Teams2010 24 Hours of Le Mans By Jeremy McMullen
In 2009, Kolles took over the ever-successful Audi R10 and competed in its first Le Mans Series season. Proving the petrol-powered cars had closed some of the performance gap, Kolles could only manage a 7th place finish in the 2009 championship.
Headed into the 2010 season, Colin Kolles, who had been a Principal Manager with Jordan and Force India back in the first part of the new millennium, ended up coming on board with Hispana Racing in order for the team to compete in the 2010 Formula One season. As a result of Kolles's time and money being invested in the new Formula One team, the Kolles entry was removed from the 2010 Le Mans Series. However, it would again field two cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
2008 marked the last year the R10 had competed as Audi Sport's principal car. Colin Kolles, whose racing operations are close to Audi's Ingolstadt factory, had always been a fan of Audi and endurance racing. Unbeaten in its three races at Le Mans, Kolles Racing was given the rights to keep the R10 flying. Backed by Audi's factory for technical support and other vital services, Kolles entered two R10s for the 24 hour race, but also took part the Le Mans Series for the first time.
Hoping to pull off an upset through reliability, Kolles' 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans wasn't meant to be. For the first time, an R10 entered in the famous race, didn't win. But the R10's success is hard to just cast aside, especially when the car utilizes powerful diesel engine technology. Therefore, once again, two R10s were entered in the 24 hour race by Kolles.
The previous year, the identical R10 chassis were differentiated from Audi by being painted a black and red color. For 2010, the Kolles R10's received a new livery. Painted in an overall silver, as when it was run by Audi, the R10 features flashy neon orange designs over the silver.
The driver line-up also received an update. The number 14 car would be driven by American Scott Tucker, along with Manuel Rodrigues and Christophe Bouchut. The second car, number 15, consisted of Kolles regulars. Christian Bakkerud was joined by Olivier Jarvis and former Formula One driver Christijan Albers. Colin Kolles was very familiar with Christijan Albers as he drove under Kolles while with Spyker in Formula One.
Without the benefit of running in any races prior to the toughest endurance test, the Kolles cars were unable to get down into the times, even in qualifying, that it had routinely done even during its last 24 hour race with Audi over two years prior.
During the first day of qualifying, the number 14 of Bouchut, Tucker and Rodrigues recorded the best time of the entire team with a lap of 3:30.907. This lap time provisionally put the number 14 12th on the overall starting grid. Unfortunately though, this time was still over eight tenths slower than the petrol-powered Oreca 01.
The second R10, car 15, set what was provisionally the 13th fastest time with a lap that was almost a full second slower than its number 14 sister car. Compared to the fastest time set by the number 3 Peugeot 908, the number 15 Kolles was twelve seconds slower.
The times after the second qualifying round weren't any better. In fact, they were worse. The faster number 14 car would only be able to turn a fast lap of 3:31.870. This time was a second slower than during the previous qualifying session. Car 15 was much more slower during the second qualifying session. The best lap the 15 car would post would be 3:34.401.
Based upon the two cars and their best times, car number 14 would start the race from 12th on the grid, which was the sixth row. The number 15 car would start 13th, which was the first position on the seventh row of the grid.
The 78th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans got underway with diesels leading the way. But not all of the diesels in the race were in line at the front. Throughout the first lap of the race, the two Kolles cars held station in 12th and 13th. However, the early battling between the petrol-powered Signature-Plus Aston Martin and the Team Oreca Matmut Oreca 01 allowed the number 14 Kolles to be tucked right into their draft throughout the first couple of laps. During the first hour of the race, the Kolles diesels had managed to move its way up the order.
Throughout the first quarter of the race, the two Kolles entries continued to battle amongst the petrol-powered cars toward the rear of the LMP1 category. Then, during the night, problems visited the team.
At a little past four in the morning misfortune hit the Kolles racing team. The fastest of the two Kolles was forced to retire from the race after problems were reported with the car. The car had only been able to complete 182 laps.
The number 15 car continued to soldier on. Though not challenging toward the top of the overall standings as it had the previous year, one of Kolles' remaining cars continued to complete lap-after-lap. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is an absolutely punishing race. Components repeatedly get beaten time-and-time again. One of the components that take some of the most abuse is the gearbox. At over three and a half minutes per lap, a single lap around the Circuit de la Sarthe requires dozens of shifts in the gearbox.
During the late morning hours, and with only a few hours remaining to go in the 24 hour race, the number 15 Kolles R10 retired from the race due to gearbox failure. The car had been able to complete 331 laps before its race came to an end.
With the failure of its sole remaining car, Kolles Racing's 2010 Le Mans campaign came to a very unfortunate end. It was a truly unfortunate end to the venerable three-time Le Mans winner, the Audi R10 chassis.
After its one and only event during the 2010 season, and given a vast list of regulation changes set for 2011, Kolles' participation in the 2011 season was put in serious doubt. Many had hoped because there was a close relationship between Kolles and Audi, Audi would allow Kolles to run one of their R15's into the 2011 season.
The questions were answered when the ACO announced the participation list for both the 2011 Le Mans Series and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kolles Racing was absent from both lists.