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Garry Findlay helped a young and relatively inexperienced Murphy Prototypes line-up claim a top ten finish in round two of the European Le Mans Series at Imola as he made his debut in the hotly-contested LMP2 category.

Findlay joined fellow Briton Patrick McClughan and Ireland’s Sean Doyle in the #48 ORECA-Nissan 03R, stepping up from a brief stint in LMP3 to make his first appearance of the 2016 season in the four-hour endurance event at the former home of the San Marino Grand Prix.

Despite not having any pre-event testing, Findlay made a strong start to the weekend by posting top four times in practice but, while those results boded well for qualifying, he was frustrated to only manage eleventh on the grid after finding himself caught up in traffic during the short timed session.

“Qualifying was disappointing after what we had achieved in practice,” the 26-year old confirmed, “With the tyres really only good for one flying lap, I missed the window when I was blocked on my quickest run. I know we had the potential to be much further up the grid, especially after lapping faster than some of the bigger names in the field during practice, but, by the same token, I knew that there was also the possibility of moving up in the race.”

True to his word, Findlay took the wheel of the ORECA for the start of the race on Sunday afternoon and had restored the patriotically-green Murphy entry to a more appropriate sixth overall after only two laps, despite the track having been washed clean  of grip by a massive overnight storm. It was not a perfect run for the Briton, as he needed to replace a damaged nose section during his first pit-stop, but he eventually completed a 100-minute double stint behind the wheel, recovering to eleventh on the road by the time he handed over to fellow debutant McClughan.

“The start was great, and I was able to make up positions quite quickly,” Findlay noted, “Once I was into seventh, I was still catching the pack ahead, and posting some of the fastest lap times in the field while doing it, so it was a little frustrating to have a longer than expected pit-stop after picking up some damage to the front of the car as I worked my way through traffic. The ORECA was great to drive and I was delighted to show that I could race with the series regulars at the front of the pack. Without the protracted stop, I reckon I could have handed the car over in the top five, which would have been a good platform for a great result.”

While McClughan also made progress during his stint, a second change of nose dropped the #48 back to the fringes of the top ten by the time he handed over to Doyle, and then the weather gods conspired against the Murphy team, with another deluge necessitating the use of the safety car for the remainder of the Irishman’s stint. As a result, the trio were restricted to tenth place at the chequered flag, which would have been a notable result had it not been for the potential shown early on.

“It was frustrating not to be able to show the real capability of the car, but there were still a lot of positives to take from the weekend,” Findlay insisted, “In the first few laps, it was great to get amongst - and past - some of the front-running LMP2 entries, especially with the likes of Giedo van der Garde, Tristan Gommendy and Bjorn Wirdheim at the wheel. By the end of the double-stint, I was really getting to grips with the car and it was good to show that I have the ability to run at the sharp end of the field. My stint definitely caught the attention of the other teams and I’m sure it raised a few eyebrows in the process!”

Findlay’s programme beyond Imola remains undecided, with the Murphy team already committed to taking a different line-up to the Le Mans 24 Hours next month. The Briton is hoping to be back in the cockpit for the ELMS event at Spa-Francorchamps in late September, but would love to get another chance to show his potential before that.

“The hardest thing about the weekend is knowing that I now need the chance to maintain the momentum I built up at Imola ,” Findlay acknowledged, “At the moment, I’ve only got a two-race deal with Murphy and a long wait until the ELMS reaches Spa, while the likes of Harry Tincknell and Nicolas Lapierre are in their cars all season.

“The team was happy with my performance throughout the weekend, so I’ll keep working on any opportunity that comes my way. With the exception of the Red Bull Ring, I know all the circuits that are left on the ELMS schedule and, now I know what it takes to hustle an LMP2 car, I hope I get the chance to drive one again as soon as possible.”

Garry takes top ten finish on LMP2 debut