8Star Motorsports showed the determination and resilience needed to finish fourth at the 82nd Le Mans 24Hrs at Circuit de la Sarthe this weekend (14-15 June).
Despite missing out on a lot of running during Wednesday and Thursday’s (11-12 June) practice and qualifying sessions, 8Star Motorsports were able to qualify 42nd overall and eighth in class to position themselves in a strong position ahead of the world’s most physically demanding endurance race.
When Saturday arrived – the day the whole world of motorsport had been anticipating - Paolo Ruberti was the first to pilot the orange Ferrari 458 Italia and straight away impressed on the opening few tours of the 13km Circuit de la Sarthe.
Climbing three positions by the close of the second tour, Ruberti consistently lapped the world famous circuit with times that rivaled class leaders, and by the 90-minute mark, had positioned himself an impressive 33rd overall and fifth in class and closed in on a podium position, only for his hard earned work to be later undone. The Italian driver ran wide at Arnage and suffered a left rear puncture, but was fortunate enough to crawl back to the pits for a fresh set of Michelin rubber and rejoin the race.
Just as Ruberti rejoined the race, the heavens above opened, which left Le Mans resembling a river more than a race circuit.
Many drivers slowed to a snail’s pace due to running on slick tyres, before a heavy collision between the #81 Ferrari 458, the #3 Audi LMP1 and #8 Toyota LMP1 on the Mulsanne Straight called for the deployment of the first Safety Car of the weekend.
After 40 minutes of Safety Car interruption, as race marshals worked tirelessly to sweep the circuit clear of debris, the race was resumed with 22 hours remaining and Ruberti running 13th in the GTE Am class.
At the three-hour mark of the 24-hour race, Ruberti darted into the pits for a full service, which meant handing the reigns of the 8Star Ferari over to fellow Italian, Gianluca Roda.
The 55-year old carried Ruberti’s momentum forward and looked to make up the time lost to the tyre puncture and Safety Car, as he climbed to seventh in class as the sun began to set over Le Mans, leaving an orange picturesque glow over the circuit.
With the track constantly evolving as more rubber was laid down and track temperatures fluctuated, Frankie Montecalvo jumped into the drivers’ seat to open his Le Mans 24Hrs account and the first of the team’s night shift.
With the darkness of night now upon the teams and drivers, Montecavlo settled down for a long, lonely stint ahead, when clutch issues struck their Italian machinery, which lost them nearly three laps to the class leaders and potentially their hopes of a podium finish.
The team’s resilience showed in handfuls as they returned to the track with Ruberti, who was quick to carve this way through the field and moved up to third in class, before another unfortunate tyre failure hampered his running.
As the sun began to rise over the hills of Le Mans, Roda replaced Ruberti to continue in the race of nutrition.
The clock continued to count down and all three drivers circulated the famous Le Mans, when with two hours remaining, the GTE Am leading #95 Aston Martin came to a halt upon exiting the pits, but was fortunate enough to carry regain power and continue in the lead.
At the same time, the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR was handed a 45-second penalty, which would demote him to third in class and the chance of a podium finish for 8Star Motorsports beckoned.
The team continued to chase down their class rivals, but were unable to snatch a podium position as they crossed the line a very impressive 24th overall and fourth in the GTE Am class after completing 330 laps.
Throughout the incredibly demanding 24-hour race, 8Star Motorsports showed the determination needed to succeed in the world’s toughest motor race, which is much about reliability than race pace, and can leave Le Mans with their heads held very high.
Speaking at the end of the race, Frankie Montecalvo said: “It seems fourth has been the story of my season, but given where we were on Wednesday during practice, it was an amazing result for the team! We fought up until the very end and can be very proud of what we have achieved.”