It was the first podium for the team in an LMP2! It was the first race in Amercia and it was the first race in an Oreca. The Inter Europol Competition #51 Oreca LMP2 crew of Kuba Smiechowski, Rob Hodes and Austin McCusker finished third in the Motul Petit Le Mans race of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship at Road Atlanta.
- Another first: the team will participate in the 2020 Mobil 1 Twelve hours of Sebring from 14 – 17 November. Team mates of Kuba Smiechowski will be announced shortly.
It was a very eventful race and a steep learning curve for the crew and drivers.
The difference between European and American racing also became clear. In Europe refuelling is done with the engine off, not so in the US. Smiechowski nearly left the pits with the fuel equipment still attached to the car, for which a drive trough penalty was given. Smiechowski was fast in the car and set his fastest laptime in the second hour: 1m12s038.
In Europe all tyres are heated, so when Hodes left the pit on cold tyres, he spun, but could rejoin. For Hodes it was his first Petit Le Mans race and his first in an LMP2 and he was the second fastest bronze driver.
McCusker did a really good job; he stayed out of trouble and drove the car over the finish line.
Sascha Fassbender (team manager): “We are very happy. The team has worked flat out and did a great job. A lot of firsts this weekend and best of all a first LMP2 podium finish. It was a fantastic experience and we are looking forward to take all we learned from here and put them to good use in Sebring in four weeks. Now we first go back to Europe to Portimao, where we will fight for the ELMS title with our #13 LMP3. The team is more then ever extremely motivated.”
Kuba Smiechowski (POL): “It was really good. I enjoyed it all. Inside the Oreca it is much smaller than in the Ligier and it took a little while to get used to it. And I found the Oreca a little easier to drive as there is more front grip. I am very happy to be on the podium as the crew worked so hard. I am glad we could give them what they deserved. We went directly from Monza to Atlanta and now back to the workshop in Germany to prepare the car for the last ELMS race in Portimao. To all of them a big thank you.”
Rob Hodes (USA) : “I had an absolute blast at Le Petit Le Mans; the longest and fastest roller coaster ride of my life! Learning I was the race’s second fastest bronze driver in my first LMP2 competition was pretty cool. Unfortunately I cost us time with an outlap cold tire spin which had me over cautious trying to determine if something was wrong with the car. As it turned out there was no damage but the loss of time wouldn’t have gained us another position. Kuba and Austin drove really consistent. I am so happy for them and the entire Inter Europol Competition team who worked so hard to get this podium finish!”
Austin McCusker (USA): “Coming in it was very difficult to know what to expect. The team was new to the Oreca, I had no experience in an LMP2 whatsoever and as a driver pairing we had never worked together. To come away with a podium and top ten overall finish is a fantastic result. We kept our head down and just kept working on finishing the race in the best position that we could. I can’t thank the team and IMSA enough for giving me the opportunity to race at Petit Le Mans in an LMP2. It was a fantastich experience and it makes me hungry for more.”