Pierre Ragues and the Duqueine Engineering team were forced to retire from the 4 Hours of Portimão today in a race hampered by misfortune from the outset.
It was a downbeat end to the 2019 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) for Pierre, who had aimed for a more representative result around the 4.684km Autodromo do Algarve.
Despite racking up plenty of trouble-free kilometres in the two free practice sessions, the team’s four-hour race was curtailed on the opening lap. Starting from seventh place, Pierre was aiming to make up ground, but a loss of traction control caused him to spin across the track. He was then hit by a competitor who was caught up in the melee, causing some rear-end damage to his #30 Oreca 07.
A safety car had already been called for incidents elsewhere on the lap, which would ultimately lead to a red flag. The race was on hold for almost one hour, as the clock continued to count down, and was eventually restarted at 13:25 local time, when Pierre resumed down in 23rd position.
Undeterred by the early problems, Pierre started to make up positions before another safety car halted his progress. He handed over to Richard Bradley shortly before two hours into the scheduled race time, while inside the top-ten.
Richard picked up the reins and was able to move the team up into ninth place during his stints. However, more drama was to unfold with just over an hour of the race remaining when Richard went off in turn one, with no chance of continuing. The team will investigate the precise cause of the crash.
Pierre said: “That was not the way we wanted our 2019 ELMS season to end, and I am disappointed and frustrated that we weren’t able to show our true pace. It was an eventful first lap for everyone but for me, I experienced a sudden loss of traction control that pitched the car into a spin. One of the other cars hit the rear of my car causing damage. After the red flag, we started again – almost one hour later – down in 23rd place. It was going to be race of recovery, which was going OK, but Richard unfortunately went off at turn one which ended the race for us. Game over for our season. There were plenty of positives during the year, which some strong pace at times, but we were hampered a lot by bad luck, like today. I’m grateful to have had the chance to compete in this ELMS season with the Duqueine Engineering team, and I would like to extend my best wishes to Yann Belhomme for a speedy recovery.”