hard all season to fend off our always competitive and consistent rivals and friends Tom Black and Alan Bonner of Vantage Racing, and, with both of us on equal points at the start of the race, the race and the series really could have gone either way.

“I wish to thank Giles Dawson for stepping into his late brother's shoes and for being a superb Team Manager. Big thanks also to all the other NMR crew members, to the management of Nicholas Mee & Co and to my co-drivers this season: Dan de Zille and my very good friend Christiaen van Lanschot. They have been perfect teammates – both quick and reliable.

“Finally, I would like to thank our fellow Challenge competitors who are a terrific bunch of people, plus Jamie Wall and Belinda Edwards for organising this year’s Challenge. All of us in NMR really hope it will continue to attract more entrants to the series which shares the best elements of both modern and historic competition; competitive racing between great cars and all combined with the wonderful camaraderie usually only found in historic motorsport circles."

Nicholas Mee Racing is now preparing for its final race of 2011 – the Britcar 24hr at Silverstone on 1-2 October where Karsten Le Blanc will be partnered by regular team-mates Christiaen van Lanschot and Dan de Zille, along with newcomer Robert Nimkoff from the USA.
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes