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Irish team aiming for podium finish at Le Mans

Driver Brendon Hartley believes Murphy Prototypes have the experience and speed to challenger for 24-hour honours.

Brendon Hartley returning to the pit lane in the Murphy Prototypes car.
Brendon Hartley returning to the pit lane in the Murphy Prototypes car.
Image: Murphy Prototypes

DESPITE QUALIFYING IN 7th place in the LMP2 class, driver Brendon Hartley believes that Irish racing team Murphy Prototypes have everything needed to challenge for a podium spot when the 90th Le Mans 24-hour race begins at 15.00 on Saturday.

Speaking to TheScore.ie, the New Zealander who is also a test driver with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, said:

“If we can stand on the podium at the end of the race we’ll be very happy. There’s probably 15 cars out there that can win it and I think we’ve the speed and experience to be one of them.

“I think we could have probably qualified third, but over the course of an endurance race like this, I don’t think it really matters.”

It was, in truth, a turbulent qualifying session marred by crashes, red flags and a steering problem from the Irish team.

“We’ve had our fair share of issues but I think it’s all going to plan,” says Hartley.

“I think everyone in the pit lane had issues. There were probably five cars destroyed during qualifying so conditions were tricky out there.

“While I think we did well to set the time we did, we could have done much better to be honest, we can be one of the fastest cars on the grid.”

The Murphy Prototypes car in action.
Image: Murphy Prototypes

Hartley says that, as a driver, you never really get used to the frustration of having to wait around when red flags and mechanical problems interrupt a qualifying session.

“I do get quite frustrated, especially not being able to put a lap down, it’s all part of it though and I guess it means I care.

“What I often forget is that there’s a 24-hour race coming up so when you look at the big picture it’s better to be patient and not stress too much about these things.”

Sleep is also foremost on drivers’ minds when it comes to an event like Le Mans:

“Sleep is the biggest issue over a weekend like this.

“The mechanics will probably be up for 36 hours straight over this weekend and it’s really hard for someone like myself to try wind down, relax and get some sleep.”

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Brendon Hartley waiting his turn to drive.
Image: Murphy Prototypes

Hartley, whose background is in single-seater racing, is also coming to terms with sharing the Murphy Prototypes car with Mark Patterson and Karun Chandhok.

“It’s a funny experience, but I’m getting used to it. I was always told that you don’t share your woman and you don’t share your car but this is a team game now and my job is to help the guys and their job is to help me.

“Karun is fantastic, lots of talent, while Mark is really impressive. He’s probably the oldest guy in the field and I think people underestimate him because of that and underestimate us as a team.”

This is something Hartley believes Murphy Prototypes can use to their advantage when the race starts on Saturday afternoon:

“I think all three of us bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the car and, if people are underestimating us, then we will surprise them.”

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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