KCMG�s race-winning pace comes to nought at Le Mans

• Imperatori flies from P7 to first over opening stint• Car stranded on-track at 21:30 after driveshaft failureKC Motorgroup Ltd’s (KCMG) bid for class victory at the 82nd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours came to a premature end on Saturday evening when the Chinese squad’s #47 Oreca 03R Nissan sustained irreparable accident damage after suffering driveshaft failure.Alex Imperatori was uninjured in the hefty crash that occurred on the exit of Karting Corner at the six-and-a-half hour mark, but was unable to recover to the pits and forced to retire from the season’s only double points-paying FIA World Endurance Championship round.That brought to a close what had been a hugely encouraging but also unfortunate start to the world’s greatest endurance race for KCMG, who led early on before being caught out by freak weather conditions.Having qualified only a second from pole, Imperatori made a stunning start on Saturday afternoon to climb from seventh to first during his opening 45-minute stint. Indeed, the Swiss ace had pulled out a 20-second advantage over his closest pursuer when he pitted for a second time and handed over to Richard Bradley.But the Briton had barely completed a lap when, from nowhere, a short sharp rain shower soaked the 8.4-mile-long Circuit de la Sarthe. On slick rubber Bradley was powerless to prevent the Oreca from aquaplaning into the tyre barrier at the first of the Mulsanne Straight’s two chicanes. Fortunately the damage wasn’t too severe and, having limped back to the pits for cosmetic repairs, he returned to the track under Safety Car conditions in third.A second pit visit in quick succession to check the rear wing would subsequently drop Bradley down to 11th, before he and Matt Howson set about recovering the lost time. A combination of their good work saw Imperatori running seventh in class when his race-ending accident occurred. Richard Bradley: “We’re all really frustrated to be out so early but these are the circumstances and there’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to take the positives; we were leading the race quite comfortably before the rain shower and were very fast after that in all conditions. It was just a case of bad luck. It’s been a great team performance and, personally, I’m happy with my Le Mans debut. It’s just such a shame the race ended so early for us.” Matt Howson: “Obviously I’m feeling very disappointed to have retired so early in the 24 Hours. Alex did a great job to get us into the lead and had the pace over the rest of the field, which Richard continued. Once again KCMG showed race-winning pace but lacked the necessary luck. All we can do is look ahead to Austin.”Alex Imperatori: “We had the car to win today so I’m really disappointed. We showed that by leading over the first two stints after moving up through the field, only for the weather to disrupt our progress. That was bad luck, but we were still fighting hard when the car failed. I’m thankful to be okay because it could have been a much bigger accident. Sometimes that’s how it goes. There’s always next year.”Paul Ip, KCMG Managing Director: “Obviously it’s a very disappointing result. We had the pace to be on the podium or even win and were catching the guys ahead. But of course over 24 hours anything can happen. Hopefully we’ll have better luck next year. For now all we can do is focus on the remaining WEC rounds and try to repair the damage done to our championship hopes.”While clearly disappointed not to finish at Le Mans, KCMG will now regroup ahead of round four of this year’s FIA WEC campaign at Circuit of the Americas on September 18-20.

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