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[14-12-2019]
FIFTH PLACE FOR PIERRE RAGUES AND SIGNATECH ALPINE ELF IN BAHRAIN Photo News
Pierre Ragues and the Signatech Alpine Elf squad have concluded the final race of 2019, the 8 Hours of Bahrain, with a fifth-place finish in the competitive LMP2 class.  
 
Unfortunately, a Full Course Yellow halfway through the race hampered the team’s progress and prevented them from a bold strategy that had looked set to pay dividends after a difficult qualifying.  
 
Having completed 59 laps of the 5.412km Sakhir based circuit during Thursday’s two free practice sessions, Signatech Alpine Elf approached Friday’s qualifying session by focusing on race preparations in the final practice. Overnight and early morning rain left the circuit damp, but drying out, during Friday’s scheduled track time. 
 
Pierre, and team-mate Andre Negrão, were on qualifying duties on an evolving track, determined to register a strong result. Approaching turn eight, one of the fastest corners of the track, Pierre got caught out and was forced to return to the pits after damaging his tyres in the run-off area. The team ended qualifying seventh in class. 
 
The fourth round of the 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship saw a day-into-night race which ended under the floodlights of the Bahrain International Circuit. Signatech Alpine Elf adopted a more aggressive race strategy to compensate for their tyre availability and grid position. All three drivers – Pierre, Andre and Thomas Laurent – gave their maximum effort to make it work.
 
Andre made a strong start to move up to fourth place during his stint and handed over to Pierre after 90 minutes of the eight-hour race. The goal was to conserve fuel in a bid to stop one less time than their competitors, and hopefully push towards the podium positions. Pierre did a great job on his double stint to save fuel, while maintaining pace and keeping to the team’s strategy plan. 
 
It was a cat and mouse race for the team, with strategies out of sync until the final hour. All three drivers did what was expected of them, and they were heading for a solid fourth until a last Full Course Yellow, 40 minutes from the end, which didn’t play into their hands. As the team pitted for their final stop, the caution resulted in a change of plan for some other competitors who also used the opportunity to pit in. The move negated the team’s advantage and they had to settle for fifth, although they would take points for fourth place due to a non-championship team ahead of them. Even after eight hours of racing, the final battle for that fourth place was close.  
 
Pierre said: “A weekend of mixed feelings for us as a team, and for me personally. We came here with the firm objective of pushing for a podium this weekend, but it wasn’t to be. We had focused a lot on race preparation in practice but weren’t able to make the most out of qualifying. I approached my flying lap with strong intent, but I was pushing perhaps a bit too hard. I was convinced I had enough grip but unfortunately, I was caught out at one of the fastest turns. This had a knock-on effect to our race strategy, because I damaged the tyres in the run-off area, but we were still determined to give it everything. In fact, things were looking OK until the final hour, when an FCY pegged us back to fifth. When we’re on different strategies, when cautions happen, we can either benefit or be disadvantaged. Unfortunately, today it was more of the latter. We will use the festive break to regroup as a team. At end of day we go home with solid points which keeps us in fifth place in the standings, and we now have time to reflect on the first half of season – ready to bounce back in the USA. Thanks to the team, to my team-mates Andre and Thomas, and to everyone who has supported us in 2019.”
 
FIA World Endurance Championship (after four rounds)
 
Trophy for LMP2 Drivers
1. G. Aubry / H-P. Tung / W. Stevens 72 points
2. F. Albuquerque / P. Hanson 69 points
3. F. van Eerd / G. van der Garde 66 points
4. A-F Da Costa / R. Gonzalez 62 points
5. A. Negrao / P. Ragues / T. Laurent 56 points
 
Trophy for LMP2 Teams
1. Jackie Chan DC Racing 72 points
2. United Autosports 69 points
3. Racing Team Nederland 66 points
4. JOTA 62 points
5. Signatech Alpine Elf 56 points