After a showing which surprised many, car number 73 – the DEWALT/RSS Morgan Aero 8 – was officially retired from the 2002 Le Mans 24-hour race in the 18th hour at 11am on Sunday morning following an engine failure.
The technical team, whose good humoured guts and determination had won the hearts of the crowd and other competitors, had made Herculean efforts to replace two complete transaxles during the first half of the race and had kept the Aero 8 consistently on its target track with lap times of around 4 minutes 30 seconds. The car recorded a top speed of 179mph and an average speed of 113.7mph.
But as driver Richard Hay opened up down the Mulsanne Straight for the 181st lap, the car unexpectedly lost power. Richard managed to limp back to the pits but the team finally lost the battle against time.
Morgan’s retirement came long after many others in the LM-GT class – three Ferraris, two Porsches and the Spyker had already succumbed, leaving the Morgan as the sole challenger to the remaining five Porsches.
Commenting Christopher Lawrence, technical director for the DEWALT/RSS Morgan team and winner of the 1962 Le Mans 24-hour 2.0-litre class, said: "It’s incredibly hard to have to stop after such a huge effort by the whole team, and just as we were beginning to contemplate finishing.
"However, we are very proud to have raced at Le Mans for almost 18 hours with a new car and a new team, and with under four months’ preparation time, our achievement is a success in anyone’s language."
Charles Morgan, Managing Director, Morgan Motor Company, added: "The team has always looked at Le Mans as a two year project and there is no question that it has silenced its critics and proved itself worthy of its place on the grid. Hopefully, we will be back next year and will be even more competitive – I truly believe that a class win is within our reach.
"I’d like to thank the team sponsors, DEWALT, RSS and especially the pit crew who have given 150% to this project, and I know that they would like me to thank the fans for their overwhelming support."Published 20 June 2002