Van Merksteijn Motorsport wins LMP2 team title, Jos Verstappen drivers’ champ in Le Mans Series

Van Merksteijn Motorsport wins LMP2 team title, Jos Verstappen drivers’ champ in Le Mans Series

18.08.2008: Van Merksteijn Motorsport wins LMP2 team title, Jos Verstappen drivers’ champ in Le Mans Series

Photos on Here le-mans-series--89.html

Van Merksteijn Motorsport by Equipe Verschuur enjoyed a tremendously successful weekend in the fourth round of the Le Mans Series at the Nürburgring. A dominant class victory for Jos Verstappen and Jeroen Bleekemolen with the Porsche RS Spyder in the 1000 kilometre race was enough for the team to win the championship title in the LMP2 category with one race to go. Jos Verstappen is the new drivers’ champion in the LMP2 class.

"I am really proud, this is a great success", said Verstappen after the 195 lap race. "We had a trouble-free race", commented Jeroen Bleekemolen, who drove the Porsche across the finish line after five hours and 45 minutes, applauded by all the team members and numerous fans standing on the pit wall. For the team, it was the third class win from four races in the Le Mans Series and yet another great success, two months and two days after the class win in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Dutch Porsche pairing showed a dominant performance in the 1000 kilometre race, a historic event in Germany that was first organised in 1953. Jos Verstappen, who had set the fastest time in class in qualifying, also drove the first stint in the race.

"We really wanted to go for a quick lap time in qualifying, so we chose the soft tyre compound, which we also used for the fist stint I the race", he commented afterwards. In hindsight, this turned out to be a choice that wasn’t 100 percent perfect. "In free practice, we had done 20 laps with these tyres without any problems, but in my first stint in the race, the tyres started to wear off quite quickly and I had a lot of oversteer. Once we had changed to the harder compound, it was perfect again."

In the opening hour, the Dutch Porsche had a fierce battle with the identical car of the Danish Essex team, at some points the cars less than one second apart. When the Essex Porsche lost some time, it was a clear run for the Dutch team. After 60 laps, Jeroen Bleekemolen got into the car and he had trouble-free stints, too. "The only thing we had to deal with was the dense traffic with so many cars on the track, and the tyres had a lot of pick-up, resulting into some oversteer during the last seven or eight laps of each stint", he reported.

In the second half of the race, Jos Verstappen drove another stint while Jeroen Bleekemolen was in the car for the remainder of the race, safely driving victory home. "It was a trouble-free race", he commented. "And a great success for the team, too." For Jos Verstappen, the LMP2 drivers’ title in the Le Mans Series is his first championship title since he won the German Formula 3 championship back in 1993.

"A great success which means a lot to me", he said. Team owner Peter van Merksteijn didn’t race this weekend as he was taking part in the German round of the World Rally Championship, but once he had finished the rally he made his way to the Nürburgring to join in the team’s post-race celebrations. "A great achievement, it is just unbelievable", he commented. "I am proud of them all!"

The fifth and final round of the Le Mans Series is the Autosport 1000 Kilometres at Silverstone, September 14th.

Nürburgring (Ger), Le Mans Series. LMP2 race result: 1. Verstappen-J. Bleekemolen (Ned), Porsche RS Spyder, 188 laps in hours (avg. 167.092 km/h). 2. Ragues-Lahaye (Fra), Pescarolo-Judd, 4 laps, 3. Elgaard-Nielsen (Den), Porsche RS Spyder, 4 laps.

LMP2 drivers’ standings after 4 of 5 rounds: 1 (champion). Verstappen, 38 points, 2. Van Merksteijn, Nielsen and Elgaard, 28 points. 3. Lahaye and Ragues, 21 points.


- René de Boer -also photos


18.08.2008 / MaP

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