Franchitti fired-up for Le Mansposted in LMANS20 | 06 | 2013

    BATHGATE'S MARINO FRANCHITTI (pictured) bids to wrestle the headlines from his brother, multiple IndyCar champ Dario, and cousin, F1 ace Paul di Resta, by standing on the top step of the podium at Le Mans this weekend.

    And the 34-year-old admits there's a strong chance Scots could occupy the top step of the podium for all three main classes in the world's most famous 24-hours race.

    Twice winner Allan McNish from Dumfries is favourite to win the race overall in his Audi: Franchitti is favourite in the LMP2 class, and the Aston Martin of Kirkcaldy's Peter Dumbreck contests the GTE Pro class.

    "I really hope Allan wins overall," Franchitti said today, minutes before taking his Level 5 Motorsport Honda out on to the 8.45-mile street circuit.

    "Peter topped the timesheets during official practice in his Aston, so I think his car's the one to beat in GTE Pro, and we're definitely in with a shout in LMP2.

    "It could be a really famous year for Scots at Le Mans: we have a genuine chance of winning all three classes."

    But Franchitti, who has already captured P2 class victories in this year's American Le Mans Series races, at Sebring and Laguna Seca, acknowledges Le Mans will be a tougher test all round.

    "There are 20-odd cars alone in LMP2," he continued. "It's definitely one of the strongest fields for a number of years, and there are very few you could discount as potential winners.

    "It's going to be an utter dogfight from start-to-finish. Even if you're just a little bit off the pace, or you make the slightest mistake, you're going to be penalised and disappear down the leaderboard: from third or fourth, you'll quickly go back to 14th, 15th.

    Scot Allan McNish on provisional pole at Le Mans

    "I really think it's going to take perfection this year to win LMP2: it's honestly that tight. There has to be no unscheduled stops, and if we can do that, I'm sure we'll be right in the mix come Sunday afternoon."

    Franchitti, who is contesting the full ALMS season with the Wisconsin-based Level 5 team, shares his Honda prototype with Aussie Ryan Briscoe and American Scott Tucker.

    "We've really gelled well as a unit this year, and we come here knowing we are, genuinely, capable of fighting it out at the front," the Scot stated.

    "We're strong, and the team's strong. On both occasions we've won in the States this year, our sister car's been second.

    "So yeh, we're feeling good, but we're certainly not underestimating what's ahead of us this weekend."

    Franchitti knows only too well how cruel Le Mans can be. Twelve months ago he came to the French track having led the development with Nissan of its pioneering DeltaWing.

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    Franchitti was scheduled to take the car's third stint, following team-mates, German Michael Krumm and Satoshi Motoyama.

    But after an impressive six hours, and with Motoyama behind the wheel, the DeltaWing was barged off the track by the Toyota of fellow Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima.

    Despite working for more than 90 minutes trying to repair the car to get it back to the pits, the damage to both the right rear and front of the car was too severe. Franchitti ultimately didn't get to race.

    "Yeh, that was disappointing beyond belief: gutted doesn't even come near describing how I felt," he smiled. "But life goes on, and I'm in a pretty good place at the moment."

    That 'good place' includes becoming a dad for the first time in April, though he missed the birth of son, Luca, because he was at Sebring.

    "Winning the 12-Hours of Sebring was a great fillip for the team, and was some consolation for missing Luca's birth," he admitted.

    "Hopefully, having won the first real major race of the year, we can carry on and win the big one this weekend.

    "Run clean, run fast: that's our motto. Then, come Sunday, we'll see where we are with a few hours to go: then we can really go racing.

    "I think it could, honestly come down to the last lap: it's going to be that close."

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    Jim McGill


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