Tockwith Motorsports finished 10th in the LMP2 class in its first attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours, having crossed the line 12th overall in a frantic, dramatic and grueling edition of the French classic.
The Yorkshire-based team, running a Ligier-Gibson JS P217 in partnership with Gulf Oil International became a fan favourite in the build-up to the 2017 event thanks, in part, to the iconic blue & orange colour scheme, that is synonymous with the race. But TMS went on to earn their respect through a fierce blend of competitiveness and discipline that resulted in an almost completely trouble-free run in unusually hot temperatures.
Having started the race from 25th on the grid, and 17th in class, the #34 Tockwith car steadily rose through the order and as more fancied runners, particularly from the LMP1 class, hit trouble, solidly engineered reliability ensured the team was there to pick up the pieces. This combined with a driver trio of former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok, Nigel Moore and Le Mans rookie Phil Hanson that all delivered on potential, left team principal Simon Moore delighted and emotional when the clock struck 1600 on the Sunday afternoon to mark the finish of the famous race.
“I’m very emotional,” said Moore afterwards. “Everybody in the team is happy, we’ve got a great crew and we couldn’t have asked for any better.
“I always hoped we could achieve a top ten in class, but anything can happen at Le Mans and I think we coped with most eventualities and fought our way through them.”
Chandhok, the only Indian in the race, and a veteran of five previous Le Mans starts and former F1 driver, was full of praise for TMS’s debut performance. “I’m really pleased we got top ten in class,” he said. “It’s been a tough challenge for us. With the Ligier we’ve been a little on the back foot, and with a rookie team and a rookie driver in Hanson, who is only 17 years old, I think we should be pleased with that – considering we started in 25th.
“It’s the first Le Mans for a lot of the guys in this team and you can’t underestimate the team effort required for this race. The boys did a great job. A big thank you to all the mechanics and the engineers, they worked tirelessly and their workload isn’t just for 24 Hours, but all through the last three weeks. I also think it is the hottest 24 Hour race I’ve ever participated in and it’s the first time I’ve done it in a closed roof car. Doing a quintuple stint to start with, in the hottest part of the day, was interesting!
“It’s nice to get to the end. It was a race of attrition, and we just ploughed on. We got to a certain part of the race where we just called it and it became a question of finishing.”
Team-mate Hanson was equally delighted, having become the youngest ever top ten finisher at 17 years and 336 days: “The goal was to finish and we knew that was going to be tough enough, so to be classified in the top ten is incredible. Obviously it was my first Le Mans, I don’t think it will be my last, and, with the knowledge I’ve gained this week, I believe I’ll be more competitive again next time I race here. This place is unbelievable and for my first ever Le Mans, I’ll take this result.”
The last word went to team captain Nigel Moore, who started and finished the race with strong multiple stints in extreme temperatures that made track conditions perilous: “It felt like it ran like a train. I think we only came into the actual pit twice all race and one of those was to make sure everything was okay so we didn’t stop out on the track with an hour to go. We were in the pits for the minimum amount of time, which is what you’ve got to do, to do well. This is an absolutely mega achievement.
“It’s taken a lot of effort to get here and obviously I’ve got to give a big thank you to my Dad, my Mum, Gulf and all the team – probably half of which are family as well. And for 90% of the team this was their first time at Le Mans as well so I’m really, really happy. Everyone thoroughly deserves it. This is a team that my Dad and I built so it meant a lot more than my debut in 2009.”
The next round of the World Endurance Championship is, ‘The 6-hours of Nürburgring’, Germany on the 16th July
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