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Special Motorsports Project - Project Libra Debuts Roush Yates V6 Twin-Turbo Engine With P5 Result

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

SALINAS, May 15, 2012: Perseverance paid off for Project Libra Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as its Radical SR10 finished the grueling 6-hour American Le Mans Monterey Presented by Patrón.

Marking the debut of the Roush Yates Ford-based V6 twin-turbo 3.2-liter engine in racing competition, the car placed fifth in the LMP2 class with drivers Andrew Prendeville of Raleigh, N.C.; Rusty Mitchell of Midland, Texas and Duarte Félix da Costa of Cascais, Portugal.

The event marked the Garysburg, N.C.-based team’s first race in the series since 2010, the culmination of a great deal of development work and the beginning of what it hopes will be a successful season and future.

The team flirted with a podium finish during the race. The car was running in third place in class and tenth overall at the halfway point but then it was forced behind the wall twice to repair the car’s nose, which was damaged in an incident that did not bring out a yellow flag. The problem caused the engine temperature alarms to come on so additional time was lost to allow the engine to cool and to add some water, but luckily there was no damage to the engine and the team was able to make repairs and achieve its primary goal of finishing the race.

Prendeville qualified fourth in class and 13th overall in the 35-car field on Friday with a lap in 1:21.539 (98.809 miles per hour) for the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course near Monterey. When the race started he dropped back to fifth in class, and carefully and cleanly ran with some of the top GT drivers who were dicing for position.

Although he was being careful not to become involved in an accident, Prendeville was also able to improve his own lap times on almost every lap. The race was only 20 minutes old when he passed Oliver Gavin’s Corvette and Stefan Mucke’s Aston Martin to draw right behind the fourth-place LMP2 driver, Joe Foster in the Dempsey Racing Lola Judd No. 27, in the overall standings.

About 10 minutes later Prendeville completed his 19th lap in just 1:23.010, which stood as the entry’s fastest lap of the race until the late stages of the event.

Prendeville spent the bulk of the rest of that stint chasing down Foster, closing the gap from some 5 seconds to just 1.39 seconds in the first hour and a half of the race. He moved from fifth in class to fourth in class when Foster pitted, and then he pitted too after about 1 hour and 47 minutes in the car for fuel, fresh Dunlop tires and to turn it over to Mitchell.

The Dempsey Lola had to serve a penalty for avoidable contact with a PC car so it didn’t take long for Mitchell to draw right behind that car, which was now being driven by actor and team owner Patrick Dempsey. On lap 71, about an hour and 53 minutes into the race, Mitchell passed Dempsey to move into fourth place in class. Mitchell, who is sponsored by Petro Communications, was four laps behind the third-place Conquest Endurance Morgan Nissan of Martin Plowman at the 2-and-one-half-hour mark, but he was one lap ahead of Dempsey and he was determined to keep the actor behind him.

He did just that and more. Dempsey lost about a minute when he spun in the Corkscrew around the 2-hour-and-8-minute mark. The race was two hours and 48 minutes old when the driver who was running second in the LMP2 class, Frank Montagny in the Level 5 Motorsports HPD Honda, had an altercation with JDX Racing’s GTC Porsche of Chris Cumming at the entrance to pit lane. Mitchell had a stop-and-go penalty for speeding on pit lane but he moved into third place in class on lap 116 when Montagny’s car was rolled to the paddock at almost exactly the halfway point of the race.

Mitchell stayed in third place for about 36 minutes, but dropped back to fourth when he pitted around the 3-hour-and-38-minute mark to allow da Costa to take a turn behind the wheel. The driver from Portugal was only on the track for about 13 minutes when he pitted so the crew could inspect the front of the car, and the crew took it behind the wall for repairs.

da Costa returned to the fray about 41 minutes later, but the car was back behind the wall about 5 minutes later for additional repairs and to check the engine temperature, since the warning alarms had come on. That took an additional 14 minutes, and shortly thereafter the car dropped from fourth to fifth in the standings due to the time spent behind the wall.

Prendeville climbed aboard again at that point and rejoined the race from behind pit wall. With about 50 minutes to go Prendeville set the car’s fastest lap of the race with a lap in 1:21.514 before he turned the car back over to Mitchell 11 laps later. Prendeville’s time was quite remarkable, as he bettered his qualifying time despite being in race trim.

The podium finish that once seemed possible but later seemed improbable looked possible again in the last half-hour of the race. With about 31 minutes remaining in the race the fourth-place Dempsey Racing car of Jonny Cocker became beached in a gravel trap to bring out a full-course caution and David Heinemeier Hansson brought the car that was running second in class, the Conquest Morgan, into the pits with a gearbox issue. Cocker got restarted, however, and there wasn’t enough time to make up Hansson’s advantage so Project Libra ended up fifth, but it still achieved its primary goal of finishing the race.

The race was broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN3.

There’s a pause in the schedule now to allow some teams to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The next American Le Mans Series event is July 6-7 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. More information can be found on, and Project Libra’s brand-new Facebook page.

Post-race quotes:

Andrew Prendeville: “I’m really happy. Our goal was to get the car on the track, get the engine running and finish the race, and so for me it was mission accomplished. It’s a real good starting point.

“We had plenty of success, even though the results don’t show it. I had two good stints. I was happy with my performance, with the team’s performance and with the car’s performance. The Roush Yates Ford engine is very solid and reliable, as is the car. We had no real issues with either of them. We ran every session with no real problems, and at one point in the race we were tenth overall and third in class.

“We have two months now until Lime Rock so we can improve some things. We have something to build on for the rest of the season now.”

Rusty Mitchell: "I want to first thank the guys at Project Libra for working longer and harder hours than any other team in the paddock.

“We had a podium run going but unfortunately ran into a few issues a little over halfway through the race.

“I thought everyone worked extremely hard, not just this weekend but in the months coming into this race, and I want to thank them along with my sponsor, Petro Communications, for supporting me. There are some things we need to work on as far as the flat-out pace with the car but we know now where we stand and we will improve from here."

Ian Dawson (team owner and engineer): “We lost most of our time and subsequent laps when with two hours and 15 minutes remaining, after da Costa had taken over from Mitchell, the front diffuser had suffered some damage and the water alarms on the engine came on. da Costa made the right call to pit. We decided as a precaution to go behind the wall to check things over. We allowed the engine to cool and added some water. We lost several laps at that point, but there was no damage to the engine.

“We had no problems with the engine or chassis in our first race, and we can go away with the satisfaction that we can be competitive. Now we need to review all the data gathered during the week and get ready for the next event.”

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