Oliver Bryant claims strong ninth in Le Mans debut

Oliver Bryant claims strong ninth in Le Mans debut

22.06.2016: British GT race winner Oliver Bryant finished ninth on his 24 Hours of Le

British GT race winner Oliver Bryant finished ninth on his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut at the 84th edition of the French endurance classic, driving the Team AAI-entered #57 Corvette C7.R supported by ProSpeed Competition in the LMGTE-Am class.

Having won over a century of races across multiple sports car categories, Oliver may have been a novice at the grueling 13.629km circuit, but the 30-year-old certainly had a strong endurance racing background that included two podium finishes at the Spa 24 Hours.

Bryant quickly settled alongside crew-mates Johnny O’Connell and Mark Patterson, who themselves had competed at the twice-around-the-clock event on numerous occasions, with the former having taken for victories.

The La Sarthe classic began at 15:00, local time, behind the Safety Car after a downpour swept over the circuit moments before lights out.

Johnny started in the #57 machine from 12th after having limited dry running during three rain-affected qualifying sessions.

Having lifted the car as high as third, it was then Oliver’s turn to take the wheel for the first time in the showpiece event. The British ace put in consistently quick lap times, keeping the car well inside the top-10 during his first of three double stints.

However, the 24 Hours of Le Mans likes to throw a curve-ball in the mix every now and again, and during Patterson’s Saturday run the American span into the gravel trap, and despite speedy repairs from the Belgian team’s mechanics, they dropped back to 12th.

There were more minor issues with the car caused by a stone flicking the alternator belt off, but the time spent in the pit lane was also used to make adjustments to the chassis, which saw them become one of the fastest cars in their class.

As night fell over the Circuit de la Sarthe, all three drivers punched in personal bests, with Oliver constantly lapping in less than four minutes, putting in a benchmark of 3:59.584.

Light contact with the barrier during Mark’s stint saw the team having to make more repairs, but the quick work done meant that they didn’t lose too much time and were still in the fight for a top-10 finish.

An error-free run then saw them climb into tenth spot with less than three hours remaining, before they were able to clinch yet another place in the final two hours of racing.

The #57 Corvette C7.R crossed the line ninth in the competitive LMGTE Am category, and could have challenged for a top-5 spot, had it not been for the lengthy time it took for the tow-truck to remove the car from the gravel trap, and subsequent unplanned pit stops earlier in the race.

Oliver Bryant: "My first Le Mans 24 hours was an incredible experience. Full credit to AAI and ProSpeed who learned the car from scratch and finished the 24 hours without any technical issues.

Mark had a couple of unfortunate incidents, which dropped us down the order, but we fought back to P9 in class at the flag. It was a pleasure sharing the car with both Mark and Johnny - whose Le Mans winning experience was very useful.

 I'd like to thank Euan and Moji Shand of Duncan Taylor Artisanal, James Cottingham of DK Engineering, and also CCH for their vital support."

Euan Shand: "Duncan Taylor Artisanal is delighted to have been a part of the great team effort in bringing home the #57 Corvette in the Le Mans 24 Hours, which remains the greatest race on earth.

We are very pleased to have directly sponsored a great driver like Olly Bryant on his first, but certainly not last, race at Le Mans."

Rudi Penders: “Oliver did a very good job, throughout the whole raceweek of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This 84th edition was a tremendous one, and being a rookie in Le Mans is far from an easy task.

Oliver is a very serious and professional racing driver and he contributed in a very positive way to the performance of the team. From the first free practice onwards he was on the pace, and during qualifying and especially the race, he ran without one mistake.

What’s more, his communication with the team helped us a lot. Having seen a lot of drivers, my feeling is that Oliver is ready for another Le Mans and many more endurance races.”  

2016 Le Mans 24 Hours results – LMGTE Am class

1. Scuderia Corsa / Sweedler-Bell-Segal / Ferrari 458 Italia / 331 laps
2. AF Corse / Perrodo-Collard-Aguas / Ferrari 458 Italia / +2:54.897
3. Abu Dhabi-Proton / Al Qubaisi-Heinemeier Hansson-Long / Porsche 911 RSR / +1 lap
4. Clearwater Racing / Mok-Sawa-Bell / Ferrari 458 Italia / +2 laps
5. Gulf Racing / Wainwright-Carroll-Barker / Porsche 911 RSR / +3 laps
6. Formula Racing / Laursen-Mac-Nielsen / Ferrari 458 Italia / +12 laps
7. Aston Martin Racing / Howard-Griffin-Hirsch / Aston Martin V8 Vantage / +13 laps
8. Larbre Competition / Yamagishi-Ragues-Belloc / Corvette C7.R / +15 laps
9. Team AAI / O’Connell-Bryant-Patterson / Corvette C7.R / +25 laps
10. KCMG / Ried-Henzler-Camathias / Ferrari 458 Italia / +31 laps

Image courtesy of Dirk Bogaerts

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/oliver-bryant-le-mans-debut-corvette---151006.html

22.06.2016 / MaP

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