Harold Primat discovered just how tough the Le Mans 24 Hours can be on both driver and machine last weekend having endured a frustrating 2009 race thanks to a catalogue of issues that plagued the #009 Lola-Aston Martin throughout.Handed the honour of starting this year’s event, Primat made progress early on but was soon forced in for an alternator change after less than an hour’s running. The stop cost the car several laps and eventually returned to the track with co-driver Peter Kox at the wheel. It wasn’t long however before the Dutchman was back in, this time to serve a one minute stop-and-go penalty handed down by race officials – the punishment a result of work that had taken place on the car whilst on the grid to repair an electrical problem immediately before the start.Further problems would result in yet more lost time for 009 during team mate Stuart Hall’s first stint thanks to a water leak costing around 15 minutes. With Harold back in the car however, the team’s luck began to change and all three drivers enjoyed trouble-free runs.In fact, by the time Harold pitted just before midnight at the end of a long three hour stint, the Swiss had climbed 16 places. In typical fashion though, bad luck was about to return when word came through that Hall had been excluded from the race for his part in an accident with the LMP2 Radical which had subsequently crashed heavily. The penalty, considered harsh by the majority of the paddock, left Primat’s task all the more difficult, with only himself and Kox now eligible to drive the Aston Martin. As if that wasn’t enough, the 009 crew were about to encounter yet more mechanical woes. At 2:20am the car stopped out on the circuit. It took ten minutes before Harold could return to the pits where the water pump controller was changed in a quarter of an hour. Kox then took over, only to lose electrical power just one lap later, prompting another unscheduled stop. Finally, after so many issues, the duo were able to string together a series of stints without interruption, and the pair’s exploits saw the car running in 26th overall by the morning. With 18 hours gone however, disaster was about to strike.The cooling issues which accompanied the car for much of the race had largely been contained. But, whilst busy continuing the car’s fight back, a warning light appeared on the dash before the temperature inside the cockpit began to noticeably increase. Harold informed the team immediately, but before he had a chance to pit, fluid spilled out onto the rear tyres on entry to the Porsche Curves – the fastest and most dangerous section of the circuit. Devoid of grip, he lost control and crashed heavily into the barriers.The huge impact with the tyre wall destroyed the rear of the car, although Primat was able to climb unaided from the wreckage. It was the end of what had been a frustrating weekend for 009 and its crew.Harold said: “I am a bit stiff and I will take it easy for the next couple of days but I am fine. I had an alarm on the dash for the cooling system and then I experienced some heat in the cockpit so I radioed the team to let them know. My initial suspicions of a water leak were confirmed when we studied the data afterwards.“It was a shame for Peter and I. We were moving up the field after our earlier problems and we are both frustrated at not finishing. At Le Mans what you want first is to finish but sometimes you have a car which has most of the trouble in the team and unfortunately at this race it was our car.
“I have mixed feelings, it would have been great to bring all three cars home but at least the 007 car finished in the top four and the best of the petrol runners, beating several of the diesel cars, which was a great result for the team.”Primat will return to sportscar action with Aston Martin at the upcoming Le Mans Series round in Portimao, Portugal this August.