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Catching Up With Tim Greaves, “The Planning For Le Mans Is Continuous”

Greaves Motorsport Team Principal Tim Greaves has been tackling the Le Mans 24 Hours with his team for eight years now, dating back to 2007. But even with all that experience, the twice-round-the-clock classic at La Sarthe doesn’t get any easier, especially running in the race’s most competitive class: LMP2.

DSC sat down with Tim Greaves after qualifying at this year’s race to discover how he tackles the enormous task of getting a team to Le Mans, and amongst other things; what keeps him coming back.

“The planning for Le Mans is continuous,” said Greaves. “We are here now meeting people already about next year’s Le Mans. It’s everything from cars, engines, drivers, sponsors. Lots of people are here already talking about the future.”

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It’s a huge job all year round to get everything in order ahead of the big race. The tests that a team faces, start months before the season kicks off:

“The challenges started this year with the entry system. We had to put our entries for the race in to the ACO before Christmas and we got selected at the announcement in Paris late February. But in that instance we only got one car entered [the #42 Caterham Zytek] after putting two in, one for Greaves and one for Caterham,” he explains.

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“That immediately affected all the dynamics of what we do, the financing of the team, the people we employed etc. A lot of people know we only have one entry, so a lot of key members of the team realised that they are contracted so went off to look for other jobs. It’s a major impact overall when you are looking to get two entries and you only get one.”

Luckily for the team, their second entry was eventually granted a spot on the Le Mans grid. But the lateness of the decision to include their second car, as you can imagine, created further complications.

“In April we ended up getting our second entry through the reserve list after some dropouts. So it was our job inside to then try and reverse that process. It was a major point during our preparation for Le Mans, and of course the big issue was finding drivers. A lot of drivers had gone on to other teams who already had entries.”

In the end, their second entry, the #41 Zytek Nissan was filled with a trio of rookie Brits: Michael Munemann, Alessandro Latif (pictured below) and James Winslow. Suprisingly, one of the toughest challenges facing the team with this triad of talent was fitting Latif’s exam schedule into the week-long build up to the big race.

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18-year-old Latif had to deal with both the pressure of competing at the most prestigious sportscar race in the world and finishing off his A-levels at school. This created an unusual task for both Latif and the team.

“By the time he got back here after his first exam the car had already had a crash,” said Greaves. “So that particular night, Wednesday – he didn’t get any running in the car. He needed time in the car that day too.

“We had been concerned that with all this travel that he was going to be tired, and that’s mental tiredness, not physical tiredness.”

Even at the young age of 18 however, Latif wasn’t breaking any records, as in the other Greaves car – the Caterham entered Zytek – was 16-year-old American Matt McMurray.

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McMurray had a record breaking Le Mans, and became the youngest ever driver to compete in the race. He then went on to finish the 24 hours with veterans Chris Dyson and Tom Kimber-Smith sharing the car with him.

The sister-car wasn’t quite as lucky unfortunately, retiring after just 31 laps.

Unlike 2013 when Greaves came away with a podium, and 2011 when they won the LMP2 class, 2014 left the team without any silverware from the race. But Tim Greaves has been coming to Le Mans long enough to understand how challenging it is for every team in the paddock. He relishes the event, and longs to get on the top step of the podium once again:

“Just getting everyone together, making it work smoothly and getting a car to run for 24 hours faultlessly is an incredible feat,” explained Greaves.

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“Being able to get a car to the finish is great, and getting on the podium, is fantastic. Back in 2011, we achieved the ultimate goal, to win it. Unfortunately once you have won it, a podium feels good, like last year, but it would always be nicer to win it again. The level of competition has increased a lot since 2010 though, with more cars and a better standard of drivers.

“Anybody that likes a challenge, whether it be walking up a mountain or cycling somewhere, or running a marathon, it’s the challenge that keeps you going.

“This,” he told DSC, “is a huge challenge.”

Stephen Kilbey