Greaves Motorsport helped to make history this weekend in France, when one of the team’s drivers, 16 year old American Matt McMurry, became the youngest ever competitor to race in the famous French endurance classic. Matt beat a record that has stood for 55 years, as the previous holder, Ricardo Rodriguez, made his first appearance at the race in 1959 at the age of seventeen.
The team received two invitations to the race for their Nissan-powered Zytek prototypes running in the highly competitive LM P2 class. Car #41 was entered under the Greaves Motorsport banner, and was crewed by three drivers making their Le Mans début, James Winslow, Alessandro Latif and Michael Munemann. Car #42’s drivers were a mixture of youth and experience, with Matt being joined by ALMS Champion, Chris Dyson and Greaves Motorsport’s regular professional, Tom Kimber-Smith, a three time class winner at Le Mans.
After a problem during Free Practice the trio of drivers were playing catch up and started the race from 17th in class and 26th overall. Winslow took the start for the team and drove two hard, competitive stints, gaining places in the race and earning the plaudits of many seasoned observers.
After this promising beginning James handed over to Michael Munemann. Early into Michael’s stint there was a treacherous local downpour, which required a change from slick to full wet tyres. On his way back carefully to the pits Michael encountered both the Murphy Prototype’s Oreca and an AF Corsa Ferrari spinning as a consequence of the volume of water on the track. Michael was left with nowhere to go and became embroiled in the initial accident.
Michael managed to get back to the pits but the resultant damage to the front suspension was too great for the car to continue and the team was reluctantly forced to retire the entry. The disappointment was especially great for the third driver, Alessandro Latif, who did not get the opportunity to demonstrate his growing skills behind the wheel.
Tom Kimber-Smith, who had qualified the Zytek 8th in class and 17th overall, drove the first stint for this car entered under the Caterham Racing banner. The link to the team is through Chris Dyson who is the North American Importer for the famous British sportscar brand. Tom’s stint was right on the pace before he handed over to Matt McMurry who created Le Mans history. Matt was also caught out in the torrential rain with a half spin but managed to recover to complete a double stint. Chris took over the driving duties and was progressing up the order till he was hit by another prototype as they both struggled to avoid a spinning car. The damage took several stops to fully repair which dropped the car down the order.
From that point onward the team ran strongly regaining places lost and a good result seemed within reach. However at around 11.00am on the Sunday Morning, with the finishing line almost in sight, Chris reported a transmission problem. On inspection this turned out to be severe and required a virtual rebuild of the gearbox. Amazingly the crew managed to get the car back on track in 50 minutes, a fantastic performance, especially considering the hours already worked during the race.
Matt was given the honour of driving the closing stints and took the Chequered Flag in 10th place in class (23rd overall), setting another record, that of youngest finisher in the history of the race.
Tim Greaves, Team Principal:“The overall feeling after the race was very positive, we enjoyed the race, finishing here always feels like a victory. However this feeling was severely dampened after #41 had an unavoidable collision during the treacherous weather conditions. We feel a great pride in delivering the goal of getting Matt to be the youngest driver to start the race, a project that we have been involved in over the past 18 months. It was just fantastic.
After a few incidents on track during the extremely wet conditions it was unlikely that we would be in a position to challenge for podium honours, the class is too competitive these days, so we set ourselves the task of getting Matt to the finish to break another record.
However, three hours from the flag, Chris reported problems selecting first gear which we initially thought was a glitch but it turned out to be a major problem. So we had to completely rebuild the transmission and the guys achieved this in around 50 minutes. I am told by our number one mechanic on the car that it normally takes a week so I am hoping that Ricardo only charge us £60 in future when they rebuild the gearbox. All joking aside it was truly stunning performance from the team, I can’t imagine many others that would even attempt such a task but it meant that we were able to deliver Matt to the Chequered Flag which was really fantastic.
The #41 car had a disaster, we had three guys coming to Le Mans for the first time, we were really excited for them but when the rains came it was impossible to drive, Audi, Toyota and others crashed out, and when a car in front of us lost control during the second set of showers we ran into them and out of the race. It was very sad for the drivers to end their race within the first two hours, especially Alessandro.
We would like to extend our congratulations to Jota for their victory, that shows the performance of the Zytek, Nissan and Dunlop combination is the equal of any in the LM P2 class and we look forward to challenging them over the balance of the season.”
Team Manager, Jacob Greaves.“Le Mans is always a very hard race, even when all goes according to plan. The team feels very sorry for James, Michael and Alessandro, who deserved a better result on their first run at La Sarthe, but they, and we, will bounce back. On the other side of the garage we got to the finish and helped Matt to make history, Chris and Tom did a great job when on track to make this all possible. And what more can I say about the team? When #41 was retired the entire crew volunteered to support the guys on #42 working in shifts, that shows the real spirit of Greaves Motorsport. The late rebuild of of the gearbox was a truly stunning performance, we are lucky to have such talent in the garage.
We look forward to the rest of the season, challenging for victories in the European Le Mans Series.”