LE MANS
Ascari At Le Mans
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17/06/2001
 
The Race
Part 3
 
ASCARI MAKE MORE THAN AN IMPRESSION

The retirement of #20 was a bitter blow for everyone in the team, but for Ben Collins it was a massive disappointment. To his credit, he still retained his sense of humour: "I think it was taking the meaning of endurance a bit far because I was soaking wet through and was trying to get the car back together at 4.00 am. I thought...why me? But really, it has been a brilliant experience for me and all the team and we just have to make sure that we are back and get a result next year."

Just before the retirement, Ben had hunted down the leading GTS Corvette once more, plus the Cadillac of Wayne Taylor, and the three of them enjoyed a superb dice that Ben eventually won hands down and he was soon pulling away. "It was really easy to go at that pace, I was coasting it," he said, "and then all of a sudden this horrible noise came from the rear and I had no power."

The Ascari mechanics showed why they are so well known for their dedication and professionalism by firstly taking the retirement philosophically and then virtually re-building the number 21 car and sending it back out for a handful of laps with the ever cheerful Xavier Pompidou at the wheel. The team planned to bring the car out for the finish - so they could at least leave Le Mans in some style, after a week that showed so much promise and genuine pace.

Scott Maxwell, who had that unfortunate accident late last night, was back in the pit garage after a brief check up at the circuit medical centre upon his return to the pits. The Canadian was desperately disappointed but remained impressed with the A410 chassis: "I have enjoyed racing here at my second Le Mans with Team Ascari. Unfortunately it did not work out how we would have liked. It was a big hit, but I'm okay." And that's the main thing.

Werner Lupberger and Ben Collins proved beyond doubt that they are future sportscar stars with some scintillating times during the night, which is all the more remarkable considering that they had never driven in the dark anywhere before, let alone Le Mans. Outpacing the likes of Johnny Herbert and Martin Brundle is sure to launch themselves and the Ascari name into the top line of sportscar racing in the coming years.



One final frustration for the team came direct from the ACO, who reminded the team that they could only re-join the race if they had completed the necessary percentage of the leader's expected distance. Klaas Zwart ordered his men back to the hotel for a well earned rest, in the expectation that they could all celebrate being in the race at the end.

But....Team Ascari are sure to be back in 2002 with another assault on the great race, and as team founder Klaas Zwart says: "We know we can compete with the best of the privateers and next year we will be back and we'll be faster and stronger."






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